As we start to wind down November, and Diabetes Awareness Month, I can’t help but once again be impressed by the work that people are doing. My awareness was increased on Friday when I participated in the DiabetesMine Innovation Summit. I will admit it was hard to leave Palo Alto on Saturday, as I didn’t want to lose the level of energy and enthusiasm that I had experienced at this amazing event.
The two most important things I learned on Friday were that 1) there are many (many) people out there who are committed to making diabetes easier to manage until we no longer have to worry about it at all and 2) it is time and there is much support for a movement to “change the conversation” about diabetes. In other words, I’m not the only one out here who is concerned about the messages we send with the words we use around diabetes.
I am very grateful for the opportunity to attend, make connections, learn, and become more aware, and I am inspired by the work that is being done. Thank you to everyone who cares so much about people with diabetes.
Another important thing to be aware of – whether or not you have diabetes – is hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia, or low blood glucose, can be an emergency situation. Those of us with diabetes work hard each day to avoid emergencies, but sometimes they happen anyway. And we appreciate the rest of the world knowing what to do!
I once came upon a man in a mall who was slumped over. Intuition immediately told me he was low. When I approached him a security guard told me he was low but not to worry, they had already given him water. I pulled glucose tablets from my purse and gave them to the man (who was conscious and able to eat). Conveniently there was a pharmacy about ten feet away, so someone went in to get juice.
Water does not raise blood glucose. When someone’s blood glucose level is low, they need glucose – or sugar, or carbohydrate – immediately. Juice (such as orange juice) is a wonderful source of carbohydrate that works very quickly to raise the blood glucose level. Glucose tablets also work well. People use all sorts of different “low treatment” for hypoglycemia. The rule of thumb is 15 gm carbohydrate to raise blood glucose approximately 50 mg/dL, then wait 15 minutes and re-check blood glucose to make sure it’s coming up. If not, treat (eat) again.
Some people don’t feel when they are low. Symptoms of hypoglycemia can vary between people and can even change over time. Ask your loved one with diabetes how they feel when they are low (symptoms) and notice what you see when they are low (signs). They may need your help detecting lows. Worse case, people can pass out or have a seizure when they are low. They can also be unresponsive. In any of these situations – called severe hypoglycemia – it’s dangerous to put anything in their mouth because of the risk of choking. Many people keep glucagon, a treatment for severe low, in the house; otherwise it would be necessary to call for emergency help.
For the safety of those with diabetes, please be aware of the signs, symptoms, and treatments for low blood glucose (hypoglycemia). Here is a resource for hypoglycemia awareness.
Today I’m thinking about awareness of diabetes, itself. Did you know there are 29.1 million people in the United States with diabetes? That’s one out of every ten adults. And about 8 million of them don’t even know they have it! Another 86 million people have pre-diabetes, which means they have a very high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In the meantime, pre-diabetes still puts people at risk for things like heart disease.
Diabetes Awareness Month (November) is a good time to get checked for diabetes if you haven’t already. Get a fasting blood glucose checked yearly if you are older than 45, have a family history of diabetes, if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, had gestational diabetes or gave birth to a large baby (over 9 pounds), carry extra weight (especially if you carry it around your middle), or if you are Asian American, Hispanic/Latino American, African American, or Native American/Native Alaskan. These are all risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
Awareness includes finding out if you have or are at risk for diabetes. Knowing your diabetes risk can help you make changes to lower your risk. And if you have diabetes and don’t know it, finding out can help you take steps to prevent problems down the road. Awareness, like knowledge, is power!
November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and I like to emphasize awareness. This time of year I am especially aware of the benefit of a flu shot. People with diabetes have a greater chance of being hospitalized if they get the flu. Illness typically causes elevated blood glucose, which on top of having the flu can be not fun.
I don’t want to get the flu at all, let alone have to be hospitalized. Who has time for that? I got my flu shot two weeks ago today and feel good that I’m protected for another year. By getting a flu shot I’m also protecting others. If you have diabetes, please consider getting a flu shot.
Interesting article about kids and snacks. I am always amazed and impressed with my own kids’ ability to eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full. I encourage this by offering healthy meals/snacks as much as possible, making no foods “off limits,” and not forcing them to “clean their plates.” My hope for them is a normal relationship with food throughout life. I think this applies to kids with or without diabetes.
You have yet another chance to share your ideas for diabetes innovation. Check out the DiabetesMine Usability Innovation Awards. You can nominate an innovation (not drug) that has helped make managing diabetes easier/more successful for you – wouldn’t you love to see it win? The link to submit a nomination is included on this page. The innovation can be from “diabetes drug or device makers, doctors’ offices/clinics/hospitals, pharmacies, insurers, software companies, individuals, anyone really.” This is your chance to acknowledge an innovation that has helped your diabetes life. Have fun!
Change is difficult. Not changing is fatal.
Are you willing to try something new? Are you willing to fail in the process?
Diabetes is no different from any other aspect of life when it comes to trying and failing. (In fact, I had a high school teacher who said that trying is failing and we just have to do.) So to reword the first question – are you willing to do something new or different? Are you willing to change?
When I was a nurse at diabetes camp, many parents gave me a hard time about the lancets or other equipment we had at camp. They said their child was used to only one way of doing things. It turns out that kids are adaptable and can use all sorts of different equipment – and have fun!
Every day we have an opportunity to start over, do something different, change the way we look at or respond to things, and find new successes. If something isn’t working – find a way to change it. My friend, Todd, calls this reinvention. He says that to invent is to be alive. What are we waiting for? What is one thing we can change today that will help us truly live?
Supposedly women with diabetes are less likely to have a mammograms, and people with diabetes are not “adherent” with vaccines. I have to say that I am not surprised! Managing diabetes is a lot of work – so much to keep track of, so much to do, so many appointments, etc. One more thing just may not be a priority.
When I was pregnant, I remember feeling like I had to have every intervention in the book – every test, every precaution. While it was completely worth it, I just wanted to feel like there was something I could opt out of. I did not find out the sex of my babies, and I felt very empowered by that decision. And not having to be tested for gestational diabetes was probably the one benefit of having pre-existing diabetes when I was pregnant!
As a young kid I believed that we can only get one thing: mine was diabetes. Now that I’m an adult (and a nurse), I know that’s not true. People with diabetes can get cancer and other horrible diseases/health problems. And vice versa. So I work hard to keep up with the things that will keep me healthy in terms of diabetes and in general, including mammograms, teeth cleanings, etc. I recently got my (overdue) tetanus shot, and I will be making an appointment for a mammogram when I return from traveling.
After all, I don’t want all this effort managing diabetes for decades to go to waste!
As a follow up to my last blog post, here is my interview about the upcoming DiabetesMine Innovation Summit and why I want to attend.
Guess what? I was chosen to attend the DiabetesMine Innovation Summit in November! I entered the Patient Voices Contest in March and was selected. I think this is the third time I’ve won something in my life after tickets to a Springfield Indians (hockey) game and a catered lunch for ten at Qdoba. The latter two prizes were both for calling in and answering a question on the radio!
Anyway, this one is the most exciting and pertinent to my life – personally and professionally – with diabetes. I am going to learn about diabetes technology and discuss ideas and possibilities beyond my wildest imagination. I admit, I’m not the biggest technology geek on the planet. I do have a few ideas for diabetes innovation, though.
I’d love to hear from others, too! What ideas would you like to see shared and discussed at the Innovation Summit of 2015?