- An introduction to Diabetes
- Audio Interviews and Stories about Diabetes
- Some of the experts you can hear in this section
- Useful Contacts and links
An introduction to Diabetes
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes Mellitus is a condition where the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood is too high because the body cannot use it properly. Normally the body produces and uses a hormone called insulin to get the glucose from our food into all the cells of the body where it’s needed for energy. In diabetes this mechanism doesn’t work and the glucose doesn’t get into the cells properly. There are two main types of diabetes. In Type 1 diabetes the body is unable to produce any insulin at all. In Type 2 the body can still make some insulin but either it doesn’t make enough or the insulin which is produced doesn’t work properly (insulin resistance.) There is no cure for diabetes and it can lead to serious long-term complications if it’s not controlled properly.
- More than 2.5 million people in the UK have diabetes
- More than half a million people have diabetes but don’t know it
- Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in working age people
- Diabetes increases your risk of heart attack by up to five times
- 85-95% of people with diabetes have Type 2
- There are over 7,000 people with Diabetes living in Barking & Dagenham
What You’ll Find out Here
Diabetes can cause problems with your eyes, your feet, your heart and your kidneys. It is a serious, long-term condition and there is no cure for it. But these complications can be delayed and even prevented if your diabetes is well-controlled. In these pages you’ll learn from national and local experts and patients what you can do to keep your diabetes well-controlled. You’ll find out about how and why to keep an eye on your blood glucose level. You’ll hear practical information from local experts about how to look after your feet and your eyes. A Barking and Dagenham dietitian will give you a detailed breakdown of how to start managing your diabetes with a healthy diet. And there’s advice on exercise, tablets and insulin as well as practical guides to how diabetes may affect your job, going on holiday and fasting during Ramadan. There’s also a section on where to turn for more information and an introduction to your local support group.
Click on the chapters below to listen to the interviews
Introduction - Being diagnosed with diabetes is NOT the end of the world!
A range of opinions from several of our experts and people with diabetes. Just to show you that diabetes doesn’t need to hold you back. Think positive and take heart from some of these comments.
Chapter 1 - What IS diabetes?
With Cathy Moulton, Simon O’Neill, Dr. Sarah Jarvis
Diabetes occurs because the body can’t use glucose properly. So too much of it stays in the blood instead of getting to the cells where it’s needed for energy. There are two types of diabetes – Type 1 and Type 2! Here is a little bit of science about what is meant to happen and what actually does happen in diabetes.
Chapter 2 - Is it serious?
With Dr. Edel Casey, Cathy Moulton, Simon O’Neill
Diabetes is very serious. It can lead to blindness, amputation, heart attacks and significant problems with your feet and kidneys if it’s not well-controlled. There is no cure for diabetes. But with good control you can delay or prevent the complications.
Chapter 3 - Am I at risk?
With Dr. Sarah Jarvis, Cathy Moulton, Dr. Khash Nikookam
The Exact cause of Type 2 diabetes isn’t yet known but several factors can make developing it more likely. They include being overweight, having a family history of diabetes and getting older. If you are of South Asian or Afro-Caribbean origin you are at least five times more likely to develop diabetes than if you are white.
Chapter 4 - The symptoms of diabetes
With Simon O’Neill, Cathy Moulton
Feeling thirsty all the time? Going to the loo more often? Feeling very tired? Losing weight? There are many symptoms of diabetes and they’re not always obvious. At least half a million people in the UK have diabetes without knowing it! Diabetes UK calls it “The Silent Assassin”.
Chapter 5 - Discovering you have diabetes
With Dr. Edel Casey, Simon O’Neill, Elaine Whitlock, Cathy Moulton, Dr. Khash Nikookam
You may feel angry. You may experience denial or grief. You may feel guilty or resentful. Everyone’s different. There’s no right way to react to finding out you have diabetes. Find out here about some of the feelings you’re likely to experience.
