My people all together – #type1diabetes

blood testing equipment type 1 diabetesEver sat in a room and thought, “I am with my people”? That was my experience this week as I attended an education session the NHS had put on; my attendance a condition for prescription of the Abbot FreeStyle Libre.

I doubt I’ve ever been in a room with so many other type 1 diabetics. Sure, type 1 is a hidden condition. Perhaps others travel on trains with me or flit about the offices of the University of Glasgow dropping their test strips wherever they go?* Still, my original statement holds. I reckoned on about 200 people there, with perhaps a third of them partners or parents.

All shapes and sizes

I arrived at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital early and watched in fascination as folks trooped in to the lecture theatre. We come in all shapes and sizes—all ages, all colours and all creeds. Who were the ones with diabetes? I put it down to those of us who carried our precious bag—the FreeStyle Libre and the doctor’s letter handed out when we registered—tightly. I’d expected lots of young people, but that wasn’t the case. The average age, I reckon, was mid to late 30s. Every time I saw someone who looked a lot older come in, I cheered silently.

Take that, reduced life span, and shove it where the sun don’t shine.

Our session took the form of a PowerPoint presentation by one of the diabetologists at the hospital, followed by some Q and As. I didn’t bother asking anything. As an introvert, I’m not going to raise my hand in a room that full of folks—even if they are my people. But there were plenty who didn’t suffer from shyness who dived in.

Can you scan your sensor through clothes? Yup. (So handy!)

Can you swim with it? Yes, but only half an hour is recommended. (Seriously, do people swim for longer than that? It’s the world’s most boring form of exercise unless you’re in open water.)

How long does it take for the prescription to come through once you hand the letter to your doctor? About 48 hours.

Can you connect it to your phone? Yes—there’s an app for it.

What happens if it keeps falling off? Some people have slippier skin than others. Thankfully, the two times I tried the sensor it stayed in place for its allotted fourteen days.

Talking to my people

I longed to talk to my people, but didn’t. See above-mentioned introvert tendencies. Who would I have chosen? The Indian girl who talked about running, exercising and wearing a sensor? The man behind me who asked if the Libre 2—the one with alarms that sound if your blood sugar levels go up or down too rapidly—would be available for us in the future? The glamorous young couple where I couldn’t work out which one would hold out the fingers covered in black dots from too much finger-pricking?

No. The one I’d have picked out was the woman I guessed to be in her late 30s who came in with an older man and woman I took to be her mum and dad. I watched her sit down near me and wiped away a wee tear. That might have been me once upon a time, attending with my lovely, supportive ma and pa. My father died nine years ago and how I’d love to have shared this new, wonderful development in diabetes care with him.

Session over, my precious bag and I got onto the bus to go home. “A new chapter, Emma B,” I said to myself. “How terribly exciting.”

*About to become a non-problem. Yay!

Vitamin D shown to improve blood sugar control in gestational diabetes

From Ojo O et al. The effect of vitamin D supplementation in women with gestational diabetes mellitus. A systemic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019:16(10)

A meta-analysis has indicated that various factors relevant to improved blood sugar control are likely to be improved by vitamin D supplementation in  a total of 173 women with gestational diabetes.

Fasting blood glucose decreased by a mean of 0.46 mmol/L

Glycated haemoglobin decreased by a mean of 0.37%

Serum insulin reduced by a mean of 4.10 uIU/mL.

 My comment: Although the improvements are small, vitamin D supplements are inexpensive, easy to take and do not have the side effects of other medications.

 

 

Lower cholesterol may not better if you have neuropathy

From Jende JME et al. Peripheral nerve damage in patients with type 2 diabetes. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(5);e194798

In type two patients who had diabetic neuropathy affecting the legs, low total cholesterol and low density lipoprotein cholesterol had more nerve lesions, impaired nerve conduction and more pain and disability than those with higher cholesterol levels.

Almost all type two diabetics will be advised to take statins to keep the cholesterol level down as this is generally accepted as improving the outlook for cardiac and circulatory conditions.

One hundred participants with type two diabetes were tested using magnetic resonance neurography. 64 had diabetic neuropathy and 36 did not.

