Diabetes Awareness Month: how to show your support
It’s November, which means two things: 1) You can legally start playing Mariah Carey, and 2) It’s Diabetes Awareness Month! Let’s help spread awareness and show support to those living with diabetes. In this blog, we share some ideas on how you can get involved.
1. Educate yourself
Unfortunately, diabetes is a highly stigmatised condition – largely due to a widespread misunderstanding of the condition and a tendency for mainstream media not to differentiate between the varying types of diabetes. One way to help support those with diabetes is to educate yourself on the different types of diabetes, as well as developing a deeper understanding of the daily challenges it presents.
Types of diabetes:
- Type 1: This is when your body cannot produce insulin because your body attacks the cells in your pancreas that create insulin. It is important to note that this type of diabetes is an autoimmune disease which is unavoidable and does not occur as a result of lifestyle choices, such as eating too much Cadbury’s as a kid (everyone’s favourite myth!). People living with Type 1 are usually born with it or diagnosed during adolescence, although some people do not present symptoms until later into their adult life. Type 1 diabetes is treated with daily insulin injections and blood glucose monitoring. And yes, people living with Type 1 can eat anything they want (that’s right, even cake),
- Type 2: Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes – in fact, 90% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. People with type 2 cannot produce enough insulin and/or have a resistance to insulin, meaning their glucose levels are too high. Risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include being overweight, leading a significantly inactive lifestyle, being aged 45 or older and having family members with the condition. People living with type 2 diabetes will usually be offered metformin – a tablet which helps keep blood sugar levels under control. Sometimes insulin is necessary when a patient doesn’t respond to other treatments. Changes to lifestyle such as a more balanced diet and increased exercise are also recommended by healthcare professionals.
- Gestational diabetes: A perhaps lesser-known type of diabetes, gestational diabetes can occur during pregnancy. Most women will return to having normal glucose levels after giving birth. Treatment usually starts with changes to diet and lifestyle, but insulin or metformin is prescribed in cases where blood sugar continues to run high for more than two weeks.
Living with diabetes
Living with diabetes can be extremely challenging and mentally draining. You are filling in for a vital organ, after all – certainly not light work! Remember this the next time you are working with a colleague who has diabetes or visiting a family member living with the condition. Always be compassionate because it can be a very isolating condition and having a support system of people who have done their research and know what you’re going through can make a world of difference. Lastly, avoid making any assumptions or asking questions that might be deemed as insensitive (asking ‘can you eat that?’ is a particular pet peeve for most).
2. Raise awareness of symptoms
Diabetes UK estimates that 850,000 people could be living with undiagnosed diabetes. To help prevent long-term complications, it is paramount that we help spread awareness of the common symptoms of diabetes.
While type 1 and type 2 diabetes are not the same, they have a lot of shared symptoms. For example:
- Needing the loo more often – having a frequent urge to wee, particularly during the night.
- Excessive thirst – having a constant need to drink water but your thirst is never quenched.
- Tiredness – feeling lethargic/low-energy all the time.
- Unexplained weight loss
- Blurred vision
As a healthcare professional, you can help spread awareness of these symptoms with patients, family and friends. Remind people they need urgent medical attention if they are experiencing the above.
Show your support for Diabetes Awareness Month by raising money for charity! Visit the Diabetes UK website to find out more about ways to donate. In terms of raising money, you could:
- Take part in a sponsored run
- Host a pub quiz and invite your colleagues
- Add a link to your email signature
- Promote a diabetes research/support charity of your choice using social media
- Doing a good old-fashioned bucket collection (you could include sweet treats as bribery here – who is going to say no to a cupcake?!)
We hope you found this blog helpful – remember to spread the word using the hashtag #DiabetesAwarenessMonth2023! Knowledge is power so let’s continue to educate others on the reality of living with diabetes, as well as being mindful of the differences between the various types!
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