Thursday, October 12, 2006

Diabetes Volunteers - Make A Difference

I was thinking the other day about how much I wanted to help out in the diabetic community, about how in some places there is very little support for diabetics and how I think things should be changed for the better. Firstly I want to say that if you have any opinions or views you would like to share, then please mention them by leaving a comment, it would be greatly appreciated.

After going to my doctors appointment to have a check-up recently, it struck me how many people there are who would benefit from extra help. For example, how good would it be to get more nutrition advice, as I know from personal experience how big a difference this can make. Also, how about setting up a partner link, where you call a nurse every week or month with your blood glucose readings, in order to keep yourself more accountable. I don't know about you, but I keep greater tabs on my health when I know I have an appointment soon. How about just having a small community group to bounce ideas off and share stories with to make you feel less alone? I know you guys reading this will also have other ideas, but I just wanted to mention the few I have come up with.

Do you think there needs to be greater support for type 1 diabetics?

Also, for those of you that read this who are active in the diabetic community, it would be great to know how you do this and to what extent?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Diabetes and Alcohol

As a student, I am completely aware of the temptation that drinking alcohol is. But I also know how to say no. I was fortunate enough to be diagnosed when I was 11, which has meant that not drinking has never been an issue for me. I do understand however that would I have been diagnosed during my potential drinking years, things may have been a little different. I have heard a few stories from diabetics who have had bad experiences with alcohol, and there seem to be a few common links between them:

Firstly, there is a lack of understanding as to how alcohol affects your system. So here is a quick breakdown from my vague understanding:
- Your body reacts to alcohol as a toxin, a poison. This means that your body will not secrete glucose until it has got rid of the alcohol in your blood stream. Which granted it can stay in your blood stream until the next morning can be a BIG problem.
- The dangers are greatly increased if you drink on an empty stomach or if you exercise at the same time.

Secondly, everyone feels peer pressure to drink. Life as a student means that I am regularly faced with the challenge of whether or not to drink, but for me, I don't find it hard to say no. It may seem like a challenge to not drink, but it is so easy. I will share with you some tips that I have come across:
- Have one drink and take it round with you the whole night, sipping slowly. This means that you always seem like you are drinking, when actually you haven't really started.
- Drink water. You may feel as though everyone thinks you are 'uncool', but you have to realise that you are the clever one! If you have had your limit of 1 or 2 drinks then switch to water.
- Avoid cocktails. If you are going out for a cocktail, have a look through the ingredients to see whats in them. Cocktails are one of the mot sugary things you can drink, expecially if it is very colourful.
- If you are going out dancing, be sensible and eat food to counteract the dancing before you go, and always remember that bars usually sell crisps also if you do feel hungry.
- Do not stay out too late. I have found it really important to go to sleep and wake up at roughly the same time every day to keep my levels good. There is usually an occasion every week that you can go to that finishes at 12 exactly.
- Make sure that you go out with friends. This ensures that if something does happen to you, that they will be there to know what to do.

Lastly, be sensible. You know you shouldn't have more than one glass, so don't.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Diabetes Skincare

Another complication that may pass unnoticed in those with diabetes is poor skin and a poor ability to heal. I find that when I have poor control wounds take longer to heal, and most frustatingly my skin gets more pimples. The only way to deal with this really is to gain better control, and it is a really good incentive.

Other ways in which to aid poor skin condition is proper treatment. I worked for a skincare company recently and therefore have ideas on how to keep your skin at its best condition:

- For wounds, use some vitamin E oil. This is great for helping the skin to heal better. You can eat more foods containing vitamin E (wheat germ, oats, sardines, nuts, egg yolk, leafy green vegetables) or you can rub vitamin E oil directly onto or around the wound.

- For body skincare, try a thick body moisturiser, such as Neals Yard or Dr Hauschka. I would recommend organic and natural products, as these contain only natural beneficial ingredients. Spread this all over your body so that your body can stay moisturised. There are also products like this for men, which can be very beneficial for the skin.

- For facial skincare, use a daily routing of cleansing and moisturising. Also, I would recommend changing your pillowcase every day, as this reduces infection very well (which is the means by which pimples spread). You can finds loads of products online that will help your skin.

The most important thing with keeping your skin at its best condition is to keep your levels in check, never substitute this for creams and lotions.