My comment: Although this was not discussed in the abstract, I wonder whether those people with more advanced complications were being more intensively treated all round and thus had more/higher doses of statins, and so the relationship between low cholesterol and neuropathy severity was simple association, or whether there is a causative factor here. I am aware that statin neuropathy is believed to exist.

Higher blood pressure is linked to LESS cognitive decline

From Streit S et al. Ann Fam Med 1 March 2019 and reported by Sarfaroj Khan UK Clinical Digest 13 March 2019

In my GP career treatment of blood pressure for the general population has become more intensive as time has gone on. This hasn’t always resulted in better long term outcomes overall. Indeed, the target systolic blood pressure, the upper measurement, has been moved from 130 to 140 in the last few years because of this.

A Dutch study of over a thousand patients over the age of 75 showed that those with a systolic blood pressure under 130 showed more cognitive decline than those with a blood pressure over 150 when they had mental functioning tests a year later.

Those with higher blood pressures had no loss of daily functioning or quality of life.

As aggressive blood pressure control in those with diabetes is standard treatment, it is worth knowing this. Perhaps further studies in this subgroup of patients would be worth doing. I have seen reports of impaired kidney function when blood pressure levels are “optimal” but low too.

Another study regarding blood pressure management reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine indicates that blood pressure reduction of almost 9mm Hg in hypertensive patients when regular structured exercise is undertaken. This is of a degree similar to most anti-hypertensive medications. (Reported in BMJ 5 Jan 2019)

 

 

Chief Medical Officer Scotland: Vitamin D supplementation

From letter from Dr Catherine Calderwood Chief Medical Officer Scotland 
24 November 2017

New Recommendations on Vitamin D Supplementation

Vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining bone health throughout life. Vitamin D deficiency impairs the absorption of dietary calcium and phosphorous. This can lead to:
 Infants having muscle weakness and bone softening leading to rickets;
 Adults having muscle weakness and osteomalacia, which leads to bone pain and tenderness.
The most recent National Diet and Nutrition Survey shows that a proportion of the UK population has low vitamin D levels, which may put them at risk of the clinical consequences of vitamin D deficiency.
Last year, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) made new recommendations on vitamin D and health.  The full report is available at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/537616/SACNVitamin_D_and_Health_report.pdf

SACN considered all relevant evidence suggesting links between vitamin D and various health conditions and concluded that the risk of poor musculoskeletal health (e.g. rickets, osteomalacia) is increased with low vitamin D levels. SACN found insufficient evidence to draw firm conclusions on the impact of low vitamin D levels for non-musculoskeletal health outcomes.
The Scottish Government has now updated its advice on vitamin D in line with the new SACN recommendations as follows:

Everyone age 5 years and above should consider taking a daily supplement of 10μg of vitamin D, particularly during the winter months (October – March). Between late March/early April and September, the majority of people aged 5 years and above will probably obtain sufficient vitamin D from sunlight when they are outdoors, alongside foods that naturally contain or are fortified with vitamin D.
From October to March, everyone aged 5 and over will need to rely on dietary sources of vitamin D. Since vitamin D is found only in a small number of foods, it might be difficult to get enough from foods that naturally contain vitamin D and/or fortified foods alone.

Children aged 1 to 4 years of age should be given a daily supplement containing 10μg vitamin D. We recommend Healthy Start vitamin drops for all children in health.

