Living with type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes should not define your life. People with type 1 become political leaders, win Olympic gold medals, and write bestselling books. There is no reason why diabetes should hold you back either, provided you learn how to control your blood glucose and make changes for different activities, situations and life events. 

In this section you’ll find tips and support to help you make effective type 1 diabetes management part of your daily routine.


On track to defeat diabetes

Check out this inspiring story from Team Novo Nordisk, the world's first all-diabetes professional cycling team, where type 1 athletes talk about their motivation to succeed.

 

Watch the Team Novo Nordisk story


Diet and exercise for type 1 dibetes

Diet and exercise for type 1 diabetes

A healthy diet and regular exercise are essential components in type 1 diabetes care. Eating well and staying active can help you keep your blood glucose on target, improve your overall health and support your emotional wellbeing. 

 

Get type 1 tips on diet and exercise 


What is blood glucose monitoring, and why is it important?

Monitoring your blood glucose levels will help you keep track of how well you are controlling your diabetes. Blood glucose checks can be done anywhere. You prick your finger with a small needle and test a drop of blood using a device called a glucometer. 

Your healthcare professional will tell you when and how often you need to check your blood glucose. The following terms are used to describe glucose measurements taken at different times of day:

Fasting: checking in the morning before breakfast, when your blood glucose is lowest

Pre-meal: checking right before a meal to see how much your levels change when you eat

Post-meal: checking two hours after a meal when your blood glucose is peaking

Remember, the more you check your blood glucose, the better you will understand your personal glucose range and know when to adjust your diet, activity or insulin dose. This is particularly important when you do physical activities and play sports, when you are pregnant or breastfeeding, and when you are ill.

Example blood glucose target ranges for people with type 1 diabetes
 


Recording your blood glucose

Checking your blood glucose gives you a snapshot of your levels at a particular moment. Recording these measurements will show you your progress over time.

Recording your blood glucose – as well as what you eat, when you exercise, and emotional factors like stress – will help you to identify the causes of unusual peaks and dips so you can adjust your diabetes management accordingly. 

There are many tools available to help you record your measurements, including diaries and smartphone apps. Talk to your healthcare professional about which is right for you. 

Tips for monitoring your blood glucose

  • Set a routine: test and record at the same time each day so you remember to do it and can keep your records in a convenient place
  • Record immediately: don't put it off thinking you will remember the results later – you probably won't!
  • Be honest: record everything your healthcare professional tells you to: snacks, drinks, carbohydrate content, and the exercise you do – an accurate picture of your progress will help you avoid health complications
  • Stay vigilant: learn to spot trends, such as high blood glucose after high carbohydrate meals, or reduced levels after physical activity
  • Keep learning: a blood glucose reading on its own is not a sign of success or failure – it's an opportunity to learn about the factors that impact your glucose control, and how you can manage them better in the future

Emotional health and type 1 diabetes

Emotional wellbeing and physical health are closely connected in type 1 diabetes1, so it is vital that you take care of both. Diabetes management can be stressful and overwhelming, and ignoring negative feelings can make physical and emotional problems worse.  

Getting the support you need from your diabetes care team, family and friends is an extremely important part of managing your diabetes. Remember, reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign that you are proactively taking control of your diabetes.

 

How does emotional health affect diabetes care?

How does emotional health affect diabetes care?
  • Depression / Anxiety
    It's normal to feel low occasionally, but persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness need to be addressed as they can prevent good diabetes self-care.
     
  • Stress
    Stress causes your blood glucose levels to rise as your body releases stored glucose supplies into your bloodstream in preparation for 'fight or flight'.
     
  • Sleep problems
    Poor sleeping habits and not getting enough sleep can also negatively impact your blood glucose levels2.

Managing type 1 diabetes at work

Living with type 1 diabetes should not affect your working life. Millions of people with type 1 diabetes have rewarding careers. It's all a question of fitting diabetes into your life, not your life into diabetes. Follow the tips below to make your working day easier.

 

Top tips for managing diabetes in the workplace

  • Start the day right: Never miss breakfast. This can lead to hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose), especially if you are on insulin or a medication to increase your insulin levels. Hypoglycaemia can affect your health, performance and safety at work.
  • Plan your meals: Take your own healthy packed lunch and snacks to work – you'll know exactly what you're eating and be able to plan accordingly. If you use a canteen or shop, get to know the healthy choices.
  • Testing and injecting: Make sure you have access to a hygienic place where you can test and inject in comfort.
  • Pens and medication: Always keep a spare pen at work. If you need to store your medication in a refrigerator, label it clearly so it is not used or discarded by accident. Use medication before the expiry date, and read the label for 'in-use' storage guidance.
  • Know your rights: The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) has developed a Charter of Rights for people with diabetes that covers fair treatment, career progression and support in the workplace. Many countries have adopted similar charters.
  • Informing recruiters and employers: There are usually no legal requirements to tell recruiters about your diabetes. However, a new employer is allowed to ask appropriate health-related questions to ensure you are able to do the job.
  • Telling your colleagues: It's up to you whether you tell your colleagues. If you do, you may consider providing a simple explanation about diabetes, and guidance on what to do if you experience hypoglycaemia so they feel confident about helping you if needed.
Ceasar