Diabetes Care - Checking your blood glucose

Checking your blood glucose is essential to good diabetes control. I have found that the more often you check your blood glucose, the better the control. This does make sense, as the more often you check your level, the tighter grasp you have on what it is, and the more often you can adjust your level.

For instance, if you check your level at 9am when you wake up and it is say 9mmol then you can adjust this at your ratio with your bolus for breakfast. After 2 hours, at 11am, check your level again. This could reveal that your level has remained at 9mmol or whether it has gone down. This should also help in knowing if there is something wrong with your infusion set or if there is a bubble in the tubing. It can alert you to problems that you may not otherwise notice until your next meal.

These are all helpful things to do if you want to avoid complications of diabetes (which can be strongly recommended!).

Checking your blood glucose

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Diabetes and Exercise

Diabetes should not hold you back from doing anything you love or anything thats good for you for that matter. I may sound like a sports teacher here, but getting regular exercise is really important for keeping your body healthy especially as a diabetic.

When I started going running or power walking every morning I noticed a huge difference in my levels, they were lower and much more stable. I now go power walking every other morning and feel so much better and fitter.

Getting regular exercise is really important as a diabetic because it helps to keep your levels stable and your body healthy. One of the big traps of being diabetic is you thinking that it inhibits you, that you can't do exercise. So here are a few tips to help you think otherwise:

- One of the problems of doing exercise is knowing that by doing this exercise you lower you levels too much. Well the really easy thing to do here is to make sure that you eat something that will counteract this. So for example, if I plan on doing some running for 45 minutes and my level is between 8mmol and 12mmol I will eat a banana. If my level is 6mmol to 8mmol I will eat a snack bar or some raisins or some toast. If my level is above 12mmol I will eat nothing but drink loads of water.

- The exceptions to taking exercise should be if your level is below 6mmol (or what you consider close to low) then wait half an hour at least after having something to eat to wait for your level to go back up. Also if your levels are above 15mmol or what you consider too high, having exercise will only make your level go higher, so have some insulin and wait for it to go lower.

- The post exercise low - 2-5 hours later! This can come as a surprise to some people because they are not prepared for it or not aware. But generally once you have been exercising, especially if it is quite vigorous, your level may drop in the next half of the day. In following this rule, it is important to try and keep your exercise to the beginning half of the day so you can watch your levels closely before going to sleep. Perhaps the best way is to not exercise vigorously after 4pm. However going for a gentle walk is the best exercise in the evening as it will gently regulate your blood sugar levels.

- Wear a med tag if exercising alone (well you should always carry one with you, but it is especially important when exercising, as there is a greater risk of going low.) and always takea large bottle of water and dextrose tablets like lucozade. Again it should be important for you to have these with you at all times, but it is especially important when exercising.

- The best exercises that I find regulate my levels are cardiovascular, like running, power walking and swimming. Things that raise your pulse and get your heart pumping.

Diabetes and Exercise

change of insulin pump?

I have had my current insulin pump 'Philip' for almost 6 years now, I have decided that it is in fact time to move on and upgrade. The process is now underway for me to get one of the minimed paradigm's which look like this picture (only I think I am going to get a purple one!).

When I decided that it was time to upgrade it couldn't have been easier. Because I live in the UK and we have the NHS, I was able to go to my nurse at my registered hospital and ask for the funding letters to be sent out to the relevant people. I am still awaiting the results of this letter.

And hopefully once these come back with a positive answer I can begin to explore a new name for my new insulin pump, how about Patrick? If you have any good ideas for names starting with a P please leave me a comment...

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Diabetes Care - Eyes

Having diabetes means that taking care of your eyes is absolutely essential, and going for routine check-ups to a retinal screening clinic is mandatory.

I went at the beginning of this week to have my eyes tested at a retinal screening clinic that comes to my surgery every six months. It is the least scary thing you could ever have to do at your local surgery. When I went for my appointment I had done just one screening previously, so I had forgotten what happened during the process. This time I went into a specially made retinal screening van, which houses thousands of pounds worth of technical equipment. I was guided to the front of the van and was explained to about what was going to happen, and why.

