Every June (this year from 10th - 17th) Diabetes UK shines the spotlight on this condition and its impact on family life. Look out for sponsored walks and runs, community activities and celebrity events around the county, raising awareness and funds to support future research and treatments.
But this is about more than a week. For the rest of the year this condition impacts on millions of people across the UK, including so many of our members who know that staying active helps them stay healthy. We spoke to Tony, 22, who was diagnosed with Type 1 (or insulin-dependent) diabetes a few years ago and now comes to Halo every week.
"I was pretty active before I was diagnosed and know - I could see - how the diagnosis can put people off exercise, especially if they're not on top of their diet and so in control of their blood sugar levels. But then I also knew that exercise would be crucial in keeping me healthy. So you suddenly need a whole new routine. I inject insulin every day and test my blood around 10 times a day and am aware that what I eat and how I exercise has an impact.”
Exercise, Tony knew, would help him better control his blood sugar and reduce the risk of ill health in the future (by preventing stress, weight gain, heart disease). But he also knows he needs to ensure he prevents hypoglycemia (when blood sugar levels go too low) during sport and exercise. Diabetics are advised to get advice on the level and duration of any exercise plan from a doctor before embarking on a routine, and checking in with Halo's fitness professionals once they get going.
"But now I play football, basketball and box," says Tony. "I know keeping fit is a good way to keep my metabolism healthy. I also know what I eat matters. No more junk food."
Exercise is, of course, also crucial for those who suffer from (or are at risk from) Type 2 Diabetes. This used to be known as adult-onset diabetes (hitting people over 40), but now it’s more common in children, teens and young adults. But most can avoid medication by staying well (and ensuring healthy blood pressure, cholesterol levels and weight), and that includes staying active.
Again, ask your doctor for advice before embarking on a major exercise routine or visit www.diabetes.org.uk to find out more.
Facts you need to know
Diabetes is a condition that causes your blood sugar level to become too high. Our bodies convert food into energy, and energy is a sugar - glucose - that's created when that food is digested. When it goes into the bloodstream it's called blood sugar and fuels our cells. But we need the hormone insulin to allow glucose into cells, insulin that's created by the pancreas. If you have diabetes that process doesn't work.
If your pancreas can't make any insulin at all it's called Type 1 Diabetes. If your pancreas produces some, but not enough insulin, it's called Type 2. If not treated they can damage your heart, eyes and kidneys.