A new-born baby’s vitamin D level depends on their mother’s levels near the birth and will be higher if the mother took a vitamin D supplement during pregnancy. Some mothers and babies have a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency, including those born to mothers who habitually wear clothes that cover most of their skin while outdooors and those from minority ethnic groups with dark skin such as those of African, African-Caribbean and South Asian origin.
However, as a precaution, we are now recommending that all babies from birth up to one year of age should be given a daily supplement of 8.5 to 10μg vitamin D. Babies who are formula fed do not require a vitamin D supplement if they are having at least 500ml per day, as infant formula already has added vitamin D.
We recommend Healthy Start vitamin drops for infants. Neonatologists and paediatricians may recommend alternatives for premature infants, children with clinical conditions or clinical presentations of vitamin D deficiency.
Advice for parents on vitamin D supplementation for breastfed babies must be carefully considered as there is a risk that infant formula could be viewed as superior to breastmilk. Breastfeeding is the normal way to feed infants. It has an important and lasting impact on the public health of the population and it is vital that we protect and support breastfeeding. It is recommended that you emphasise that the potential problem is related to a lack of sunlight in the UK, and that it affects the whole 
population, not just breastfed babies.
It is recommended that those at greatest risk of vitamin D deficiency take a daily supplement all year round. These groups include:
pregnant and breastfeeding mothers
 children under 5 years of age
 people who are not exposed to much sunlight, such as frail or housebound individuals, or those that cover their skin for cultural reasons; and
 people from minority ethnic groups with dark skin such as those of African, African-Caribbean and South Asian origin, because they require more sun exposure to make as much vitamin D.
General information leaflets on vitamin D for both the public and healthcare professionals have been updated to reflect these new recommendations and are available online at: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Health/Healthy-Living/Food-Health/vitaminD
New guidance has been developed for parents and healthcare professionals to support parents to follow this new recommendation. This includes advice on how to administer vitamin D drops to young babies. It is available at:
http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Health/Healthy-Living/Food-Health/vitaminD
From April 2017, Healthy Start vitamins for women (which provide Vitamin D, folic acid and Vitamin C) are provided free of charge to all pregnant women in Scotland for the duration of their pregnancy, regardless of their entitlement to the Healthy Start scheme.
Breastfeeding women and children up to age 4 who are eligible for Healthy Start can also get free supplements containing vitamin D. Further information on the Healthy Start scheme can be found at http://www.healthystart.nhs.uk
Healthy Start vitamin drops for babies and children currently contain 7.5μg per 5 drops of vitamin D, as well as vitamin A and vitamin C. The new recommended dose for vitamin D is 8.5-10μg and vitamins containing the new recommended dose will be available from October 2018. In the meantime, parents should be advised to continue to give the current dosage of 5 drops per day.
In Scotland, NHS Boards are responsible for supplying Healthy Start vitamin supplements universally to pregnant women and to breastfeeding women and children who are eligible for the Healthy Start scheme. NHS Boards are also able to sell Healthy Start vitamins to families who are not eligible for Healthy Start. Some Health Boards have chosen to provide additional free vitamins for infants.
We are not currently in a position to extend universal provision of vitamin supplements to the whole of the Scottish population or to additional at risk groups including the elderly, women in the pre-conception period, infants or young children.
Vitamin D supplements for adults and children are also available to buy from most major supermarkets, high street pharmacies and health food stores.

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Scottish Diabetes Survey 2016: are we winning or losing the diabetes struggle?

In Scotland 5.4% of the population is registered as having diabetes. 10.6% have type one and 88.3% have type two. 1.1% have other types such as Maturity Onset Diabetes in the Young.

In type ones 37.3% are overweight and a further 26% are obese. So 36.7% are of normal weight. In type twos 31.6% were overweight and 55.6% were obese. So only 12.8% were normal weight.

The annual HbA1c was done in over 90% of diabetics in both groups. 24.5% of type ones and 58.6% of type twos met the target of less than 58 mmol/mol which is equivalent to 7.5%.

Over 84.9% of both groups had their blood pressure measured that year and 45% of type ones and 32.7% of type twos met the target of less than 130 mmHg systolic.

Cholesterol levels were done in 86.4% of patients and this met the target of less than 5 mmol/l in 69.1% of type ones and 78.4% of type twos.

22.9% of type ones were current smokers compared to 17.2% of type twos.

Eye screening was undertaken in 85.4% of diabetics that year. 59.1% had had their feet checked and the score recorded.

When it comes to end stage disease in type ones, 3.5% had had a heart attack, 2.6% had had coronary revascularisation, 1.4% had end stage renal failure and 1.1% had had a major limb amputation.

In type twos, 9.7% had had a heart attack, 7.5% had had revascularisation, 0.6% had end stage renal failure and 0.7% had had a major amputation.

