Patients newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes feel "left in the dark" and unsure what they can and can't eat whilst sometimes waiting months to receive diabetes education, according to a new study published online today in the journal Primary Health Care Research & Development (1). The research carried out by Dr Michelle McKinley and colleagues at Queen's University Belfast, explored the views of people recently diagnosed with diabetes and discovered that whilst waiting for a referral to a diabetes education programme, they received little or no information about what to eat. One patient reported that that were "eating enough to stay alive but eating very little" after being told they needed to lower their blood sugar (glucose) levels.
Dr McKinley and her team explored patient's lifestyle self-management of their diabetes and the opinions of health professionals. With type 2 diabetes being most common in older patients it was commonly reported that it was difficult "to break habits of a lifetime". This barrier to changing lifestyle is partnered with negative views of the 'new' diet, with it viewed as mundane and unappealing. An opinion that was echoed by health professionals:
"it's getting them to hear what you are saying rather than just honing on the 'life's not worth living any more' if they've gotta cut out X,Y and Z" - Dietitian
The research found that advice on physical activity was rarely focused on in the patients experience and highlights the need for health professionals working with patients with diabetes to make a conscious effort to help address this gap in their patient's knowledge.
Dr McKinley states "Patients with type 2 diabetes indicated that there was sometimes a delay between diagnosis and receiving advice about how to self-manage their diabetes. Not surprisingly, many patients felt that they were 'on their own' during this time with no idea what changes to make to their lifestyle or how to set about doing it. It is important that we try to fill this gap with easily accessible information that is specifically designed for people with type 2 diabetes."
With 2.9 million people in the UK diagnosed with diabetes (2) this research highlights the need for improved support between the point of diagnosis and the first visit with a professional for diabetes education. Easy to understand resources and support needs to be developed and made available to patients during this time in order to limit the feelings of isolation presently reported.
1. Booth AO, Lowis C, Dean M, Hunter SJ and McKinley MC. (2012) Diet and physical activity in the self-management of type 2 diabetes: Barriers and facilitators identified by patients and health professionals. Primary Health Care Research and Development doi:10.1017/S1463423612000412 (with an embargo of 00:01 UK time (GMT) on 1st November 2012)
2. Diabetes UK http://www.