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People Affected With Diabetes Urged To Stay Well Over The Festive Period

Medical Director for NHS England, Greater Manchester, Dr Raj Patel, is advising people living with diabetes to take steps that will help them stay well over the festive period and winter months. 

Anyone with diabetes faces a potential double-whammy - traditional festivities that involve rich food and alcohol can affect their glucose levels; and their condition makes them prone to serious complications if they catch common winter illnesses such as flu or the winter vomiting bug Norovirus. 

Dr Patel said:  "Eating, drinking and socialising are all part of the fun at Christmas, and there is no need for people with diabetes to miss out.  But the last thing they want is end up in A&E.  Healthy diet is important and healthier versions of classic Christmas snacks are a good idea such as vegetable crudités, olives or dried fruit.  Alternating between alcoholic and soft drinks will also help.  And keeping active is also important.

"At some point during the festive period those with diabetes may find they have higher blood glucose levels than normal. While one or two high readings shouldn't affect their long-term diabetes control, letting their glucose level stay high for too long will mean they start to feel unwell.  Diabetes UK has a really handy Tracker that you can download to your phone, which helps take the daily chore out of logging levels such as blood glucose, carbohydrates and calories."

Alan Campbell was diagnosed with type 1 Diabetes when he was 22. Alan, who became the fifth person in Manchester to have a pancreatic transplant, and one of only 200 people in the UK to have this procedure.   "I have insight into what patients are going through and I always try to say there's a lot to be positive about. It isn't always easy because of the related health problems and the stress that causes, but I believe sufferers should understand their condition and find positive ways to live with it."

Diabetes also affects the immune system and can make sufferers more susceptible to complications if they catch common winter viruses such as flu.  Dr Patel added "If you have an upset stomach and want some advice, your local pharmacist can advise you on over-the-counter medicines that you can take.  But it's also important to have your flu jab, because you are at risk of complications such as pneumonia and bronchitis if you catch the flu virus.

"Anyone with diabetes can have a free flu-jab.  To get yours phone your GP practice to get an appointment.  Some pharmacies are also offering the flu jab this year for people with long-term conditions."

For more information about Diabetes, visit the Diabetes UK website www.diabetes.org.uk and the NHS Choices website http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/diabetes/Pages/diabeteshome.aspx


Useful Q&As    

With my December calendar as chock-a-block as ever this year, I really can't afford to be struck down with the flu, especially as I'm diabetic. What can I do to help myself?

As a diabetic you are entitled to a free flu jab, so make sure you snap that up as soon as you can. It's hard to believe that nearly a third of people under 65 do not get the flu vaccine, despite the fact completely free of charge. Make sure you contact your GP surgery to find out where your local clinic is.

With the festive season upon us, I know that I will have one too many helpings of Christmas pud. What can I do to stop my blood sugar go out of control?

It's more than likely that you may find your have higher blood glucose levels than any other time of the year during December. One of two readings shouldn't affect your long-term diabetes control as long as you don't let it stay high for too long. Get up of the sofa and go for a wintery stroll with the family. Or better still - hit the December sales and spend pounds while losing them!

I get so jealous watching all my family and friends chomping turkey and munching on mince pies - how can I indulge and stay healthy at the same time?

The odd treat is fine, but as a diabetic you should make sure you don't go too crazy. Stock up on oranges for when you have a sweet craving (hey, it's better than a lump of coal!) and avoid the greasy buffet food by going for a sophisticated olive or vegetable crudités.

It's my work's Christmas party at the beginning of December and I know the drink will be flowing - how can I get merry without overindulging on sherry?

It's all about the key word - moderation. Have a soft drink in-between each alcoholic to help reduce the amount of booze you are drinking, which will do marvels for any potential hangover! Instead of carb-packed fruit juice, go for a diet mixer to limit the unnecessary amount of sugar - and empty calories!

With a busy schedule over December, I don't always have time to eat before going out with friends - will this affect my diabetes?

In a word - yes. Remember not to drink on an empty stomach, as this can send your blood glucose level low and so put you at risk of a hypo - the last thing you want during December. Have a snack, before you go out, preferably something starchy like toast or a bowl of cereal to make sure you stay on top of your sugar levels.