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How Diabetes and Hypos Affects the Entire Family

Since I met my husband in our 20s, he has always been a gym buff, exercising regularly and striving to always be in the best physical shape possible. I’ve always known him to watch his diet as well, eating healthy for the most part, but enjoying fast food and sweet treats in moderation.

In the back of our minds, we knew he would need to watch for signs of diabetes – his father had diabetes, and the risk increases if your parent or sibling is a person living with diabetes. My father-in-law first took prescription pills to manage his diabetes but didn’t turn his unhealthy lifestyle around. Eventually, he was forced to go on insulin to control his high blood sugar levels. Over the years, he developed long-term complications, and eventually suffered irreversible damage to his vital organs. We lost him in 2013.

Seeing his father suffer from complications due to diabetes has fueled my husband to be even more vigilant with diet and exercise. Despite his healthy lifestyle, my husband was recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Even with his diagnosis, he can continue to make healthy lifestyle choices to help prevent complications.

Diabetes is a public health epidemic in Canada. Every 3 minutes a Canadian is diagnosed with diabetes and currently, 11 million are living with diabetes or pre-diabetes. If left untreated or improperly managed, diabetes can lead to a variety of complications, including heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, and amputation.

People living with diabetes are not the only ones impacted by the condition. According to a new international study of 4,300 family members of people with diabetes, worrying about low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia or “hypos”, can place a significant burden on them too. Hypos may result in a variety of symptoms including sweating, feeling hungry and weak, shaking, clumsiness, trouble talking or confusion.

I remember my mother-in-law always worrying about my father-in-law’s blood sugar levels when he was at work because he wouldn’t eat at regular times. It would be frightening when his blood sugar levels would suddenly drop.

When my husband starts to feel weak and shaky, I know his blood sugar must be low; so he’ll have to quickly eat something to get his blood sugars normalized. It’s a scary feeling to suddenly feel like you might faint! It can also be dangerous when blood sugar drops too low – a person can lose consciousness or have a seizure.

Until now, there has been very little research into the impact of low blood sugar on the family members of people with diabetes. The results from this new international TALK-HYPO study, published in Diabetes Therapy, show that up to 64 per cent of family members of people with diabetes are worried or anxious about the risk of low blood sugar, highlighting the significance of this burden for the whole family.

Family members feel the impact that hypos can have on their own lives. Seventy-four per cent of survey participants said they spend less time on, or completely forgo activities such as hobbies, holidays, or being with other friends or family. A majority of the study participants (76%) said they believe that having more conversations about hypos can lead to a positive impact on the life of their relatives living with diabetes.

I know first-hand how frightening diabetes can be and feel it’s crucial to keep the conversation about diabetes and hypo open. A simple conversation about your fears, feelings or experiences related to hypos with your family or with a health care professional can help. TalkAboutHypos.ca has some helpful conversation starters for people with diabetes, family members and health care professionals.

Let’s keep the conversation going.

Hypoglycemia impacts diabetes patients and families

 

Disclosure: This post is proudly sponsored by Novo Nordisk. As always, the opinions written here are my own.