How can I get better? – By Helen May


When my dental nurse said there was a little bit of gum disease, I started flossing more often. When I realised I was struggling to write reports at work, I registered for an Open University course in business writing. When my bedroom walls started to look tatty, I painted them. When I thought my job was at risk, I found another one.

There is no doubt, I can make changes and I can improve myself. So when, at my last diabetes review, the consultant said my Hb1AC was good, I thought I should do better than “good”. Maybe it’s because I was diagnosed with Type 1 later in life that I compare myself with people without diabetes rather than people with diabetes. I want my results to be as close as they were to the results 10 years ago as possible.

But the changes I made in other parts of my life have been either short-term (like a three month course), little impact on my lifestyle (like flossing before I go to bed) or exciting (like a new job). Improving my diabetes control seems much harder. To reduce my Hb1AC, I need to reduce my daily BG reading. However, it’s not as easy as taking more insulin because I also need to reduce the number of hypos.

In addition, I do not want diabetes to take over my life. For example, I rarely eat pre-prepared, pre-weighed food from a packet that says “carbohydrates 56g”. There are two reasons for this: both professionally and socially, I often eat out and, as I have written about before, restaurant menus do not include carb counts. Secondly, when I eat at home, I want to be in control of the ingredients in my food: eat lots of fresh vegetables without unknown preservatives: so I make much of my food from scratch with the contents of my fridge and cupboards. I use up the last of the courgettes, couscous and chilli sauce rather than weighing out exact amounts and throwing out the last 34g of onion, for example. I also enjoy the satisfaction from tasting my own creations.

Technology has been shown to improve diabetes control with insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors. However, because my control is “good”, I am not entitled to anything more from my local healthcare.

I try to maintain a healthy lifestyle with exercise, not too much alcohol and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. So, hopefully, I reduce my chances of heart diseases, etc. like the general population is recommended. However, I am part of a subset of the population: the group that has higher risk of healthcare problems later in life. I feel I should be doing more.

So, when I ask “How can I get better?”, I am not asking for a cure for diabetes (although, I would not turn it down), I am asking for suggestions on how to improve my diabetes control in a way that I am in control of diabetes rather than the other way round and in a way that is simple or exciting or non-intrusive in my lifestyle. Surely, I am not asking too much. Any suggestions.

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