The reason for which diabetics should have their eyes tested frequently is because of something called Diabetic Retinopathy. This is a progressive eye disease which can cause cataracts, glaucoma and potentially complete blindness if not caught early. This is because the blood vessels in the eye are very small, and bad control can lead to weakening and breaking of the arteries. It is then that the eye cannot get enough blood and oxygen and will start to deteriorate.

During the retinal screening process, some people may have to have eye drops in to dilate their pupils. It was at this news that my photographer said that my pupils were the largest he had ever seen and that I wouldn't need these drops until I was about 60. In most people they need drops from the age of about 35 onwards. Anyway, so I went into a room with the equipment and it was moved closer to me. It looks quite huge, but I am sure that this will change over the next few years. I was asked to put my chin on a rest, my forehead against a bar and to stare at a white dot on the screen in front of me. I had one photo taken and then I was asked to look to the right, and follow a square with my eyes. Another photo was taken. The same was done for the other eye. After this I was given the opportunity to look at the photos that had been taken. It looks just like a yellowy circle with red lines through it. What the photographer is looking for is random red circles and places in which the red lines do not join (broken vessels).

I was told that from first glance my eyes were fine, and things looked OK. But I will have to wait a few weeks for the full results. I shall surely remember to book myself in for the next possible appointment to keep my eyes in check.

The great news is that this can be entirely treatable, as long as you go for regular check-ups with a professional.

Diabetes Care - Eyes

Monday, May 29, 2006

Diabetes Care - Feet

Now, those of you that are already diabetic should know that you need to take extra special care of yourselves. But for those that aren't aware or need reminding.

To look after your feet properly the first thing to remember is to buy shoes that will not hurt your feet. This will cause you a great deal of pain and can also lead to permanent reshaping of your feet. Also, it is important to make sure that the shoes fit well so that there is no problem with air getting to your feet, so that your feet will stay at a perfect temperature. This is also why it is important to wear socks or tights with your shoes also. Another important thing is to go to your doctors surgery frequently to get your feet checked for reflexes and movement and they can also then be checked for condition and you can be advised for further treatment if there is a problem.

I would also recommend regular pedicures to keep your feet in tip-top condition. This needn't be professional although that would be great. In fact, you can create your own at home pedicure very simply. Firstly, I would buy a foot scrub/file which will remove any excess skin that has built up on the bottoms of your feet. After using this to remove most of the dead skin, put your feet in a tub of warm water (or have a nice relaxing bath) to soften your feet. Then after relaxing for 10-20 mins, pat your feet dry with a towel and find a moisturiser. Be sure to use an intense moisturiser and apply lots. After rubbing moituriser into your feet for 5 mins minimum put on some clean socks or buy some moisturising socks from Body Shop or your local beauty salon. I would recommend going to sleep with these on so that your feet can absorb as much moisture as they need. When you wake up in the morning change your socks and then you are good to go. I would recommend doing this as frequently as you can as this is great for your feet.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Diabetes Diet

Over the last few years my diet has changed dramatically. As someone who is blessed with a naturally slim frame I have never had to diet to lose weight, but I maintain my current healthy weight with a great diet/eating plan. In fact, if you do plan on losing more than about a stone in weight then I would visit your doctor for more tips on how to do this without risk.

To tell you that how I maintain weight is perfect would be totally wrong of me, but I can advise you to follow my steps because I know what works and what doesn't. But before I really begin I must also say that I have been brought up by great parents who taught me to eat everything, and so I do! If there is something that you don't like, there are loads of other diabetic recipes and ideas that you will eat and appreciate.

Since I am a student, all of the recipes are affordable but I do like to buy fresh and organic produce from where I live. I believe that this is important because it can be the most good for your body and contain more nutrients and vitamins than most supermarket produce. I like to source food from my fortnightly farmers market in town, which sells amazing meat and dairy produce and fresh in season fruit and vegetables. This is another important thing to remember, that eating fruit and veg in their season means that they will taste better as well as doing you good. I have a lot of influence from Western European cuisine (mainly France and Italy) as you will tell, but I do not profess to be a chef and everything is easy to make and very convenient.

I have read countless diet books and diabetic recipe/diet books, and I came to a conclusion that I think really works. I fused all the good things from the diets (but not from every diet) and sort of put together my own one. We will call this the Juvenile Diabetes Healthy Diet.