Chapter 6 - First steps
With Dr. Khash Nikookam, Cathy Moulton, Dr. Edel Casey, Simon O’Neill
It can be a big shock being told you have an incurable, long-term condition. But with good management and a healthy lifestyle you can delay or prevent the serious complications of diabetes. All our experts advise taking some time to reflect and finding out as much as you can about your condition.
Chapter 7 - Finding out more
With Dr. Edel Casey, Dr. Sarah Jarvis, Simon O’Neill
If you have Type 2 diabetes you need to look after your health very carefully. The more you know about your diabetes, the better-equipped you are to deal with it. Your healthcare team should be able to point you in the right direction but here’s some advice on useful places to look for reliable information.
Chapter 8 - The complications of diabetes
With Dr. Edel Casey, Cathy Moulton, Dr. Khash Nikookam, Dr. Felix Burden
Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in the working age population. It is also a leading cause of amputation and of kidney failure requiring dialysis. Here our experts outline the main complications of diabetes but remember – with good control you can delay or even prevent all of them!
Chapter 9 - Looking after your eyes
With Dr. Felix Burden, Gaynor Mandelson
Do you have a thorough eye test each year? If you have diabetes you should have. Retinopathy can lead to blindness if it’s not picked up early. Regular eye tests can help make sure that problems are spotted (and can be treated) as soon as they occur.
Chapter 10 - Looking after your feet
With Dr. Edel Casey, Dr. Felix Burden, Dr. Khash Nikookam, Carolyn Simms
With diabetes you may lose some (or all) feeling in your feet. This can mean you don’t notice when they become burnt or blistered or injured. Ulcers and other problems can develop without you being aware of them. So make sure you check your feet each day. Here’s some practical advice for day to day care.
Chapter 11 - Blood glucose monitoring
With Emma Day, Jill Hill, Simon O’Neill, Dr. Edel Casey
You will probably have your blood glucose level checked by your GP every 2-6 months. But you may want (or be advised) to monitor your own levels. Find out how what you eat and how much exercise you take affects your blood glucose levels. Here’s a simple guide to why testing is important and when you should test more often.
Chapter 12 - Using the results of your tests
With Simon O’Neill, Dr. Sarah Jarvis, Jill Hill, Elaine Whitlock
There’s no point in testing at all if you don’t use the results. Many factors such as what you eat, how you exercise, stress, illness and pregnancy can affect your blood glucose levels. If you can find out what affects your level you can make some adjustments to your lifestyle or medication and gain better control.
Chapter 13 - The HbA1c test
With Dr. Sarah Jarvis, Jill Hill, Simon O’Neill, Emma Day
This test is performed by your doctor or nurse every few weeks or months. It measures the long-term amount of glucose in your blood by checking how much glucose is actually sticking to you red blood cells. It gives a better idea of how good your control has been over a period of about three months.
Chapter 14 - Diet and exercise
With Simon O’Neill, Pavita Bhachu, Dr. Khash Nikookam, Cathy Moulton
The two most important things you can do to keep you diabetes well-controlled. Your initial treatment may also include medication and later treatment almost certainly will. But a healthy diet and regular exercise can play a huge part in managing your condition from the beginning.
Chapter 15 - What should I eat?
With Pavita Bhachu
There’s no special diet for diabetes. But it’s important that your meals are balanced and regular and low in fat, sugar and salt. Diet (with exercise) is one of the best tools you have to control your diabetes and small changes can make a big difference. This is a brief introduction to healthy eating for diabetes based on something called “The eatwell plate”.
Chapter 16 - More about carbohydrates
With Pavita Bhachu
Base your meals around starchy carbohydrates – foods such as wholemeal bread, cereals, rice, pasta, yam, chapatis and potatoes will help to control your glucose levels. Wholegrain varieties are best. High fibre is good. Learn more here.
Chapter 17 - More about fruit and vegetables
With Pavita Bhachu, Dr. Michael Mead
We all know the target is 5 a day. If you have diabetes it’s a little more complicated because fruit contains a lot of sugar. Diabetes dietitian Pavita Bhachu talks here about how much fruit and veg you should be eating. And what exactly is a portion? Find out here.
