This article was featured in the Evening Echo on Tuesday 17th January, 2012 as part of a double page spread on how to live with diabetes.
Helena Farrell is a self employed diabetes nurse specialist nurse based at Blackrock Hall Primary Care Centre in Cork. She used to work for the HSE.
After taking a career break, she was asked by a consultant doctor to establish a private nursing education service. ‘GP’s and consultants refer patients to me but usually, I see people with diabetes who want a bit of back up to the service they are already getting. I also see people who have just been diagnosed and have all sorts of changes to make and don’t know what to do’. In the last few years Helena has noticed a big increase in the number of pre-diabetes patients being referred to her. ‘These would be people falling between two stools in relation to their blood results. They may be at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes and come to me for advice on lifestyle changes’.
‘While people are aware of diet and the influence it has on health, they are still eating very big potiions and are very sedentary, not taking any exercise. Exercise is anything that is outside your daily routine. I would recommend 30 minutes of moderate activity every day. If you are walking, it should be a walk that gets to the point where you are slightly breathless. I would say anyone planning to embark on an exercise regime should be medically assessed’
Helena has seen an increase in the amount of children with Type 2 Diabetes. ‘This was something that you wouldn’t see before because Type 2 Diabetes was usually something that occured in the older generation or in the elderly. I’m also seeing a lot of young people in their twenties and thirties with Type 2 Diabetes’
‘A lot of it has to do with the stressful lifestyles they had during the Celtic Tiger years. I have noticed a lot of males coming in managerial positions. They have poor eating habits, eating a lot of convenience foods and not exercising. So it all comes back to lifestyle’
When a patient with diabetes comes to see Helena, she asks them to bring a family member with them so as to encourage healthy eating habits at home. ‘A diet for a diabetic is not different from what you or I should eat. I’d encourage parents to adopt healthy eating habits and encourage children to take up physicial activities. A lot of children these days are stuck in front of Playstation and X-Boxes instead of being outdoors and active like children used to be’
Helena carries out screening work in pharmacies and in the community. ‘Usually, I could screen 50 to 100 people in a day and would refer about 10% of them(to their doctor) About 3% to 4% of these would be diagnosed as diabetic.
‘These people would have had no idea that they are diabetic. It can be quite frightening for them. I would say that people who are pre-diabetic can prevent themselves from developing Type 2 diabetes. The cornerstone of treatment is diet and exercise’