Living Happy & Healthy with Type 1 Diabetes

By Tina Phyfer, APRN on Apr 1, 2018

Insulin works very well with most individuals; however,, insulin can also be a difficult drug to manage. When there is too much insulin administered, the blood glucose may drop dangerously low. This condition is called hypoglycemia, which is expressed by symptoms of rapid heart rate, shakiness, dizziness, weakness, agitation and hunger. In a worse case scenario, hypoglycemia can lead to ketoacidosis, coma and death.

With the development of improved insulin, insulin pumps and glucose monitors, individuals with type 1 diabetes are living much longer and healthier lives.  New medications and other therapies have added years to many lives  by reducing complications such as heart disease and kidney disease for diabetics.

Keeping it Under Control

The Diabetes Control and Complication Trial ran from 1982 - 1993.  This study investigated the influence of stick glucose control, (HbA1c < 7)  vs. conventional acceptable glucose control (HbA1c  9). After 27 years, the results of this study suggest that individuals that maintained HbA1c < 7  had a greater chance to outlive those that had HbA1c averaging nine.

This makes perfect sense, the lower the glucose the less cell, tissue or organ damage is to be expected; therefore,  increasing years of life.  Again, this can be a gentle balance because the lower the glucose the greater the risk of experiencing hypoglycemia. For this reason, many practitioners caution the elderly, frail or individuals with other health issues from trying to maintain a near-normal glucose level. 

It is also important for diabetics to look beyond their glucose and plan to control and monitor cholesterol and blood pressure.  Keeping a normal cholesterol level and blood pressure will also help reduce cardiovascular disease. 

Education and Awareness

Individuals with diabetes should seek providers that will treat, support and educate the individual with diabetes on:  stress management, proper glucose monitoring, recognizing early signs of low glucose levels, how to safely deliver insulin and appropriate skin, foot and eye screenings.

Meeting with a certified diabetes educator (CDE) is highly recommended for all diabetics. A CDE can help the diabetic develop a better eating plan in coordination with insulin administration.

Living healthier and longer is now a reality for diabetics that actively and consistently maintain a healthy lifestyle, which includes an exercise regimen, incorporates stress reduction practices and maintains appropriate glucose levels. 

3 Types of diabetes and their classifications

TYPE 1 - is an auto-immune disease. For unknown reasons, the body destroys cells in the pancreas that are responsible for making insulin. Typically this is discovered before the age of 20. When the glucose level remains elevated, it will cause damage to cells, tissue and organs. Individuals with type 1 diabetes will require insulin for life. Type 1 accounts for approximately five percent of all diabetics.

TYPE 2 - tends to occur later in life after the age of 20 and usually among individuals that are overweight or inactive. Individuals with type 2 diabetes typically are able to make enough insulin, but their body is resistant to it or unable to metabolize it correctly. This leads to the same circumstance as with type 1 diabetics, with elevated glucose levels in the body causing cell, tissue and organ damage if not controlled. Type 2 diabetics can be treated with lifestyle changes such as weight loss, exercise and diet modification. Other medications, along with insulin, may also be necessary to control the glucose levels. Type 2 accounts for approximately 90 percent of all diabetics.

Gestational  - develops during pregnancy and will commonly fade after delivery. One in 20 women may develop gestational diabetes.  Women that have gestational diabetes have up to a 60 percent chance of developing type 2 diabetes within 10 years.