Chapter 18 - More about meat, fish and dairy
With Pavita Bhachu
Or protein. A brief guide to what to go for and what to avoid. Learn about the value of oily fish and pulses and lentils. And discover what a portion of cheese really looks like. (Small!)
Chapter 19 - More about fat
With Pavita Bhachu, Joy Black
Know the difference between saturated fat and monounsaturated? Know which is better for you? Cutting back on fat is part of a general healthy diet but some fat is better than others. Find out here why pastries, pies and biscuits should be treated with caution and how much fat to use in your cooking.
Chapter 20 - A word about alcohol and sugar
With Pavita Bhachu
There’s no need to give up alcohol just because you have diabetes. Try to stick to general healthy guidelines th ough. That is, 2-3 units per day for men, 1-2 units for women. And you don’t have to cut out cakes completely. Just be careful. Learn here what are the best options.
Chapter 21 - The Glycaemic Index
With Pavita Bhachu
The Glycaemic Index is a way of measuring foods against one another. The GI ranks foods based on their overall effect on blood glucose. It’s not an exact science but it can tell you which foods are broken down slowly (Low GI and good for you!) and which are broken down quickly (High GI and not so good!). Here’s a brief guide to what’s what.
Chapter 22 - Eating out
With Pavita Bhachu
Most people enjoy eating out and having diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t try different types of food such as Indian, Chinese or Italian. Here is some basic advice from diabetes dietitian Pavita Bhachu. Again the key is general healthy eating.
Chapter 23 - Keeping active
With Dr. Edel Casey, Cathy Moulton, Mari Fantocchi, Dr. Khash Nikookam
Exercise lowers your blood glucose level. So it’s important to exercise regularly if you have diabetes. 30 minutes of moderate exercise, at least five times a week, is recommended. It doesn’t mean getting out the lycra and signing up at the gym! Even gardening and hoovering can be exercise.
Chapter 24 - Beyond diet and exercise – Tablets and Insulin
With Dr. Edel Casey, Dr. Khash Nikookam
If regular exercise and a healthy diet alone are not controlling your blood glucose level effectively then you may need tablets or insulin to treat Type 2 diabetes. There are several different types of tablets and several different types and ways of taking insulin. At some stage you are likely to need one or other or both. Remember, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed.
Chapter 25 - Hypoglycaemia
With Dr. Felix Burden, Simon O’Neill, Dr. Edel Casey
If you’re being treated with insulin or some other medications (tablets) your blood sugar level can become very low. If it falls below 4 mmol/litre you have hypoglycaemia (often called “having a hypo”.) It’s usually not serious – but it can be. So it’s important to know what your warning signs are and what to do when it happens.
Chapter 26 - Will diabetes affect my work?
With Cathy Moulton, Simon O’Neill, Elaine Whitlock
Having diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t get or keep a job. But there are some jobs that won’t be open to you. Listen here for some advice about your rights, the Disability Discrimination Act and what to tell your boss.
Chapter 27 - Going on holiday
With Simon O’Neill, Dr. Edel Casey, Cathy Moulton
This section contains useful advice about travel insurance and ID. You can also find out here about packing and storing your medication. Diabetes shouldn’t stop you doing anything as long as you plan your trip carefully.
Chapter 28 - Ramadan
With Simon O’Neill and Cathy Moulton
The Koran requires fasting during the month of Ramadan from sunrise to sunset. People with diabetes do NOT have to fast during Ramadan. Here are a few tips for fasting safely if that is your choice.
Chapter 29 - Your healthcare team
With Dr. Edel Casey, Simon O’Neill, Elaine Whitlock, Dr. Khash Nikookam, Bill Foulkes
When you’re diagnosed with diabetes you’ll come into contact with a range of healthcare professionals. The team will include your GP and practice nurse. You may also be meeting specialist diabetes nurses, dietitians, optometrists (for your eye care), podiatrists (for your feet) and others. You’ll probably see one or two quite frequently and you may form a close bond.
