Helen Rose Hill Walking Diary April 2001


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I have not mentioned this in previous instalments of the diary but I have been an insulin dependent diabetic for over two years. Mostly it is not an issue for me as I have had tremendous support from friends and hill walking acquaintances. However, I have been requested to write about it as some people consider it an achievement being adventurous when you have a chronic serious condition.

When I was first diagnosed after a period of acute ill health, the Diabetes Centre at my local hospital advised me that diabetes was a condition which should fit into my lifestyle and not dictate a lifestyle to me. I have taken this advice and adjusted the management of diabetes to fit in with my lifestyle and by and large I have been successful but there have been constraints imposed on me. These constraints have mainly been as a result of a lack of knowledge and/or a fear of the condition by others.

Thank goodness for the people who have supported me in finding the way to manage the condition and continue hill walking. The early days were hard as I had to come to terms with my diabetes but with my own determination and with the help of patient companions, I was able to work out how to manage the balance of insulin, energy output and food intake for energy on the hills. The more successful I am in achieving the correct balance the better are my future prospects for continuing good health.

Diabetes is a condition managed by the patient. Insulin doses are determined by the diabetic and these can vary several times in a day depending on a range of factors including meals and exercise. Lots of things can affect blood sugar levels including and having a cold or infection. Usually diabetics know more about what suits them than their doctor as they are aware of how their body reacts to different foods etc.

Unfortunately, the hospital could give me very little advice on how to manage sugar levels on the hills as hillwalking is sustained exercise over an extended period. It took some time by trial and error and a lot of testing on the hills to find the way which suited me best. Since that time I have written in several outdoor magazines including Trail, Ramblers and TGO looking to contact other active insulin dependent diabetics to allow us to exchange information. Over thirty diabetics have contacted me and have had the same experience as myself in feeling isolated with no one to turn to for advice in managing on the hills. Surprisingly, we have nearly all come to the same conclusions on the best way to cope which is to reduce insulin intake and eat slow acting carbohydrates regularly but with some sugar boosts when necessary and end the day with a hearty meal and a well deserved drink.

If there are diabetics reading this who are interested in having further information, please contact me at [email protected]

I am indebted to the people who continued to walk with me through the dark days two winters ago and who had enough confidence in me to know I would act responsibly in learning to manage diabetes and insulin. Without them, I would not be hill walking today and you would not have had this diary to read! I hope this inspires others with chronic conditions to go out there to bag Munros, scramble over rocky ridges, don crampons to climb in ice and snow and generally have fun in the great outdoors. The other great advantage of hillwalking for diabetics is that you get to eat chocolate as it is soon burned off in energy output slogging up hills!

Coming attractions are; Climbing the Villarica Volcano in Chile, a weekend in Ullapool and walking in the mountains of Andalusia As you can see, I continue to be an active diabetic!

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