1 In 20 Type 1 Diabetics Will Die from Low Blood Sugar?


How about this for a diabetes anniversary:

Last Friday I wake up feeling like celebrating my 17 years with type 1 diabetes but remember I have an endo visit the exact same day.  Ugh.  These always make me nervous.

I get online to put up the day’s post and learn about an ad the JDRF just put up that says 1 in 20 Type 1 Diabetics WILL die from low blood sugar.  If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know I keep my A1c rather low.  I feel like I have to after previous years of high A1c’s.  I don’t have a problem with lows (meaning I don’t get many severe ones) but that doesn’t mean a singular low event won’t be pivotal in changing everything.  It only takes one bad low.

At my endo visit my doctor shows me the CGM study graphs from when I spent four days, blindly on the CGM with the doctor’s office seeing and recording all my glucose data from those four days.  I couldn’t help but gulp when I noticed my bedtime number of 102 and my wake up number of 108 and a dip into the low blood sugar range in the middle of the night.  In the middle of the night, in other words when I’m asleep, vulnerable, unable to defend myself appropriately.  My doctor gently pointed this out just for my knowledge.  I will make it a point to go to sleep a tad higher than my feel good 80-100 range.  I will do my weekly 3am checks again.  I have slacked on them lately.  Then I talk to my doctor about my anxiety and he prescribes me something.  As I leave the office I can’t help but feel a little defeated.  I hear scary news, I see my blood sugars dipping at night without my knowledge nor consent, and I succumb to an anti anxiety drug all on the day I’m supposed to be saying “In your face, diabetes!”

And you know what?  I’m not even scared of lows.  Rarely.  I assume it’s because I’ve never gone unconscious from one so in that sense I’m very fortunate and spoiled.  About 5 or 6 times in the past 17 years have I ever needed help.   Though, I must fear lows to some extent because I don’t mess around with high carb meals or lots of sugar or anything that will cause me to give a massive amount of insulin, possibly resulting in a subsequent crashing low. It’s just my responsibility to myself as I see it. Just so you know I don’t feel anyone has to do this or should do this. If you want to eat pancakes with syrup, that’s your right. And if you cover them well then good on you. It’s just that I’ve found out the hard way that I avoid scary lows almost completely by avoiding high carb so I impose this on myself.  And it has kept me safe up until now.  I would actually venture to say that avoiding tons of carbs at one sitting is as life saving as much of the technology we seek to help us.  (By the way, I do know that growing children need plenty of carbs and balance from severe limitations.  If you have a child with diabetes, please know this isn’t speaking to you at all.)

So about the ad:

On one hand I’m kind of like, “Well…I do want people to know type 1 can kill me”. On the other hand I’m like, “How on earth can that statistic be accurate?” With some digging I came across the conclusion that it’s not perfectly accurate. It’s a lifetime risk, for one. If you’re concerned with the accuracy of it, read this post. It goes into the math of it.

To be honest, I do want the general public to understand that what I have could kill me rather easily and this ad, though quite dramatically, helps do that.  I’m secretly (or not so secretly), grateful for that.

I do want to say that fear gets us absolutely nowhere.  I would know.  I’m now starting an anti anxiety drug just to help me stop a cycle of fear fueled thoughts.  Thoughts that are sort of taking me over and ironically, not allowing me to take care of myself properly.  I will write more about this soon.

For now I want to remind us all that fear gets in our way, it impedes our actions, and our decision making skills.  It sucks joy out of life.  It escalates into paranoia if squeezed too tightly.  So I encourage all of us struggling with this news to take a deep breathe and remember that fear must be managed.  We can’t let it win.  We have to keep it in it’s place by focusing on what we have and what we want.  If we focus on being healthy we’ll focus on doing those things we need to do to be healthy.  If we focus on how a low blood sugar might kill us, we won’t be focusing on those actions which will keep us safe because fear will keep us distracted or immobilized.  I realize it’s a fine line because by being aware we can prevent things from happening.  The point is for us to try not to be so afraid.  To have a little faith.

We can do this, too.

3 thoughts on “1 In 20 Type 1 Diabetics Will Die from Low Blood Sugar?

  1. Stacey D.

    First, happy belated d-versary Sysy! Second, I’m like you and do not have a real fear of lows. It could be in part like you said, that I haven’t had any seizures or even passed out. In 30 years! But seeing the statistics in writing just makes it real. That the possibility is there. And it’s scary. Please don’t feel defeated. We deal with a lot. And sometimes we need just a little help which is no reflection that diabetes is winning!

  2. Ellen Sherman

    Excellent as always… Yes keeping tight control with less insulin enables you to have less frequent lows. I had one bad one and promised it was the last. I am a positive realist who looks to be totally aware of my odds, do what I can do, and then focus on positive thoughts. I think that the ad was a bold statement which probably was intented to bring awareness of the need for a cure… we have been given promises year after year that a cure was in the horizon… insulin as we know is not a cure and until we have one we need to realize that we must take extra care of ourselves why…because we are diabetic….however, we should not let our fears, our anxiety rob us from living and enjoying life. As with any obstacle we face it can be a roadblock or it can me a tool that promotes positive results through living a healther lifestyle. I remember as a little girl facing death and realizing I had the option of letting my life be taken from me or fighting back. I chose to fight back… I could have spent the rest of my life in fear and become a victim but I chose to take a more proactive, realistic attitude… From that moment on, it brought to me an awareness that was essential for me to survive….always being aware of situations and people who maybe dangerous, not allowing them or it to intimidate me or control me… Again, what happened to me fortunately will not happen to the average child growing up; mine was a rare, unfortunate circumstance that could have destroyed me, crippled me, or made me bitter, angry, depressed and victim for life. Instead, I chose to take the approach of regaining all that was taken from me, leaving me with tremendous gratitude, peace, and determination to face whatever may happen in life…hugs to you my dear friend…you are a invincible warrior who knows how to forge ahead in a positive direction always knowing you are not alone.

  3. Bob J.

    Not scared of low blood sugars? All I can say is BE SCARED! I have been a type 1 for 31 years. Up until two years ago, my lows have been consciously detectable. As soon as I felt one coming on, I’d extinguish it. I have always managed my blood sugars well. Two years ago I awakened one morning to discover my bedroom filled with strange people trying to make me do things I couldn’t comprehend. My wife awoke to discover me wanting to play with our dogs at 5am. When she tried talking to me, I was unresponsive. In awhile, I discovered that the people in my room were EMT’s. They loaded me into an ambulance and off to the ER I was taken and kept until my blood sugars were reasonable again. In November last year, I was watching a TV show while eating dinner alone in my living room. I lifted a fork full of food to my mouth and the next thing I was aware of was being loaded into an ambulance and on my way to the ER. I had a low blood sugar while eating and fortunately my son came into the room and saw I was completely incoherent. Now tonight, November 13th my b-day, I finished dinner (94 before dinner) and was eating my b-day dessert when my wife noticed me acting unusual. She determined I was out of it, experiencing another low blood sugar. She got me to take one glucose gel pack but then I passed out. I woke up to the room filled with EMT’s yet again. My blood sugar had inexplicable dropped from 94 before dinner to 35 after dinner. In each of these three low blood sugars, had someone not been there for me, I would have been a dead man.

    After 31 years of type 1, I can assure you that if you are a type 1, at some point you will have low blood sugars start taking you “out”. So, be scared, be VERY scared. I am.

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