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"Diabetes hasn’t spoiled my zest for living"

When Harini from London was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, it spurred her on to get out of her comfort zone and change her inactive lifestyle.

My Type 2 diagnosis came about in the most unexpected way. I was having recurrent urinary tract infections and when I went to find out why, my GP discovered I had diabetes. It was quite a surprise but I’m a very practical person, so I felt very matter-of-fact about it. I got on with it and did what I needed to do because I knew it wasn’t going to go away. 

I remember my grandfather having Type 2 diabetes when I was growing up in India, so it’s always been in my life. It was somehow a known devil, so being diagnosed at 44 wasn’t too traumatic. Both of my brothers have gone on to develop Type 2 diabetes too, but they were diagnosed much later in their lives.

Making changes

My diet at the time was pretty good because my husband was a heart patient, so we’d cut down on a lot of things – like saturated fat – for his health. But following my diagnosis, I tried to cut down on sugar as much as I could. Sugar in my tea and coffee was first to go, and I had puddings only occasionally. 

One of the things I found hard, though, was having young children at home and denying them all sweet foods. But then, when it was there, it was difficult for me to resist it. My daughter, who was 13 when I was diagnosed, was very good and decided she’d give up sugar to keep up with me. 

“One thing I knew had to change was how little exercise I did – I led a very inactive lifestyle. As someone who previously wouldn’t walk two streets to go shopping, it wasn’t easy to get motivated about exercise. So, I set myself small targets to begin with and over time I’ve increased this to 5,000 steps a day.”

The best thing that’s happened as a result of developing Type 2 diabetes is that I’ve learnt to be more active. I do a lot of walking in my local area and I always try to walk instead of taking the car or the bus. It’s got me out of my comfort zone and my children – now 38, 33 and 22 – are so much more aware of diabetes and they’re all quite careful now.

Hopes for the future

For many years I controlled my diabetes with medication including Metformin, along with diet and exercise, but in 2017, the tablets weren’t working anymore so I started taking insulin. For the future of diabetes, I want less medication. Treatments like balloon therapy [a new procedure which involves heating part of the intestine using a tiny balloon currently undergoing trial at University College London] could have the potential to stop some people with Type 2 diabetes needing to inject insulin in future. It’s an amazing new discovery and the more I read about it, the more excited I get.

As far as I am concerned, diabetes hasn’t spoiled my zest for living. I came to the UK from India 30 years ago and I’ve done everything I wanted to do. I’ve taken part in groups as a result of my diabetes. I like giving my feedback to the DVLA about driving licences for people with diabetes. And I enjoy being part of Diabetes UK’s User Representative Group, which was the first time I’d been with a group of people who were in a similar situation to me. 

My advice for people living with the condition is to not let it stop you from doing anything that you want to do. You have to be careful and take your medications and have a healthy, balanced diet (most of the time). But you can do everything you want to without it hindering you. Just live! 

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