10 things I wish everyone knew about Type 1 Diabetes

1. IT IS AN AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE.

This means that the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin producing cells in the pancreas. Which also means that:

2. IT JUST HAPPENS.

There is no cause and there is no prevention. So yes, this in turn means that:

3. IT IS NOT CAUSED BY EATING TOO MUCH SUGAR.

There is actually no relation between diet and the development of Type 1 diabetes.

4. IT’S A CHRONIC ILLNESS/IT’S SERIOUS.

Diabetes causes more deaths a year than breast cancer and AIDs combined. A diabetic makes dozens of diabetes related decisions throughout the day. One wrong decision can turn into a life threatening situation.

5. IT IS NOT REVERSIBLE WITH GOOD NUTRITION AND EXERCISE.

It’s just not.

6. THERE IS NO CURE.

Taking insulin only allows diabetics to stay alive.

7. DIABETICS CAN BE FIT AND HEALTHY.

Exercise is important for everyone’s health, and it’s especially important for people with diabetes. This is because exercise is invisible insulin – regular exercise helps lower blood sugar levels and keep them in the target range, but each work out requires a lot of careful planning as their body is unable to maintain blood sugar levels at a healthy level. Blood sugar changes with each workout depending on a number of different factors, like the level before working out, the intensity of the workout, the length of time spent exercising and the changes made to insulin doses. A short core gym class, for example, requires little change in insulin dosage and nutrition. Running long distances, however, require not only a higher blood sugar level to start with (by reducing insulin dose and/or eating carbohydrates 2 hours before running), but maintaining the level by testing every 20/30 minutes and consuming high glucose substances like jelly babies – and not only that, but testing after the run to ensure your blood sugar doesn’t drop too low. Experience has also shown that a high intensity activity like running or a spin class will effect levels for the rest of the day, and will require a reduction in insulin also for the rest of the day.

8. IT’S A MAJOR BALANCING ACT.

Keeping your blood sugar levels controlled are kind of like trying to keep your body’s temperature controlled. It’s near impossible. Eat any sort of carbohydrates and your blood sugar will rise. The type of carbs you eat will effect the amount your blood sugar will rise, and also how quickly it will rise. Work out and your blood sugar will fall. Even things like stress and hormones effect blood sugar levels. Too high or too low and you die.

9. IT IS COMPLETELY DIFFERENT TO TYPE 2 DIABETES.

Only around 5-10% of all diabetics are Type 1 (who have a complete lack of insulin). The rest are Type 2 (whose bodies aren’t using their insulin effectively). Type 2 can be prevented or delayed with a healthy lifestyle.

10. IT’S HARD, HARD, WORK.

Having Type 1 Diabetes is like having a full time job that you didn’t want, apply for, or can quit. There are no holidays. There are no days off. There’s no time off whatsoever. It means thinking about what, when and how much to eat almost constantly, and planning ahead whilst factoring in exercise, medication, stress and blood sugar monitoring. Parties mean extra vigilance on blood sugar levels because drinking alcohol can be dangerous. Sickness, too, means extra vigilance. People with diabetes have to work twice as hard just to stay safe. Some nights a diabetic can’t sleep through without having a nocturnal hypo and waking up tired and headachy with drenched sheets from the sweat. They have constant doctor’s appointments, blood tests and diet discussions. They make diabetes related decisions every couple of hours of every day of their lives.

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