Posted by on Tuesday 5 October 2010

Advice for new diabetics in one sentence

A few days ago Tim on Shoot up or Put Up posted a thread which asked, 'If you were presented with a newly diagnosed diabetic and had to give them your advice in one sentence, what would it be?'.

It was an interesting question to be asked. Diabetes can feel very complex and difficult to understand at times. In all the months, weeks and years since diagnosis I don't think I've ever got to the point of feeling I really understand it completely. There's always something new to learn. A new explanation for those confusing 'out of the blue' results. A new approach. Another lightbulb moment. So to try to distil everything you've picked up into one handy phrase is quite tricky.

There were some interesting and inspiring responses. Things about living life to the full. Being able to take control of the condition. Never letting it stop you from doing anything. Mine, by contrast seems rather dull, but it contains 5 little nuggets that I'm very glad I was told, or really wish I had been told at the beginning of my diabetic life:

Sometimes it won’t feel like it but this is something you can control - just count carbs, test lots, carry sweets and keep asking questions.

For starters, I know that sometimes however hard I try, my control seems to go all over the place. It's no fun battling relentless highs, persistent lows or perhaps worse, the zig-zag rollercoaster of overcorrection from one to the other. Aside from the physical grottiness of it, there is the emotional upheaval and the dark looming cloud of complications to add to the fun.


It might be hard work, it takes a lot of effort, a little willpower and just a smattering of gut-instinct but diabetes is something you can control. Well most of the time anyway. As a type 1 it is a matter of matching the insulin I take with carefully counted (or more usually wildly guestimated) carbohydrates. A little systematic testing after meals can help to identify different and/or unexpected absorption patterns of different foods, pizza... Weetabix... you know the sort of thing. Then I have to decide whether I'll just avoid those choices entirely or work ways around the problem with timing/dose-adjustment. More testing helps me understand the effects of exercise on my blood glucose levels and combat those with altered doses and/or fast-acting carbohydrate for the rest of the day.

Writing everything down, not just BG (blood glucose) levels, but insulin doses, carbohydrate eaten at meals, exercise etc has helped me spot patterns this year that I'd struggled with for years.

If you have not been offered carb counting yet and you are injecting insulin I would urge you to ask your team about it. If for any reason it is not available in your area (and I'm not sure how this can be the case!) the online BDEC course might help. To be honest, even if you are type 2 and not on insulin, it seems to me that carb counting and using a meter to see what happens when you eat different amounts (and different types) of carbohydrate can only help you see how your body reacts and tweak your diet accordingly to aim for the challenging target BG levels we are set.

One of the most significant changes for me this year though has been to compare notes with other diabetics. I've never sought out the voluntary-group-tea-and-biscuits(!) sort of arrangements, but there are several thriving online forums (including one supported by Diabetes UK) where you can share experiences, rant, ask questions and generally converse with other people who are facing the same challenges as you every day. A trouble shared and all that.

Life with diabetes can feel hard at times, or impossible, or unfair. But all we can do is just keep on digging in and working to get the best control we can one day at a time.

I wonder what your advice to the newly diagnosed would be?

1 comment:

  1. Tips for those newly diagnosed to manage their diabetes