World Diabetes Day – Gray Holland

According to Diabetes UK, today, Monday 14th of November is World Diabetes Day.

Did you know this?

Chances are you didn’t, I didn’t. I, a Type 1 Diabetic, for 7 years and 5 months exactly today, had no idea that today was World Diabetes Day. However, unlike most of you, I did know that November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and I am very aware of diabetes, especially Type 1.

But here’s the thing, I know most of you aren’t aware of anything about Type 1, or Type 2 for that matter. I know you’ve heard the myths and rumours about how “you get diabetes by eating too much sugar” or “diabetics are fat/overweight/obese” because the media likes to perpetuate those myths because it’s easier than explaining what diabetes actually is, or how it works, and I’ll admit, some memes can be funny, but not when they come at the expense of the health and wellbeing of a frankly alarming number of people.

So, I’m going to dispel some myths and rumours, and make you a little bit more aware of Type 1 Diabetes.

1. No. I did not get diabetes from eating too many sweets, too much sugar, or too much of anything. Please, for the love of my sanity, please don’t say this. Diabetes is an autoimmune condition, wherein my insulin beta cells in my pancreas, started attacking themselves and eventually all died, to put it basically. Insulin is the hormone that regulates blood sugar, so that whatever you eat, the energy from it can be used effectively. It’s basically a key to your blood cells, to allow energy to function properly and not have too much sugar in your blood stream all at once. Type 1 Diabetics don’t make insulin for themselves and so have to get it artificially, either through injections using insulin pens or by insulin pumps. No-one knows exactly what causes diabetes, because science hasn’t made that breakthrough yet; we know that it’s at least partially hereditary but not entirely.

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2. There is no cure. Yet. If I had a pound for every time someone asked me “So when will you be better?” I could probably afford to pay some very clever scientist to find a cure for it. But, as yet there isn’t a cure. Some people say that it will be cured within my life time, and that would be great, but in the 70’s the scientific community said they were 10 years from finding a cure, and were still working on it, and that’s fine. So long as progress is being made, and it is.

3. We are not “poor frail people” who can’t do sports, or be clever, or be successful etc. If every Type 1 Diabetic sat down and did nothing after being diagnosed, the world would be a much duller place. Halle Berry for example is a Type 1 Diabetic, and I know her Catwoman film is borderline unwatchable, but still. Nick Jonas of Jonas Brothers fame, and probably some other modern pop stuff, is also a Type 1 Diabetic, and there are so many more. Maybe those aren’t the best examples, but you get the point, so HA HA HA to every teacher I had in Year 4 who told me I wasn’t allowed to swim.

4. Sugar. It’s what controls the lives of every Diabetic on the planet. But, what actually do I mean by that? What you’re probably thinking is if I have sugar then I die? No. Absolutely not. Diabetics can eat anything they like, and I cannot stress this enough. I’m so tired of hearing ‘so what can you eat?’ or people offering me food and then yanking it away with a look of pity because they think that I can’t eat it, but that’s simply not how diabetes works. Diabetics can eat anything they want, we just have to take insulin to compensate for whatever we eat. We are just mimicking a healthy body’s response to food. And it’s not really the sugar we’re looking out for, it’s the carbohydrate. Sugar causes blood sugar spikes, which are bad, but they come down pretty quickly too, but carbohydrate pushes blood sugar up, and it keeps it there, which is why we take insulin.

5. Up, down, blood sugar, what? It’s a bit confusing, sure, but I’ll explain. Blood sugar should be kept at a stable range. If a Type one Diabetic has too much insulin, without food, the blood sugar goes down, and they may become ‘hypo’ which is short for hypoglycaemic, where the body doesn’t have enough sugar to function, the person may start shaking, not being able to concentrate etc, it’s different for everyone but those are pretty normal symptoms, and a lot of diabetics can feel when they go ‘low’. On the other side of the scale, if a Type one Diabetic has too much sugar/carbohydrates, without enough insulin, they may experience ‘hyperglycaemia’ or being ‘high’, they may be very thirsty because water helps bring blood sugar down.

There you go then. That’s 5 things to clear up diabetes a bit. This is just for Type 1, as I’m not an expert on Type 2. But it’s so so important to reduce the stigma of diabetes since it claims so many lives a year because people aren’t treated properly for it, and for a plethora of other reasons, since Type 1 diabetes accounts for just 10% of diabetics world wide. If you have questions, I’d be happy to answer them or at least help you find an answer, so go ahead and email me, or come and find me.

This Diabetes Awareness Month, please don’t spread myths and falsehoods about diabetes, because you’re just adding to the number of silly remarks diabetics around the world will deal with everyday.

Thank you.

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