When Diabetics Get High… (but not the way you think)

Type 1 Diabetes is a constant battle. It involves frequent blood glucose testing, insulin injections and/or oral medications as well as tightly controlled diets and exercise regimes. At least, it does if you want to maintain some modicum of control or perhaps maintain your overall health.

Only some of the tools used in the daily life of a Type 1 Diabetic

Type 1 Diabetes tends to shorten your lifespan. In 2012, the University of Pittsburgh published an article containing the results of a 30 year study that revealed that Diabetes can shorten the average lifespan by over 20 years! Through my own studies, I’ve always heard 10 to 15 years was the more accurate prediction. But once again, this all depends on the person’s overall health and willingness to maintain some control.

The takeaway from this study is simply that one’s life is shortened by Type 1 Diabetes. This can be for a number of reason, including but not limited to Diabetic complications, lack of health or poor control.

Technology has come a truly long way in making my life easier. When I was first diagnosed in 1982, my blood testing machine was roughly the size of a brick and it took a five-minute process to test. I had multiple injections that were required every day, starting first thing in the morning. Nowadays, I wear an insulin pump that takes away most of the guess work and deals with proper insulin distribution. I now take one needle every three days as opposed to a minimum of three EVERY day.

A comparison of my first glucometer from 1982 to the one I currently use today!

But before I start rambling, the purpose of today’s blog is to discuss what to do when you come across someone who appears to be having a hypoglycaemic or hyperglycaemic episode (low and high blood sugar, respectively).

Bearing in mind that I’m not a doctor, I’m passing on advice based on what I’ve come to learn over 36 years of being a Type 1 Diabetic. So take this advice with grain of salt as I am a big fan of making it clear that every person is different.

Most people will tell you that their medical status is private and doesn’t need to be shared with anyone. Although this is true as far as a person’s basic rights go, it’s also incredibly irresponsible. When it comes to one’s health and well-being, I’ve always had a policy that the sharing of pertinent information can be important and could potentially save your life.

One of the first steps I always take whenever I get a new supervisor, boss or employer is advise them that I am a Type 1 Diabetic. This is important, as it can go a long way towards letting your employers know the hows and whys when issues arise. It doesn’t mean you need to shout it out to everyone you work with, necessarily. But it can help prevent issues down the road.

I also take this step with any sporting or fitness clubs I join. This is almost more important, since excessive exercising can lead to blood sugar extremes. When I last joined a weight gym and had a membership, I had the owner put a note on my electronic membership file indicating I was Diabetic. That way, if something ever happened while I was training, the staff would be in a position to tell medical personnel about it.

Outside of taking these preliminary steps, here is what I tell everybody in relation to helping me treat any outstanding issues: either I’m conscious or I’m not! If I’m conscious I’ll be able to take steps, such as testing my blood and taking the appropriate steps including eating some fast-acting glucose. If the person is unconscious, please, PLEASE, don’t try to feed them or administer insulin! You could aggravate the situation or send them spiralling in the opposite direction. Either the person will be able to administer what he or she needs on their own, or you should be calling 911 for medical assistance.

Jellybeans or Skittles are my preferred choice for treating lows, as they’re essentially fat-free and are about 1 gram of carbs per bean!

Through the years, I’ve heard some medical professionals say that if you find an unconscious Diabetic, try and feed them some juice or something of the sort. That way, if they’re too low it will bring them up and potentially save their lives. If they’re too high, medical professionals can deal with that once they arrive. The problem I have with that is simply that if the person is already too high, you risk throwing them into a Diabetic coma, the outcome of which is not pleasant. Plus, you’re dealing with the potential issue of trying to feed something to someone unconscious. And what if the person’s current situation is not related to Diabetes? You could be adding one more layer on top of the issue.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to communication. Be willing to communicate and speak with the important people in your life and let them know what YOU need. Only you will truly know what is required to treat your current blood sugar levels and help you get better. ☯

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I am a practitioner of the martial arts and student of the Buddhist faith. I have been a Type 1 Diabetic since I was 4 years old and have been fighting the uphill battle it includes ever since. I enjoy fitness and health and looking for new ways to improve both, as well as examining the many questions of life. Although I have no formal medical training, I have amassed a wealth of knowledge regarding health, Diabetes, martial arts as well as Buddhism and philosophy. My goal is to share this information with the world, and perhaps provide some sarcastic humour along the way. Welcome!

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