Type 1 diabetes is a chronic disease. The disease is still not curable, but there are very good methods of controlling it and keeping blood sugar at a safe level, the “target level”. Working with the doctor, dietitian, and diabetes nurse, most people with type 1 diabetes can develop an effective and healthy treatment plan. Patients with type 1 diabetes should consider (regardless of age, level of physical activity or lifestyle) their diet, exercise and insulin as the key factors in their treatment plan.
All patients with type 1 diabetes need insulin every day. The pancreas is unable to regulate the release of insulin into the blood, which can cause blood glucose levels in the body to become dangerously high or low. Therefore, a method must be used where blood glucose levels can be monitored throughout the day and can be adjusted with insulin. This usually involves a small device that tests a drop of blood from the diabetic patient. Based on the results, the patient can then determine if the body needs more insulin. Insulin is administered with regular injections or with an insulin pump, a newer preferred method of insulin regulation.
Insulin pumps are fairly small devices that are filled with insulin and deliver insulin according to a certain schedule to regulate blood glucose levels. The initial testing period establishes the baseline amount of insulin, which varies from person to person. Based on this, the insulin pump administers small and consistent amounts of insulin throughout the day, allowing the user to achieve a fairly well-regulated glucose level. At meals and just before physical activities, the amount of insulin to be delivered by the pump can be adjusted manually. These pumps require commitment and attention from the user, but because glucose levels are more stable, patients with type 1 diabetes can live their lives without the worries and risks associated with traditional insulin therapy. Insulin pump systems for patients with type 1 diabetes are considered the closest to a fully functioning pancreas.
A diet is the next key factor in the daily lives of patients with type 1 diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes can eat anything that healthy people also enjoy, but the key to safe food choices is moderation. Carbohydrates are important, whether they are in a piece of pie or a plate of pasta. They should be eaten responsibly and in moderation. Patients with type 1 diabetes do not have to give up certain foods altogether, but they should put energy into a balanced healthy diet of vegetables, fruits, proteins, and carbohydrates (spread evenly throughout the day) and also be prepared to adjust insulin delivery if they have a treat.
Physical activity is good for everyone, and patients with type 1 diabetes should include some form of daily exercise in their treatment plan. Physical activity also reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease in diabetic patients. It is imperative that diabetic patients discuss an existing or new exercise program with their physician to ensure that the level of activity is not too intense or strenuous in the beginning. The body uses more insulin with all forms of exercise. Patients with type 1 diabetes should therefore adjust their dose of insulin accordingly, and it is best to consult their doctor about adjusting the prescribed medication.
Other important factors to consider in the management of type 1 diabetes include the benefits of regular physical examinations to monitor and adjust the treatment plan as needed. A doctor may then also check the patient for symptoms of the known complications of diabetes, such as vision or kidney problems. People with diabetes should also avoid smoking and drinking alcohol. Indeed, smoking and alcohol consumption significantly increase the risk of complications for diabetic patients.
The primary goal of an effective treatment plan for type 1 diabetes is to ensure proper blood glucose levels. A regular daily schedule with a predictable amount of exercise and healthy food make blood glucose levels more controllable and type 1 diabetes easier to treat.