The "rules" that I would lay down are as follows:

1. Cut back on snacks and then change the type of snacks you eat.
Certainly my biggest downfall although it wasn't really apparent to me. When I first started at University, I had little or no routine which meant that filling my day was difficult and popping into the kitchen for a snack, no matter how healthy it felt, was a regular occurence. This is one of the hardest things to do for some people, but establishing a great routine is essential to great diabetes care. The types of snacks to be eating are unsalted nuts, dried unsweetened fruit, fresh fruit, fresh veg (I love fresh red pepper and cucumber), dark chocolate (richer and nicer and you only want 2 squares usually).

2. Cut back on white flour, embrace wholemeal carbs.
This is the most essential part of your diet, and the thing that can show the biggest increase in loss of weight. Some diets in fact jsut focus on this point, and are ery successful. Wholemeal (especially stoneground wholemeal) is so good for you and has so much more flavour in it that switching is much easier than you think. Most people are really surprised at the ranges you can get in you supermarket, again remember that the bread that is best for you is the one that is freshest with least perservatives or added ingredients. Also, brown or basmati rice is great with a lovely nutty texture. Wholemeal pasta is great and for your potatoes I would totally recommend the smaller new potatoes.

3. Stop drinking cocktails, start drinking wine.
Cocktails are full of sugar, colourants and preservatives. As a student I have had loads of practice at going out and not drinking cocktails, so my drink of choice is Malibu and Diet Coke if I feel I have to drink something and I make it last all night. I can then top up with Diet Coke (which has almost no sugar in it) and it looks as though I am drinking Malibu, who is to know. If you are out at a restaurant, red wine is much better than anything else you can order, (except water of course!) and it has been proven that the anti-oxidants in red wine are great for keeping a healthy heart. The recommended amount is one glass a day with your evening meal.

4. Start cooking more fruit and vegetables.
Fresh fruit and vegetables are a great way to get all the vitamins and minerals you need. And there are so many different ways in which to cook vegetables, but I find that raw is the best follwed closely by steamed. Both of these ways preserve all their natural goodness aswell. I will follow this post with another diabetes recipes post.

5. Drink more water.
I know you have heard people say this many times before, but the benefits of drinking more water are endless. A few tips on how to get more water into your day are firstly to put bottles of water at all the places you go in the house or work. So keep one in your desk, on your desk, a glass in the kitchen, the bedroom, the sitting room, etc. Try and drink all these glasses up and you will be well on your way to 8 glasses a day. The trick is to add a glass every few days or so, if you try to drink all that water in one go you won't be so inclined to drink 8 glasses again, trust me! Have a go, it's amazing how great you will feel.

Diabetes Diet

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Diabetes Type 1 - What is this?

I always get confused about what type of diabetes I have, but basically Type 1 Diabetes is insulin-dependent and Type 2 is non insulin-dependent (tablet and diet). If you have type 1 diabetes than you will know all about what this means, but if you are worried about whether you may have it or a friend or you just want to knwo for a research project, then here are a few details:

Diabetes Symptoms
Remember that these will be different for everyone, and you don't have to have all (I have only commented on the ones that I had) of them. If you have any symptoms you should go to your doctor to get yourself checked out, or go to your local pharmacy and get a testing kit.

- Increased thirst
- Increased urination (I was diagnosed with cystitis as this has a similar effect)
- Severe headaches (I was diagnosed with migraines)
- Weight loss for no apparent reason (pictures of me before diagnosis, I look like I have an eating problem)
- Nausea
- Vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Fatigue (I was constantly tired for no apparent reason)
- Absence of menstruation (I did not have mine until I was 17, some might call this a blessing!)

It took my doctors at least a year to realise that I had diabetes and not any other illnesses, as you can tell from above. If you ask for a diabetes test, they can check you really easily and quickily.

When I was diagnosed I was sent straight to my local hospital where they hooked me up to a drip just in case. This was because I was very close to going into a coma (and possibly dying). They took loads of my blood to test, mainly for other infections and diseases. Because of such a late diagnosis the doctors were worried that I would have other complications, but everything has been ok. I was put onto 2 injections a day, one before breakfast and one before sleeping.

Friday, April 28, 2006

insulin pump minimed 508 - aka 'philip'

This is the insulin pump that I have! I think it is great, and so useful, especially with the life that I lead.

