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How the pandemic is changing the way we manage diabetes

Cutting the carbs to manage diabetes

Diabetes is one of the conditions believed to raise the risk level of serious illness for anyone who contracts Covid-19. One in four people who died in hospital in England between March and May 2020 following a diagnosis of the coronavirus also had diabetes. While this sounds alarming, the risk of dying is still very low. And diabetes doesn’t raise the likelihood of contracting the virus in the first place.

Services go online

However, hospital services have been seriously curtailed during the pandemic, so it’s good news that the NHS has launched new online services to help those living with diabetes manage their condition.

Those with Type 1 diabetes can now access the MyType1Diabetes, including videos and e-learning, available through the nhs.uk website.

Coming soon are two new services for those with Type 2 diabetes:

  • Healthy living, with advice on managing the condition, emotional and mental welfare, and advice around diet and exercise
  • Online appointments, routine discussions with GPs and a dedicated insulin helpline, as well as the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme for those at risk of Type 2

Help for the newly diagnosed

Diabetes is picked up through a blood test. If you’re already in the system for annual blood tests for other conditions, it’s likely it will be noticed then.

This has been a personal story for me. My annual blood test results came back at the beginning of lockdown, and showed that my blood sugar levels had become way too high. Age and diet have probably played their parts in this change.

As the GP surgery was closed for most day-to-day appointments, I’ve not been able to go down the usual route of face-to-face meetings with a GP and nurse.

That’s all changed this week as I was allowed into the surgery for a new blood test and then a conversation with the diabetes nurse, complete with face masks for both of us and some PPE on her part. (As someone with hearing difficulties I thought the masks might be a major challenge, but actually it was fine. If anyone is willing to speak up and repeat when necessary, it’s a nurse.)

The appointment covered a simple explanation of what the challenge is, and how cutting carbs in my diet is the best way to manage it. Because it’s been caught reasonably early, there’s a good chance that I can go into remission, although low-carb has to be a lifestyle choice from now on. So there will be a limit on my beloved toast and potatoes.

The nurse recommended an excellent book ‘Carb and Calorie Counter’ that not only lists the carb and calorie content of many popular foods, but uses photos to show what the various-sized portions look like. The book is available through the Carbs and Cals website, which also has a useful range of free guides and other resources.

Watching both carbs and calories is useful if you want to lose weight, and quite often that’s a factor in managing diabetes. It’s interesting though to discover than carbs and calories aren’t always directly relatable, so I can be well within the daily quota for carbs while stretching the limits for calories.

The appointment also gives the nurse the chance to make a foot check. Feet are apparently most at risk of developing ulcers and eventually losing blood supply. That’s why the nurse takes the time to check sensation and pulse in each foot.

Online education via the GP practice

While I haven’t been able to have face-to-face support over the past few months, I’ve been able to talk to the GP and nurse on the phone. And I received a letter offering access to a new online service, put together with a partner organisation. There are a few teething problems with this service (whichever recipe I choose I end use with sesame seed biscuits), but it looks promising. And for those who aren’t comfortable with online training, a comprehensive workbook also arrived in the post once I’d signed up.

There’s a wide range of resources available to help you and your family understand diabetes and how to manage it. For more information, the Diabetes UK website is full of advice.

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

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