Diabetes Canada states that 11 million Canadians are living with diabetes or prediabetes. But even with this alarmingly high number, many Canadians don’t actually understand what diabetes is, or how one lives with it. This knowledge should be more common as you will likely work with, go to school with, or have friends who are diabetic. Being able to better understand what it is could help you notice signs and symptoms of diabetes. Out of those 11 million Canadians, the two of us fit under that category. As type one diabetics, we’re here to tell you five things about this disease that you might have not known.
1) We didn’t eat too much sugar when we were kids
Often times, people will think that someone with type one diabetes “ate too much sugar as a kid.” That is wrong. Type one diabetes is not preventable and cannot be reversed with better diet and exercise (that is more along the lines of type two diabetes).
2) It’s not type 2 diabetes
Many people do not know the difference between type one and type two diabetes, and many who assume that there are no major differences between the two. Let’s talk about that.
Type one diabetes (also known as juvenile diabetes) is genetic and is non-preventable, and does not have a cure (yet). A person is diagnosed with type one diabetes when their pancreas stops producing enough insulin to regulate blood glucose levels. Not all diagnoses are the same, sometimes the disease is caught early on, other times it is caught at the very last second and the effects it can have while not diagnosed can be life-threatening. (Type two diabetes is when the body resists insulin or fails to produce enough insulin to regulate glucose levels as a result of poor diet and exercise).
3) Pump it up
Many with type one diabetes use pumps — which replace the use of syringes and usually the use of a second type of insulin. For instance, most people with type one diabetes are on long-acting insulin as well as fast-acting insulin. On a pump, only one type of insulin is used, and is injected on an hourly rate to help regulate the blood glucose levels throughout the day. There are a few different kinds of pumps, ones with tubing to connect the device to the site, and others that have a sticky adhesive with only one injection site..
4) Exercise is a natural insulin for us (since we can’t make the real stuff)
As we all know by now, insulin breaks our food down into energy. Similarly, exercise has that effect on our bodies. Physical activity allows blood sugar levels to go down naturally, meaning type one diabetics can (in some circumstances) take less insulin if regular activity is incorporated into their lives. Although it is no long-term fix, exercise can be a useful temporary tool for managing glucose levels.
5) It’s a full-time job
Without insulin, living isn’t an option. And since we can’t get ours naturally, it is up to us to ensure we are regularly counting our carbohydrate intake, testing our blood, and taking insulin by injection, pump, or any other way to make sure that anything we put into our bodies is being broken down into energy. Diabetes doesn’t take a break, nor does it care about time. There will be late nights with low blood sugars, and days where it seems as if it just won’t come down from a high. Diabetes is a full-time job, and for those of us living with it, it isn’t optional
Isabelle Cropper & Lydia Collins