Overall 10.8 of the diabetic population use insulin pumps.

My comments: It can be seen from the data that screening is  doing very well. We have an average number of people with diabetes and the distribution between types one and two has not changed. Smoking is an issue in only about 20% of diabetics which probably compares favourably with social norms.

We have lost the battle of the bulge. Only 12.8% of type twos are of normal weight. Type ones are more like the “norm” for Scotland with just over a third being of normal weight.

Blood sugar control is very poor particularly in type ones with about three quarters of them with blood sugars over 7.5%. 

When it comes to complications, type twos are much more likely to get cardiac problems whereas type ones are more likely to get renal failure and amputations. 

 

Metformin improves blood sugar and vascular health in type one children

 From Diabetes in Control: Metformin Improves Vascular Health in Children With Type 1 Diabetes
Nov 18, 2017
In individuals with type 1 diabetes (T1DM), cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a major issue and the primary cause of death.

Vascular changes can be detected years before progression to CVD. Targeting blood sugar regulation early in patients at high risk of developing T1DM and in those already diagnosed with T1DM, could potentially help reduce vascular dysfunction risk and even reverse changes already made in vascular function.

Past studies have shown that in adults with T1DM, metformin reduces HbA1c, BMI, and required insulin doses. It has also been suggested that metformin leads to reduced cardiovascular events and better blood sugar regulation in patients with type 2 diabetes. Studies conducted on children with T1DM suggest the same benefits. However, there is currently no research on how metformin affects vascular function in children with T1DM.
A double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial was conducted to evaluate the association between metformin and vascular health in children with T1DM over a 12-month period. The study included a total of 90 children from a Women’s and Children’s Hospital in South Australia.  Children were randomly divided into two groups to receive either the metformin intervention or the placebo intervention. Children who weighed 60kg or greater received 1gm of metformin twice daily and those who weighed less than 60kg received 500mg twice daily. Doses were then increased to the complete dose over a period of 2 to 6 weeks.
Follow-up was conducted at 3, 6, and 12 months from the start of the study. Vascular function was obtained at baseline and at every follow-up visit using the brachial artery ultrasound, HbA1C, insulin dose, and BMI were among some of the other outcomes measured.
Results show that vascular function defined by GTN improved over the 12-month period by 3.3% in the metformin intervention group regardless of HbA1c when compared to the placebo group (95% CI 0.3 to 6.3; P=0.03). GTN was found to be the highest in the metformin group at 3 months when compared to placebo. Children in the metformin group also experienced significant improvement (P=0.001) in HbA1c levels at 3 months (8.4%; 95% CI 8.0 to 8.8) (68mmol/mol; 95% CI 64 to 73) when compared to the placebo group (9.3%; 95% CI 9.0 to 9.7). At 12 months, the overall difference between HbA1c improvement between the two groups was lower but remained a significant 1.0% (95% CI 0.4 to 1.5) 10.9mmol/mol (95% CI 4.4 to 16.4), P=0.001. In addition, it was found that children in the metformin group had a decreased insulin dose requirement of 0.2 units/kg/day throughout the 12-month period compared to those in the placebo group (95% CI 0.1 to 0.3, P=0.001).
The following study determined that children with T1DM with above average BMIs and taking metformin saw a significant improvement in vascular smooth muscle function compared to those not taking metformin. The study suggested that in addition to vascular health, metformin also improved HbA1c levels and reduced total daily insulin dose. It was found that improvements in both vascular function and HbA1c were the highest at 3 months. This is most likely due to medication adherence being the highest around 3 months.
Practice Pearls:
In children with above average weight and who were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, metformin provides a significant improvement in vascular smooth muscle function.
Metformin provides a significant improvement in HbA1c levels in children with type 1 diabetes.
In addition to vascular health and HbA1c benefits, metformin further aids in reducing daily insulin dose in children with type 1 diabetes.
Reference:
Anderson JJA, Couper JJ, Giles LC, et al. Effect of Metformin on vascular function in children with type 1 diabetes: A 12 month randomized controlled trial. 2017. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2017; 0: 1-16.