It’s been a week since the last post. Somehow the last week has been very busy, work, life, and fun!
I have been thinking about what to write about, and after lots of umm-ing and ahh-ing and a spot of serendipity I have decided that today I will do a bit of awareness raising about Type 1 diabetes and the work that the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation is doing. I was looking at the JDRF website, and a report about how High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) can maybe help people with Type 1 improve their awareness of hypo’s caught my eye. I am interested in HIIT anyway, because of the way you can get some amazing health results with such a relatively small amount of effort. (It’s still very hard work while you are doing it though…) Here’s a link to a short explanation by Michael Mosley about HIIT. But I was particularly intrigued by the idea that HIIT could help with hypo awareness.
So, what is a hypo? It’s short for hypoglycaemia, or in plain English low blood sugar. It occurs when the delicate balance between insulin and glucose in the blood stream is upset and there is not enough glucose available to maintain normal activity. The treatment is to have some sugar – in a quickly available form such as a sugary drink or a glucose tablet. Without treatment the person can end up in a coma.
Two members of my immediate family have, or had, Type 1 diabetes. I have experience from the outside of what a hypo looks like. A very early memory: once, when I was quite a young child, my family were on holiday visiting the remains of a Roman villa. After a morning walking around the site, and a later than usual picnic lunch my dad ended up having a hypo. His speech started slurring, he couldn’t get the food to his mouth properly. My mum had to help him. A stranger came and asked if he could help. But then after a sugary drink he recovered. This was a scenario that happened more than once. Another time when I was a little older we were on a camping holiday. My sisters and I woke up early in our tent and were playing around for a while. Then we noticed that my youngest sister was acting strangely, eyes rolling a bit, and not making sense. Uh-oh – hypo! Quick – we had to wake up mum and scrabble around to find the glucose, find some water, mix it up… She was ok. If you have Type 1 diabetes I think hypo’s are a fact of life. Some people with Type 1 have good early warning signals of an impending hypo – tingling, feeling sweaty or shaky. They can take action themselves to stop it getting out of control. But supposing you don’t get any warnings? Or you get them too late to be able to actually take anything yourself? It’s scary for the person and scary for those around them too. People can get so anxious about possibly having a hypo that they keep their blood sugars high – which can have serious consequences too.
That’s why I think this research is so interesting because it is looking at an aspect of Type 1 diabetes that can have a devastating impact on daily life. Professor McCrimmon at Dundee University is looking at whether High Intensity Interval Training can improve the body’s hormonal response to hypos so that the person is aware of what is happening and can take action.
JDRF is also funding this research which is also about hypo awareness – Professor Amiel at Kings College London has developed a talking therapy programme to improve hypo awareness. In the pilot study 20 people reported zero severe hypos after the programme, down from 24 the previous year! Amazing!
For an understanding of what hypo’s mean for someone with Type 1 please take the time to have a look at this vlog by Jen Grieves. One thing I think comes across in this short video is how often people with Type 1 have to test blood glucose – with a finger prick test. A post for another day is on technology in Type 1 – such things as continual glucose monitors – which reduce or eliminate the need for finger prick tests. If you have no idea what Jen is talking about with the numbers: in the UK blood glucose has traditionally been measured in mmol/L. Below 4mmol/L is considered hypoglycaemic. In the US blood sugar levels are measured in mg/dL – below 72mg/dL would be hypoglycaemic.
I am raising funds for JDRF this year, running a half marathon every month, selling marmalade and cakes and other stuff as I think of it! These funds help research projects like those cited above. This research can make a real difference to people living with Type 1 diabetes. This is the link to my fund raising page. Every penny helps – but of course every pound is even better! Thank you for reading, and thank you for your support.