Chapter 30 - Your local support group in Barking and Dagenham
With Dr. Edel Casey, Elaine Whitlock, Alan Bide, Marian McCullagh, Bill Foulkes
The Barking and Dagenham Diabetes Support Group meets on the second Monday of each month at Dagenham and Redbridge football Club. Anyone can turn up and every month there’s a different guest speaker including specialist nurses, dietitians, podiatrists, reps from the blood glucose monitoring device makers and others. Pick up tips and advice on everything you need to know. Sec Elaine Clark 020 8984 8611.
Chapter 31 - Structured education
With Dr. Edel Casey, Jill Hill, Marian McCullagh
Living with diabetes is a lifelong learning process. Structured education is a planned course that should cover all aspects of diabetes. There are several different courses. You are likely to be offered a programme called DESMOND if you have Type 2 diabetes. This is available in Barking and Dagenham.
Chapter 32 - Your annual review
With Dr. Edel Casey, Simon O’Neill, Dr. Khash Nikookam
It’s like your MOT. You should make sure you have your eyes and feet checked at least once a year. Your blood pressure and cholesterol levels should be tested more often. Here’s what you should be making sure you get from your healthcare team.
Chapter 33 - Always look on the bright side
Some inspirational comments and views from some of the experts and people with diabetes you’ve heard on these pages. Think positive.
Some of the experts you can hear in this section
Dr. Edel Casey
Consultant Diabetologist, King George Hospital
Dr. Khash Nikookam
Consultant endocrinologist at King George Hospital; clinical lead for Department of Diabetes and Endocrinology, Barking Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust.
Registered dietitian specialising in diabetes, NHS Barking and Dagenham.
Nurse Consultant for Diabetes and Diabetes Team Leader, NHS Barking and Dagenham.
Chairman of Barking and Dagenham Diabetes Support Group. Diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes eight years ago.
Secretary of the Barking and Dagenham Diabetes Support Group. Elaine cared for her husband until he died in 2008 from the complications of diabetes.
Senior Podiatrist/Diabetes Lead, NHS Barking and Dagenham.
Optometrist, Henry Morgan Opticians, Dagenham.
Diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2000 following admission to hospital after a stroke.
Lives in Dagenham; diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 1999.
Director of Care, Information and Advocacy, Diabetes UK; he has Type 1 Diabetes.
Consultant Community Diabetologist and Clinical Director, Long Term Conditions, Heart of Birmingham Teaching Primary Care Trust.
Dr. Sarah Jarvis
GP with interest in diabetes; co-author of Diabetes for Dummies.
Diabetes Nurse Consultant, NHS Birmingham East and North.
Dr. Michael Mead
GP in Leicester; Medical Advisor to the Blood Pressure Association
Manages Cardiac rehabilitation Service for Barking Havering and Redbridge, based at King George and Queen’s Hospitals
Senior Physiotherapist in Cardiac Rehabilitation at Barking Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust based at King George Hospital
Useful Contacts and links
- Diabetes Support Group
- Meets 2nd Monday of each month (except August) 8.00pm – 9.45pm at:
- Dagenham and Redbridge Football Club
- Victoria Road
- RM10 7XL
- Secretary Elaine Clark
- 020 8984 8611
- E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Diabetes UK
- Macleod House
- 10 Parkway
- NW1 7AA
- 020 7424 1000
- Careline: 0845 120 2960 open Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm
- Diabetes Specialist Nursing Service
- Marks Gate Health Centre
- Lawns Farm Grove
- Chadwell Heath
- RM6 5LL
- 0208 465 3470
- NHS Barking and Dagenham
- The Clock House
- East Street
- IG11 8EY
- 020 8591 9595
- Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
- 19 Angel Gate
- City Road
- EC1V 2PT
- 020 7713 2030