What To Expect: Type 1 Diabetes

By: Addison Ward

General Info About Type 1 Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease that affects how the body uses glucose, the main type of sugar in the blood. Glucose comes from the foods we eat and is the major source of energy needed to fuel the body's functions. After you eat a meal, your body breaks down the foods you eat into glucose and other nutrients, which are then absorbed into the bloodstream from the gastrointestinal tract. The glucose level in the blood rises after a meal and triggers the pancreas to make the hormone insulin and release it into the bloodstream. But in people with diabetes, the body either can't make or can't respond to insulin properly. Insulin works like a key that opens the doors to cells and allows the glucose in. Without insulin, glucose can't get into the cells (the doors are "locked" and there is no key), so it stays in the bloodstream. As a result, the level of sugar in the blood remains higher than normal. High blood sugar levels are a problem because they can cause a number of health problems.

Type 1 diabetes results when the pancreas loses its ability to make the hormone insulin. In type 1 diabetes, the person's own immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Once those cells are destroyed, they won't ever make insulin again.

How To Monitor Your Blood Sugar:

Blood glucose (blood sugar) is an essential measure of your health. If you're struggling to manage your blood glucose levels, this should help. With the latest tools and strategies, you can take steps today to monitor your condition, prevent serious complications and feel better while living with diabetes. After washing your hands, insert a test strip into your meter. Use your lancing device on the side of your fingertip to get a drop of blood. Touch and hold the edge of the test strip to the drop of blood, and wait for the result. Your blood glucose level will appear on the meter's display. With some meters, you can also use your forearm, thigh or fleshy part of your hand. There are spring-loaded lancing devices that make sticking yourself less painful. If you use your fingertip, stick the side of your fingertip by your fingernail to avoid having sore spots on the frequently used part of your finger. A normal fasting blood glucose target range for an individual without diabetes is 70-100 mg/dL (3.9-5.6 mmol/L). The American Diabetes Association recommends a fasting plasma glucose level of 70–130 mg/dL (3.9-7.2 mmol/L) and after meals less than 180 mg/dL (10 mmol/L).

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It can seem overwhelming when you or someone you love has diabetes. What to eat can be one of the biggest concerns. Knowing what to eat can be confusing. Everywhere you turn, there is news about what is or isn't good for you.

There really is no such thing as a diabetic diet, but there are things you can control to keep your blood sugar from changing so often. Planning your meals ahead of time—including grocery shopping so you have healthy food in the house—cuts down on the amount of “emergency eating” you may do. Pay close attention to food labels to monitor your carbohydrate intake. Wondering if alcohol is off limits with diabetes? Women should have no more than 1 drink per day and Men should have no more than 2 drinks per day.

Focus instead on vegetables that have few carbohydrates but are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals. These include: most green leafy vegetables, asparagus, beets, carrots, celery, cucumber, onion, peppers, sprouts, tomatoes. Eating smaller meals and progressively snacking throughout the day can make your blood sugar easier to monitor and prevent levels from peaking. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other foods travel easily and are great to have on hand when you need them.

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Regardless of the type of diabetes you have, regular physical activity is important for your overall health and wellness. With type 1, it’s very important to balance your insulin doses with the food you eat and the activity that you do – even if you are just doing house or yard work. Planning ahead and knowing your body’s typical blood glucose response to exercise can help you keep your blood glucose from going too low or too high.

Exercise and physical activity lowers blood sugar, so if you’re going to do intense exercise, you’ll want to measure your blood sugar before and after you exercise. This well let you know how much you’ll have to eat to maintain a healthy level.

If your blood glucose level is less than 100 mg/dl before you start your activity, try having a small carbohydrate snack (about 15 grams) to increase your blood glucose and reduce your risk for hypoglycemia. This is especially important if you anticipate that your body’s circulating insulin levels will be higher during the time you exercise and if you will be exercising for longer than 30 minutes.

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Who Can Help:

Once diagnosed, you will most likely be recommended a doctor with special training (and usually certification) in diseases such as diabetes, an Endocringologist. If you do not see an endocrinologist, look for a primary doctor, family practice doctor or an internist who has cared for many people with diabetes. Your primary care doctor may also be the one who refers you to specialists or other team members. A nurse educator or diabetes nurse practitioner is a registered nurse (RN) with special training and background in caring for and teaching people with diabetes. Many are Certified Diabetes Educators (CDE) and some may have a master's degree. A registered dietitian (RD) is trained in nutrition and has passed a national exam. An RD may also have a master's degree or may be a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE). You want to be sure to work with an RD who has training and experience with diabetes. If your doctor does not work with a dietitian, ask him to refer you to one. Your dietitian helps you figure out your food needs based on your desired weight, lifestyle, medication, and other health goals (such as lowering blood

fat levels or blood pressure).

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Lifestyle Choices:

This is an article from The New York Times Magazine about lifestyle changes that occur when you get diagnosed with diabetes.


Success Stories:

Here is a website you can visit to check out some success stories for some additional information and motivation.


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