Diabetes – Self Care

What should you know about diabetes?

Our bodies need insulin to regulate our blood sugar levels, ensuring that they stay at a healthy level:

  • Type 2 diabetes develops when the cells in your body don’t produce enough insulin, or your body resists the insulin that your cells do produce. This is known as ‘insulin resistance’.
  • Type 1 diabetes is not as common as type 2. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the cells in your body don’t produce any insulin. This is known as ‘insulin dependence’.

What can you do to improve your care?

Diabetes service centre

The Diabetes Centre is located at King Edward VII hospital in Windsor. Within the centre a team of specialist nurses and consultants work with you to support and manage your diabetes.

The Diabetes Centre also offers the following educational services:

  • DEAL (Diabetes Education and Awareness for Life)- if you have been recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. These are now running monthly in two locations, Slough and Windsor.
  • DEAL Plus- if you have had type 2 diabetes for a year or more
  • CHOICE (Carbohydrate and Insulin Calculation Education)- if you have type 1 diabetes
  • GDM education- if you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes

Further information and contact details for the centre can be found on the Berkshire Healthcare diabetes centre website.

Improving your diet

Often people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes oppose the idea of eating carbohydrates. This is because carbohydrates are broken down into glucose. It is important, however, to include carbohydrates in your diet as they not only provide the main source of energy but they can also contain high levels of fibre (which are important to keep your gut healthy). The amount of carbohydrate that your body needs depends on your weight, age and activity levels. It’s recommended that half of your weekly diet is made up of carbohydrates.

It’s important to match your carbohydrate intake with your insulin levels. Talking to your nurse or dietician, or joining education courses is the easiest way of learning how to count your carbohydrates in relation to your insulin levels.

It’s recommended that people with diabetes eat lower Glycaemic Index (GI) carbohydrates. GI carbohydrates are ranked on a scale from 0-100, with 0 being carbohydrates that are broken down into glucose slowly, releasing glucose into the bloodstream gradually and 100 being carbohydrates that are rapidly broken down into glucose, releasing glucose into the bloodstream quickly. By eating lower GI carbohydrates, it will help your blood sugar levels to become more stable, help you to lose weight and lower your blood cholesterol levels. For more information please see ‘The Glycaemic Index (GI)’.

Staying physically active

Regular exercise can help you to control your blood glucose levels more effectively. It’s recommended that everyone, whether diabetic or not, undertakes 150 minutes of exercise a week, over 5 days. However the more exercise you do, the greater the benefits. Try to combine moderate aerobic exercise (walking, swimming, cycling etc) with weight training.

For information about local physical activities please visit ‘Physical Activity.

Maintaining a healthy weight

For people with diabetes it’s vital to maintain a healthy weight in order to reduce the severity of symptoms and the risk of heart disease. This is the same for people who are not diabetic but are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, as this can prevent the development of the disease in the first place. As well as exercising regularly, ensure that you do this by eating a balanced diet rather than cutting out whole food groups (for example carbohydrates). For more information on how to eat a balanced diet, please see ‘Eating well with type 2 Diabetes’ or ‘Eating well with type 1 Diabetes’.

An exercise programme designed around your level of fitness and ability will identify appropriate activities and the correct levels of exercise. Your GP can refer you to the 12 week Activate scheme which introduces you to physical activity and shows you the benefits of regular exercise to manage your diabetes.

Preventing vision deterioration

People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing diabetic retinopathy (damage to the eye). This is when high blood sugar levels cause blood vessels in the eye to become damaged. They may become blocked, have excess fluid or leak, causing blurred visions, and in worst case, blindness. It’s important to have an eye screening test every year if you are diabetic in order to monitor your eye sight, spot eye deterioration in its earliest stage and prevent future decreased vision. The Berkshire Diabetic Eye Screening Programme, available in Wokingham Community Hospital (contact details below), is your local service for Diabetic eye testing.

If you are visually impaired, Berkshire Vision offers a range of support, through access to equipment that improves everyday living, a network of clubs and a varied programme of social and sporting events.

Similarly, the Bracknell and Ascot Branch Blind Social Club holds monthly social meetings for visually impaired or partially sighted people, as well as 2 social outings a year (for example a theatre trip or holiday) through the Berkshire County Blind Society.

Checking your feet regularly

As diabetes can lead to poor circulation, it’s important to understand how problems in the feet can develop and how to prevent or treat symptoms. The Diabetes UK 10 Steps to Healthy Feet guide may help.

Contact details for local services

  • Diabetes Centre – King Edward VII Hospital, Windsor, Berkshire SL4 3DP | Appointments: 01753 636751/ 01753 636631 | Diabetes Centre: 01753 636158 | Diabetes Specialist Nurses: 01753 636612
  • Blood Tests – King Edward VII Hospital 01753 860441 | Heatherwood Hospital 01344 623333 | Wexham Park Hospital 01753 633000
  • St Mark’s Hospital | 01628 632012
  • The Activate Office – Bracknell Leisure Centre, Bagshot road, Bracknell RG12 9SE | Tel: 01344 482255 | Fax: 01344 353156
  • Berkshire Diabetic Eye Screening Programme – Wokingham Community Hospital, 41 Barkham Road, Wokingham, Berkshire RG41 2RE | Tel: 0118 936 8610 | Email: wokingham.dess@nhs.net
  • Berkshire County Blind Society – Midleton House, 5 Erleigh Road, Reading, Berkshire RG1 5LR | Tel: 0118 987 2803 | Email: office@bcbs.org.uk
  • Bracknell and Ascot Branch Blind Social Club – Priestwood Community Centre, Priestwood Court Road, Bracknell Berkshire RG42 1TU | Tel: 01344 422500 | Email: barryw.pratt@tiscali.co.uk (contact: Barry Pratt)