Healthy Living

Living with Type 1 Diabetes

Living with Type 1 Diabetes

Key Takeaways

  • Physical activity lowers the blood glucose level in the body, so diabetes patients should exercise regularly.
  • People with diabetes are at a higher risk of other dangerous conditions, so it is crucial to avoid smoking and limit alcohol intake.
  • Diabetes patients have to pay attention to the health of their feet.

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes, which is also called insulin-dependent diabetes, is the more severe form of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes develops at any age, but it usually develops among children and teenagers. This is the reason why it is also commonly called “juvenile” diabetes.

Living with type 1 diabetes means you will have to take much better care of your health and your whole well being with the help of your family members and friends and your expert diabetes care team. Living with type 1 diabetes also means that you will have to change just about every aspect of your life in order to adapt to living with the disease.

Healthy diet

Eating and maintaining a healthy diet is very important for a patient with type 1 diabetes. With your health under attack, you will have to let go of your past uncontrolled diet and start with a healthier, more balanced diet. While you will be asked to watch and keep track of the food you consume, you will not have to altogether avoid several food groups. You can still enjoy a variety in your diet with an extensive selection of foods, provided that you regularly make healthy choices and modifications.

You can also make the decision to stick with your regular choice of foods and simply make adjustments so your meals are healthy. You can reduce the amount of sugar, salt, and fats that you put in your meals. You will also be asked to increase the amount of fiber in your food. Living with type 1 diabetes doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to exclude sugar content and fats from your diet completely. They just have to be limited and carefully managed.

The most important thing that a type 1 diabetes patient must remember in his or her diet is the regular intake of starchy carbohydrates. Fruits and vegetables are some of the most vital food groups as well. With a well-balanced diet, you can achieve good health and you can maintain an ideal weight.

Regular exercise

Physical activities lower the blood glucose level in the body. That’s why it is vital for a type 1 diabetes patient to exercise on a regular basis.

The most ideal duration of regular exercise is at least two hours of moderate aerobic activity every week. Examples of moderately intense aerobic activities are walking and cycling. While this is a commonly-known ideal standard of exercise, it is still suggested for you to talk to your diabetes care team for professional recommendations. As said, exercise affects the level of blood glucose in your body. For this reason, your care team will make adjustments to your diet or to your insulin treatment to maintain the level of your body’s blood glucose.

Avoiding smoke

While living with type 1 diabetes,it is important for you to avoid unnecessary, unhealthy practices such as smoking. This is important especially for the fact that with diabetes, the risk of cardiovascular disease is increased. Also, smoking increases the risk of serious conditions like lung cancer. Therefore, smoking and type 1 diabetes is an especially dangerous combination.

Giving up smoking is very challenging. To help you, your diabetes care team will assist you in quitting smoking with professional medical support, advice and treatment.

Alcohol limit

A type 1 diabetes patient will still be allowed to drink alcohol, but he or she must follow the recommended alcohol intake limits. Also, a patient must always remember to avoid drinking on an empty stomach.

While you do not have to avoid the intake of alcohol altogether, there are still very dangerous risks for taking in alcohol with your diabetes, depending on the alcohol amount that you drink. Drinking alcohol can cause your glucose levels to either go high (hyperglycemia) or low (hypoglycemia).

Furthermore, alcohol can affect your insulin treatment, so be careful with the amount of alcohol that your drink. Doctors advise type 1 diabetes patients to drink not more than 14 alcohol units per week.

Vaccinations

Patients with long-term type 1 diabetes are advised to have a flu shot every autumn. Pneumococcal vaccination is also recommended. It is a type of vaccination that protects a patient against pneumococcal pneumonia, a serious kind of chest infection.

Taking care of your feet

Diabetes patients are widely known to be very much at risk of foot-related conditions such as foot ulcers and other infections. Even the tiniest cuts, blemishes and grazes, if not treated immediately, can cause serious foot conditions. Diabetes is correlated with poor circulation of the blood in our feet. The blood glucose in our body can also cause damage to the nerves.

For the prevention of serious foot conditions, take care of your feet with protective, preventive measures. Wash your feet daily with warm water and always keep your nails short. Also, wear shoes with a comfortable fit. Always check for blisters, cuts, or grazes on your feet. This is especially important as it is difficult to notice the pain if nerves in your feet are damaged. If you do notice blisters, cuts, or grazes, seek treatment immediately. You may treat it yourself, but you have to be careful. To make sure, seek treatment from professionals. If the cuts do not heal within days, see your diabetes care team. For prevention, see your foot care specialist regularly to detect and treat problems immediately.

Regular eye test

The risk of eye problems is also high for diabetes patients. Diabetic retinopathy, in particular, is the most common eye problem diabetes patients develop. It is an eye-related condition in which the small blood vessels in the eyes are damaged. The eye condition can occur if the blood glucose level becomes too high (Hyperglycaemia) for quite a long period of time. Diabetic retinopathy may lead to the loss of sight if left untreated.

Patients are advised to receive an eye screening at least once a year to check for diabetic retinopathy. Patients with diabetes are also encouraged to see an optician every two years for a regular diabetic eye test.

Immune system attacks

The immune system of a body with type 1 diabetes attacks its own pancreas. This attack is medically known as the “autoimmune” disease. The immune system of a type 1 diabetes patient sees the cells that produce insulin in the pancreas as foreign cells and mistakenly destroys them.

The importance of insulin

The cells called “islets” are the cells that sense glucose in a human’s blood. In response, these cells normalize the level of blood sugar in the body by producing the necessary amount of insulin. Insulin serves as the “key” that opens cells for the glucose to enter.

Without insulin, your body has no “key”. This causes the sugar to stay and build up in the blood. This, then, results to the starvation of the body's cells due to the lack of glucose intake. If left untreated, the high level of blood sugar will cause damage to the nerves, eyes, kidneys, and heart. This can also lead to coma and, worse, death.

Final thoughts

Type 1 diabetes is a crucial, serious health problem. To continue living with a healthy life, it is very important to watch after one’s health with utmost care.