Having diabetes type 1 does not mean you have to stop doing the things you need and want to do. People with diabetes drive, work, and grow old in good health. Explore how to make the most of basic life situations when you have diabetes type 1.
- One of the major concerns when you have diabetes type 1 and drive is the possibility of sudden low blood sugar. Hypoglycemia can make you feel shaky, sweaty, anxious, confused or tired. Sometimes low blood sugar can be caused by poor planning such as an imbalance between your food, exercise and insulin. Plan for the unexpected when you drive. Check your blood sugar before you get on the road. Stop during long trips every two hours to check it again. Pull over if you get symptoms of low blood sugar do a blood glucose check and treat immediately.
- Carry glucose tablets or gel in the car to quickly boost your blood sugar if it plummets when you drive. Rely on the rule of 15. Pull off the road to check your blood glucose levels and have a serving of 15 grams of fast acting carbohydrates. Wait for 15 minutes then retest your blood sugar. If it remains below 70 mg/dl, take another serving of glucose and re-check again in 15 minutes. Don’t over treat or your blood sugar will soar. Your goal is to stop the symptoms of low blood sugar, return your blood sugar to an acceptable level so you can get on the road again.
- Before you start to drive be aware of the state licensing laws regarding conditions such as diabetes. You might need to be evaluated by a doctor and get restricted driving privileges if you have ever lost consciousness behind the wheel. Certain laws may also apply to commercial drivers. Make sure you have a valid license before driving any vehicle. You may want to have “Diabetic” listed on your license for safety.
- Aging is part of life, and as we get older your blood glucose levels tend to increase. It is especially important for older people with type 1 diabetes to plan their meals and eat correctly. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about how foods affect your glucose levels. Physical activity is also essential. Ask your doctor which physical fitness activities are right for your situation. You should schedule regular visits with a team of health care providers including an annual eye exam and kidney check as well as dental exams and cleanings every six months. Schedule a yearly flu shot and periodic pneumonia vaccine based on the advice of your physician.
- As you get older your doctor might add or change medications to your diabetes self-management plan. Follow instructions and let your doctor know about changes in your schedule so your medications can be adjusted. Keep track of your blood glucose levels and blood pressure. Share the results with your doctor during regular exams. Report highs or lows to your doctor immediately. Check your feet daily for sores, blisters, calluses or infections. Keep your skin clean and moisturized. If you are on Medicare find out about available coverage for diabetes supplies and diabetic shoes.
- Many people with type 1 diabetes have successful careers. Certain careers might require disclosure such as becoming a pilot or commercial driver. In other jobs you might decide to keep your diabetes private. You should tell at least one person at your job such as the staff nurse or a trusted co-worker in case of emergencies. An employer cannot legally avoid hiring or firing competent people who have diabetes.
Always eat breakfast before you go to work. You should take your insulin and other medications correctly. Consider energy-boosters such as whole grain cereal, skim milk, egg whites and fat-free yogurt to start your day off on the right note. Make sure to fit snacks (if acceptable) and lunch into your hectic schedule. Before eating cafeteria food at work inquire about calories, carbohydrates and sugars and make wise choices.
- Be prepared to test your blood sugar on the job. Keep your supplies together in a small bag so you can take a fast trip to the restroom. Decide on a safe, clean way to dispose of your lancets and needles. Taking insulin at work can be simple. Consider using an insulin pen that does not need refrigeration. Other options include an insulin pump and long-acting insulin to minimize the number of injections you need during the day. Never store insulin or your meter supplies in your car.
- Drink water to stay hydrated throughout the day. Get enough sleep each night to reduce stress. If you have limitations explain them to your boss. Have glucose tablets available in case you get low blood sugar. Keep healthy snacks handy to combat hunger such as a handful of nuts, fruit, or cheese and crackers.
Each day people with diabetes type 1 lead healthy and fulfilling lives. Many people with diabetes have great careers, drive, and grow old with minimal complications. Having a solid diabetes self-management plan makes a big difference in the quality of your life and your overall well-being.