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Sunday the 14th of November 2021 is World Diabetes Awareness Day. Josie Nancarrow – Senior Exercise Physiologist, Occhealth by Altius

Did you know that undiagnosed and without the use of insulin, Type 1 Diabetes is 100% fatal?

As a newly diagnosed Type 1 Diabetic this is a terrifying thought. Thankfully, exactly 100 years ago insulin was discovered as an effective treatment for those of us out there whose pancreas has decided to not work effectively - for reasons completely unknown to date.

Despite being a healthy 28-year-old, on July 4, 2021, my body decided it was time to tell me that my pancreas was no longer on the same team, and I was admitted to hospital with severe stomach pain, incredibly high sugars and diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

Being that I felt completely healthy, here are the “4 T’s of Type 1 Diabetes” (diabetesaustralia.com.au) that I missed that could have helped diagnose me earlier.

  • Thirst – unquenchable thirst
  • Tired – unexplainable or excessive fatigue
  • Toilet – going to the toilet a LOT!
  • Thinner – unexplained or sudden weight loss

These are unassuming symptoms and quite easy to overlook. For example, I walk and exercise a lot with my clients as an accredited exercise physiologist, so I felt that explained each of these symptoms.

My day-to-day life is now simultaneously completely different and exactly the same. I can do everything as I normally would, except now every decision around activity and eating requires a finger prick, an injection, and an annoying amount of math.

Because my pancreas no longer produces insulin, I must inject it every time I eat a meal and at bedtime. This allows my body to take the carbohydrates/sugar/glucose from my blood and transport it into my muscles. The thing is, if I give too much insulin I end up with Hypoglycemia – low blood sugar – which feels ‘super rubbish’, I get shaky, nauseous, and confused. But if I don’t give enough insulin I get Hyperglycemia – high blood sugar – which feels ‘less rubbish’ but leaves me feeling super irritable, with blurred vision, and excessive thirst. If left too high for too long, having Hyperglycemia can lead to damage to the brain, vision, and peripheral nerves (fingers and toes). That is one of the reasons why insulin is so important, and a diagnosis is lifesaving.

When we exercise our body needs energy, this energy comes from glucose. So, a really great way to keep blood sugar down is by exercising. This is a great tool for any type of diabetic, but as a Type 1 Diabetic it must be done safely. And safely means with a lot of math.

If you are or have a Type 1 Diabetic in your life, here are some things to consider:

  1. “But you are so healthy and active!” – It’s important to know that we didn’t get Type 1 Diabetes from our health choices, we got Type 1 Diabetes because our bodies physically cannot make insulin.
  2. Mixing up Type 1 and Type 2 – This is a common (but sometimes frustrating) mistake that is easy to make for someone who isn’t familiar with diabetes.
  3. “Are you allowed to eat that?” – The answer is always yes. We can eat anything if we dose our insulin correctly.
  4. “Do you still have diabetes?” – Type 1 Diabetes unfortunately cannot be cured. If managed perfectly, we are doing a good job, but still have Type 1 Diabetes. I am going to be a grandma and still need to inject myself with insulin every time I eat anything with carbohydrates.

If you have diabetes – Type 1 or 2, an exercise physiologist is perfectly placed to help you take the guess work out of safely exercising. Find out more about our exercise physiology programs or contact us at Occhealth and we can help you out with 1:1 sessions and a tailored exercise program.