Diabetes – look for the warning signs that could mean you need help

Diabetes can affect anyone, but not everyone knows how to spot the warning signs and a diagnosis can come as a surprise.

Diabetes – look for the warning signs that could mean you need help

Oxford Health is supporting Diabetes Week 2021 and using the national event to help raise awareness of the condition

Chris, 60, from Oxford, is sharing his story of how he found out he had diabetes and how gradual changes and support from Oxford Health’s specialist team have allowed him to make positive changes to not just his physical but mental health as well.

He experienced some of the warning symptoms but didn’t know they could be serious until the day he suffered a major health scare.

The symptoms to look out for with diabetes are feeling very thirsty, going to the toilet more frequently than usual, particularly at night, feeling very tired, noticeable weight loss, notice cuts or wounds that heal more slowly or blurred vision – help is available. Take a look at our Community Diabetes page for more information

What is diabetes?

If you have either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, it means you have too much glucose (a type of sugar) in your blood. This is the same for both types 1 and 2.

If you have type 1 diabetes, it means you have an autoimmune condition. This means your body has attacked and destroyed the cells that make a hormone called insulin. So, you can’t make insulin anymore.

If you’ve got type 2 diabetes, either your body doesn’t make enough insulin, or your insulin doesn’t work properly. Like type 1, this means the level of glucose in your blood is too high.

We all need insulin as it helps take the glucose from our blood into our body’s cells. We then use this glucose for energy. Without insulin, the glucose level in your blood gets too high.

Chris’s story

Chris explains: “Around September last year I was feeling quite unwell with what I thought was asthma because I was struggling to breathe even when walking on the flat.

“I suffered a heart attack shortly afterwards and on reaching hospital they also found that I had diabetes. It was a shock as I am a slim man and although my mum had the disease I didn’t fall in to the standard profile of a person with diabetes.

“The tests showed I had type 2 diabetes and they talked me through the process of giving insulin alongside taking the pills for my heart attack.

“As a father of three the diagnosis was a little scary and I knew I had to make some changes to my lifestyle so that I could continue to support them.

“With lockdown I had been working from home and both my wife and I had been home schooling the children so normal routine had been altered and life had been hectic.

“I was referred to the community diabetes team and due to lockdown all the conversations I had were over the telephone but the team were so informative and helpful throughout. They supported me with my rehab programme which involved attending virtual seminars. They were all very positive and encouraged me throughout even when I felt like I was struggling. The seminars were really interesting, and I learnt a lot from them.

“I continued taking the insulin and even got my children involved. My 2-year-old took a real interest and always asked about ‘daddy’s bloods’. The family really rallied round me and were so supportive. My wife is always researching and looking at low sugar foods and other alternatives I can eat to keep my insulin levels on track.

“It wasn’t about making the changes all at once as I knew that would put additional stresses on my body, It was more about adapting over time but also about having the goal of managing the disease in the long term.

“Even making sure I got enough sleep was important and then it was about improving my own routine. I am still working from home and have changed my focus to ensure I am doing cardio exercise at least once a day whether this be a walk or getting on the bike. I am also enjoying being outside in nature and appreciating the green spaces that are around locally.

“I continue to check my insulin levels by completing the finger prick everyday even though my insulin is much more controlled with the help of metformin. And its paying off, my doctor recently even reduced my does of Metformin.

“I have set myself a challenge to climb Cat Bells which is a fell in the Lake District. Over 20 years ago I ran up it a few times and now following my recent diagnosis along with my heart attack I am slowly building up my strength and am looking forward to achieving my goal, but walking this time – one step at a time!”

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Published: 18 June 2021