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Advice for people with diabetes and their families

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"Having seen my grandmother die from the condition, I always knew how important it was to take my diagnosis seriously."

Diabetes UK

Francisco Castelo

Diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2016

The problem with diabetes is that a lot of people don’t see the effects upfront, they see it as a long-term thing and ignore it in the short term.
Francisco Castelo

Francisco saw his Type 2 diagnosis as a wake up call. His high HbA1c levels prompted him to change his diet and exercise regime, and ensure he was accessing his essential healthcare checks. He wants everyone with diabetes to be aware of how important it is to take their diagnosis seriously, in order to reduce their risk of developing complications.

 

Diagnosis

My diagnosis

In all honesty, it didn’t come as a total surprise to me when I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Sadly, diabetes runs in my family – from my grandparents and parents to my siblings. So it’s fair to say I did know the risks, but I suppose it’s still one of those things where you don’t think it will happen to you.

I visited my GP after I began to experience symptoms such as going to the toilet more frequently and getting nerve pain in my hands and legs. The pain had even got to the point where I was having trouble sleeping at night. My whole body was aching and it felt like I had just done a tough session at the gym. The doctor confirmed I had Type 2 diabetes and my HbA1c levels were way up there – above 9mmol/l, which meant I needed to be put on Metformin.

Food and healthy eating

Knowing the risks

Looking back, my lifestyle hadn’t exactly been ideal. I was drinking far too much – sometimes up to three bottles of champagne a night. I was also eating too many carbs and having too much sweetener in my diet. I was carrying more weight than I should’ve been, which must’ve put added pressure on my system.

I think because of this, I didn’t really turn to anyone for support. I felt like I had done this to myself and could’ve avoided diabetes if I had been leading a more modest lifestyle. But it provided a huge wake-up call for me and I knew things needed to change if I was to avoid further problems.

Life with diabetes

Life in lockdown

During my time at home I’ve been organising the house and doing the things we tend to say "I will do that later." So tidying cupboards, sorting papers, carrying out repairs and painting. It’s been great creating new spaces and energies around the house, and it’s certainly kept me busy.  

I think eating healthily and keeping active are really important. I bought a yoga mat and do 30 minutes of exercise every day. Music has also been a lifeline for me.  

I have stayed in touch with family and friends via social media and it's been great to do video calls with lots of friends all at the same time – most don't know each other. 
Then there’s the TV and social channels, which show people are doing extraordinary things, which helps give me that extra boost.  

Life with diabetes

Making lifestyle changes

My diagnosis really encouraged me to change my habits and behaviours, and I like to think of myself now as pretty healthy. I keep really active and run home from work, which is 10k a week. I also regularly visit the gym. I’ve modified what I eat, cutting back significantly on alcohol and eating a sensible, well balanced diet. I’ve lost over a stone in weight and my HbA1c levels have drastically reduced to around 6mmol/l. Generally, I’m feeling great, and my nerve pain is no longer a problem.

I feel that it’s up to you to manage your diabetes; you need to take control as much as you can – and as early as possible. I make sure I attend all my health checks and screenings, and frequently visit my GP to ensure I’m taking the correct steps in order to keep myself healthy. My feet are in perfect condition and my eye screenings have shown no cause for concern – and I intend to keep things this way.

Life with diabetes

Challenges of living with diabetes

Although I feel happy and healthy, there’s no doubting that living with type 2 diabetes is hard. I struggle with the restrictions on what I can eat and drink, especially if I go out to restaurants. Some social situations can also be awkward when I have to explain to people that I can’t eat certain things due to my diabetes.

However, having seen my grandmother die from the condition, I always knew how important it was to take my diagnosis seriously – and this meant making changes for the better. I think the problem with diabetes is that people don’t see the effects upfront. They think of it as a long-term problem, so ignore it in the short term. Changing my lifestyle and accessing my health checks has meant I have avoided any complications so far, and I hope my story can encourage other people to do the same.

Be in the know about complications, and make sure you find out about the 15 healthcare essentials.

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