Insulin pumping is something that many people have thought of but few take the steps toward getting one. I would just say to try it, Minimed is incredibly supportive of the individual and working out what the needs of that person are. They will guide you through everything and you will have your own personal expert that will be there if you need to ask any questions. Of course feel free to leave a comment and I will get back to you promptly.

I didn't get an insulin pump when I was first diagnosed, in fact I only got one 2 years after that first diagnosis. I was the first female teenager in the whole of Wiltshire, UK to have an insulin pump, and now I know that there are many more people that have one. My reason for changing to an insulin pump was that having had very poor control for the previous years my mum researched into a better way of maintaining control. She came across the insulin pump through reading the diabetes magazines and went from there.

When I was first hooked up to the insulin pump I had no worries about being attached to it for that long, as I knew that it was going to change my life. I did however become quite conscious of the insulin pump being there, and even thought about designing a whole line of clothes with pockets to put it in. It was this fear of people thinking I was abnormable and asking too many questions that got me stuck in 40 degree C heat with a cardigan on just to cover it up. It was after that incident that I experimented with having my insulin pump on show. I realised that the pump made me individual and that even if you get a few looks people think its a pager or they will be really interested to know what it is. Many people have never even heard of these things before. My close friends and family don't even notice that I am wearing it any more and it hasn't got in the way at all.

I think my family were really great in helping me to be less self-conscious. So if you are a parent out there, my advice would be just to let them figure it out for themselves. My mum never really commented on my insulin pump, only was concerned with my sugar levels. She certainly never told me I was stupid to wear a thick cardigan in 40 deg C heat, I learnt from the error of my ways and only from your own learning can you realise and continue to live with your issues. Although this does mean I have made some really big mistakes and neglected my health for a while, I have now become really strict with my health and keeping a close eye on my sugar levels.

I also call my insulin pump Philip. This is particularly useful and fun! I also had a pump called Paul but he was just a temporary. It makes talking about the insulin pump a lot easier with friends and family and makes you feel less embarrassed or ill. Both my names began with a P so that it could be Philip the Pump!

But my advice for those people who have not yet made the step into wearing the insulin pump with pride would be this:
- At the moment in the shops you can buy loads of different really long tops that will cover up the insulin pump.
- Buy lots of knee length skirts and put the insulin pump in a Tubigrip on your thigh. I find that these are really great, then no one sees any tubes or pump!
- Put it in a pocket on your trousers.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Diabetes and Me - My Story

Hey Alissa here! That is a picture of me on the right there on holiday in France last month, it was lovely!

Having had diabetes for almost 8 years now, you would think that I would have gotten to a complete and utter control, but the fact is that I haven't! I have found it really very difficult to control my sugar levels, and even harder over the last year, my first year of university.

I was diagnosed with diabetes at age 11, two weeks into my first year of secondary school. I was put onto 2 injections a day, which seemed to suit me fine at the time. (Of course at 11 there weren't really any hormones and there was a strict routine!) But after two years of 2 injections and increasingly poor health my mother decided that we needed to find a more suitable option for me. She found out about Minimed via the internet, and after some serious research and trials with our local health authorities I was given an insulin pump. I was used to it after a week, and seemed to know exactly what to do.

Over the next few years I would experience some harrowing doctors advice, one of which told me that I would die if I didn't sort out my sugar levels. This is because of one thing that we would never have counted upon - with the freedom that is given by an insulin pump, the less you feel restricted, the less you feel like you have diabetes, and therefore the lazier you get. It seemed to be a slippery slope down (or I should say up as my blood sugar levels were rising!) into poorer health. The thing is the worse your levels become the harder it is to get them back to normal again, because your body gets used to all the extra sugar. I would love to blame lack of proper support from my local medical authorities, but really it all comes down to how much effort you put in to make you feel 100%.

Anyway, so I am currently at the stage of working out exactly what it is that I need to do in my life currently to make things work for me, but that is an entirely different post, and I need to go and check my blood sugar level. So bye-bye for now!


Juvenile Diabetes

Welcome to this blog all about juvenile diabetes! I have had diabetes for almost 8 years now, so I should be able to answer most questions that you may have. Currently a student at the University of Winchester, I do not let my life be taken over by diabetes, and certainly strive to make each day better and better!