Pregnancy and type 1 diabetes

Women with type 1 diabetes who have well-controlled blood glucose can have perfectly healthy pregnancies. However, you'll need to plan carefully and understand what you need to do to optimise your own health and that of your baby. Here are some important things to look out for at each stage: 

 

Pregnancy and type 1 diabetes
  • Becoming pregnant
    It is recommended that your HbA1c levels (average blood glucose levels over the past 3 months) should be well controlled and less than 6.5% (48 mmol/mol) before you become pregnant3. Book a health check with your healthcare professional and get advice about what to expect and how to avoid health risks.
  • During pregnancy
    Pregnancy changes your body dramatically, and your blood glucose may be harder to control as a result. Monitor your levels often to keep track of what is going on. Being pregnant can increase your risk of hypoglycaemia, so always carry snacks with you. You also have a greater risk of some diabetes complications when pregnant, so make sure you attend all your health checks.

  • In labour
    A hospital birth may be recommended so there are medical experts on hand should there be a problem. A specialist obstetric team will monitor you closely and maintain your blood glucose levels. An early delivery by caesarean section may be carried out if there are any concerns about you or your baby.

  • What about breastfeeding?
    It's fine to breastfeed if you want to, but bear in mind that breastfeeding uses up glucose and this may cause your levels to drop. Remember to eat sensibly and keep a snack with you. Always ask your healthcare professional if a medication is safe to take when breastfeeding. 

Caring for children with type 1 diabetes

If your child is diagnosed soon after birth, type 1 diabetes will be a way of life from the start. If your child is older, the period following diagnosis may be more challenging. You may both need time to understand how diabetes changes your lives and how you can manage it together. 

 

There is a lot to learn, but there are many resources to help you. Start by understanding the practical issues, and always seek help from your healthcare professional if you are uncertain about what to do.

 

 

Caring for children with type 1 diabetes
  • Making a plan

    Work with doctors and nurses to set individual blood glucose goals for your child, and develop a care plan to organise your daily routine.
     
  • Illness

    Colds and common infections can affect your child's blood glucose levels dramatically. Check your child's levels frequently and adjust their insulin dose if required. You may also need to check their urine for ketones – ask your healthcare professional for advice.
  • Monitoring blood glucose

    Learn how to monitor your child’s blood glucose and adjust their food (especially carbohydrates), activity and insulin doses to maintain healthy levels.
  • Supporting self-care

    As your child becomes more independent, encourage them to self-manage their condition. This will help them to develop a sense of responsibility and freedom when they are away from you.


     
  • Injections

    If your child struggles with injections, ask your healthcare professional about switching to an insulin pump. Pumps need programming but remove the need for frequent injections.
  • Looking after yourself

    Don't neglect your own needs – you need support too! Connecting with other parents through local support groups or social media can be a good way to get advice, share feelings and develop coping strategies.

     

Type 1 diabetes

Meet Eric and see how he manages the practical and emotional challenges of caring for his daughter Daniella, who has type 1 diabetes.

 

Watch Eric and Daniella's story


Caring for adults with type 1 diabetes

Most adults with type 1 diabetes have managed their condition from an early age, but some, particularly those with learning difficulties or the elderly, may need extra support. 

If you are new to caring for an adult with type 1 diabetes, start by learning the facts about type 1 diabetes and how to recognise type 1 diabetes complications.

 

Creating a care plan

  • Meals: Diet and type 1 diabetes are closely linked, so it is important to balance what, when and how much the person you care for eats.
  • Being active: Being active: Regular exercise helps improve blood glucose control and avoid health complications. Make an enjoyable physical activity part of daily life.
  • Medication: Help the person you support to stick to the treatment plan prescribed by their healthcare professional, and learn more about type 1 diabetes treatment options.
  • Checking blood glucose: Encourage and remind the person you care for to test their blood glucose, and learn how you can help them to monitor their blood glucose control.
Creating  care plan

Grow your type 1 diabetes suppor network

Grow your type 1 diabetes support network

A strong support network will open up a world of resources to help you live well with type 1 diabetes. Support groups can be particularly useful for getting advice on specific topics. Check with your diabetes care team for online support groups or groups in your area.

A support network can also give you the opportunity to help others. Sharing your experiences, such starting on insulin or dealing with pregnancy, could be valuable for someone facing similar challenges today. Starting a blog, contributing healthy recipes and lifestyle tips, and participating in local support groups are all great ways to get involved and stay connected.


DISEASE EXPERIENCE EXPERT PANELS

Join a Novo Nordisk Disease Experience Expert Panel (DEEP)

As a DEEP member, you can be invited to share your experiences at workshops, presentations or advisory board meetings. Your contribution may in turn benefit people living with the disease worldwide.

 

Explore DEEP

 

DEEP

What is type 1 diabetes?

What is type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong disease in which your body stops making any or enough insulin. Knowing the symptoms of type 1 diabetes, and getting screened if you spot them, will mean you can be diagnosed and start treatment before other health complications develop.

 

Learn about type 1 diabetes symptoms and diagnosis

 

Join a Novo Nordisk Disease Experience Expert Panel (DEEP)

DEEP

As a DEEP member, you can be invited to share your experiences at workshops, presentations or advisory board meetings. Your contribution may in turn benefit people living with the disease worldwide.

 

 

Explore DEEP


Type 1 tips on diet and exercise

Type 1 tips on diet and exercise

 
 

References