Please tell us a bit about your condition, when were you first diagnosed?
I had been borderline for about 3 years before being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the autumn of 2014. Initially I was distressed that I had gone the other side of the HbA1c line and with a score of 60+ mmols/mol the diagnosis was inevitable. I started with only 50% of the normal Metformin dose and I stayed below 58mmols/mol for about a year but then during a period of unrelated illness it once pushed up into the 60+ area. I’m now taking the full dose of Metformin and my score was down to 47 but over the winter crept up to 51.
How significant a role has nutrition played in assisting you manage your condition -has your lifestyle changed following your diagnosis?
Nutrition is at the heart of the management of the condition in conjunction with the medication. A good diet helps as it regulates the intake of carbohydrates and provides a good balanced intake of healthy fats and essential proteins. I have adapted a diet that I was given following a heart attack. My lifestyle has changed but it is more because of awareness. I now have plenty of exercise in the form of walking, swimming & cycling and have greatly reduced the intake of alcohol and increased the intake of complex carbohydrate intake in the hour before exercise.
How have you been involved with Swim22?
I did Swim22 last year and managed 110 miles in the time allowed. The knock-on effect was weight loss and a reduction to below 58mmols/mol for the HbA1c. I thought that this year I would make the challenge a little tougher to meet. I will try to swim 176 miles in 8 weeks (of the 12 allowed) at the daily rate of 202 lengths This year I was hoping to swim my HbA1c down to about 40. Only the test at the end will tell if I made the goal or not!
Do you feel more can be done by care providers and patients to help manage diabetes more effectively away from hospitals/institutions?
I feel lucky in that I have a good relationship with my G.P. and with the specialist diabetic nurse at the practice. If I have doubts about the advice they are giving I have a daughter who is a dietitian with an insight into all three forms of diabetes. I think that the situation I have is the ideal and therefore I believe it is unlikely that everyone else is as lucky. Having read Rebecca’s article in a nursing journal I was able to see that my situation was the ideal.
How would you assess the level of knowledge about diabetes, is more education needed to raise awareness?
In the case of type 1 the education is focused on the individual and so it is usually very good. Gestational diabetes is much less common but once again the individual is given specific help and education. Type 2 is more of a problem. The condition develops because of a wide range of factors and education could help people who are at risk of developing the condition with the knowledge to control the controllable factors. The genetics of the condition is not fully understood so people like me with a family history of type diabetes will always be at risk regardless of the education. The education about type 2 diabetes is not in the science curriculum at GCSE where it could reasonably sit. Physical Education has no opportunity to teach about the condition and the PSHE programme is now focused on other topics, and much less on conditions like diabetes.
On the whole people are not very aware of the condition and education throughout people’s lives is needed to give them the opportunity to make informed lifestyle decisions with regard to diabetes.