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Advice for people with diabetes and their families

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Getting active with type 1 diabetes: Mahesh’s story

Mahesh doing yoga

Mahesh Patel

Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes aged 30

During lockdown, I’ve also taken up yoga which I’d always wanted to try.

Mahesh was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1992 when he was 30 years old. Here he gives handy tips to others with diabetes about how to start getting active.

Diagnosis

Diabetes awareness

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes aged 30 – it was a real shock! No one is diabetic in my family, so I didn’t really know much about it.

For the first year or so, I told everyone I was diabetic. But people treated me differently, so I stopped telling people! I am fortunate to have good hypo awareness and know when it’s happening and what to do. Under the Equality Act I am disabled due to my diabetes, but I don’t feel disabled. I think there are many people out there who wouldn’t want to tell others they are disabled, because of the social stigma. This needs to change. 

I’ve worked in sports development for 28 years and knew that disability equality and awareness needed to be a lot better in sport. As part of my job I developed guidance for clubs, advised on new opportunities to get people more active and supported disabled to become confident enough to try something new. My personal experiences of being diabetic helped with this.

Healthy eating

When diagnosed I lost over a stone. Earlier on in my diagnosis I ate carbs excessively thinking I needed them due to my insulin intake. Now I eat fewer carbs and initially lost weight quickly and didn’t feel bloated and full. I now eat occasional toast and bran flakes most mornings with fruit. I have also reduced the amount of rice, potatoes or chappatis with my evening meal. I do enjoy my food and we keep an eye on my diet. My partner and family have been brilliant and we enjoy a varied and healthy diet together.

Treatments

I take both insulin and metformin to treat my diabetes. I think more technological advances in treatments would be a godsend, especially for people wanting to exercise with peace of mind. More diabetes tech would really help me to monitor my diabetes - especially when exercising.

Journey with diabetes

Stopping and starting

I was made redundant in 2012, and since then I have been doing some volunteering in schools and enjoy my work as a school governor. Truth is, I’ve had lots of stops and starts with sport and exercise since I was diagnosed and it’s been frustrating, especially trying to get back to the same level of sport that I used to be at.

Advice for others

If I were to give others advice about getting more active initially, I’d say just start with gentle walks. Then, having built up confidence with gentle walks, just extend your walks by walking further, or walking more briskly. Then maybe even a jog! Mixing it up with yoga, pilates and bike rides, is also good, as you’re using different muscle groups for each activity, and can do these safely on your own or in isolation. 

Shielding

As well as diabetes, I also have a heart condition and psoriasis. I’ve been self isolating then shielding during the pandemic. 

I had to have a pacemaker insertion in 2019 and feel a lot better following the procedure. I also take a drug called methotrexate for my psoriasis which suppresses my immune system but controls the condition well.

Having said all that I walk and cycle locally. The weather was a big factor during lockdown as I was able to get outside and work in the garden, go on long walks enjoying the wildlife and the countryside. I’ve also taken up yoga which I’d always wanted to try. I’ve been able to follow yoga and exercise videos online. There’s a lot out there, it’s brilliant! I’ve really enjoyed spending time the garden, landscaping, doing some planting, and I love bird watching.  

Diabetes UK and me

Living life to the fullest

I can definitely say that I enjoy life! My youngest is 17 and a is key worker at the Food Warehouse when he’s not at college, and my oldest son is at drama school going into his final year. He gave me the details for the We Are Undefeatable campaign that Diabetes UK are part of. I think it’s been so worthwhile to share my story to help others.

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