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Pharmacists and diabetes management

Your local community pharmacy plays a vital role in both identifying people at risk from diabetes, as well as helping to manage the condition, as Claire Muffett-Reece explains

If you’re living with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, it’s vital you keep in touch with your local community pharmacy for advice and support. They’re not just there to hand over your insulin or other diabetes related prescriptions – in fact, they offer a wealth of information and support to ensure you manage your condition, as well as helping prevent future complications. Put simply, they’re on-hand to educate, explain and make recommendations for you to live the healthiest life you can with your illness.

Spotting the signs

Did you know your local pharmacy team is trained to watch out for the early onset of diabetes? They are able to identify an individual who’s at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and can set to work on an action plan to help prevent the condition from occuring. Pharmacy teams can also help with guidance for those individuals who are yet to be diagnosed, referring you on to your GP for help. 

Nutritional advice

If you suffer from diabetes, leading a healthy lifestyle is key – however, watching what you eat is no easy feat, even for people without a chronic illness. That’s where your local pharmacy can help, offering key advice on nutrition that will keep your blood sugars at the correct level. This can be done in numerous ways, from simple diet dos and don’ts to help you lose weight, to snacks and foods – such as low-sugar jams and sugar-free mints – you can buy from your pharmacy and enjoy at home.

Keeping an eye on your intake of your carbohydrates is important, with your pharmacy team helping you realise what low-carb options are best to reduce blood glucose levels. Your portion sizes may also be discussed, with the team showing you the importance of the correct balance.

Exercise advice

Exercise and staying active is equally as important when it comes to managing diabetes, helping your body use insulin properly, while lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. It’ll also help you lose weight, meaning there’s no better time to start moving. However, start by visiting your community pharmacy to ask for advice on exercising as a diabetic. Looking at your medication history with the condition, they’ll be able to offer suggestions on the right types of exercise to enjoy.

You should also never feel ashamed to explain to the team if your budget doesn’t stretch to a gym membership or personal trainer! Your pharmacy will have tons of knowledge on free ways to keep fit, as well as NHS-approved apps that will see you leading a more active lifestyle in no time.

Clean living advice

Smoking adds to the risk of diabetes-related complications such as heart disease, strokes and issues with circulation – meaning it’s a definite no-no! Never fear, your pharmacy is on-hand with help to quit the habit, with products to try and in-house smoking cessation services to take advantage of. Alcohol intake is also something to monitor, as it alters your blood sugar level – not to mention the sugar in your tipple causing weight gain. Again, your pharmacy will advise on lower-sugar alternatives, as well as ensuring you follow government guidelines regarding the safe amount to consume each week.

Skincare advice

Diabetes can cause other complications, with the implications on your skin a factor to consider. Sufferers may find they develop a greater loss of fluid from their body due to high blood glucose, leading to dry and cracked skin as a result. Germs can then find their way into any cracks, causing infections, so it’s vital to take care of any problems at the first instance. That, topped with the increased risk of developing problems with your feet, means you should speak to your community pharmacy team about skincare and foot maintenance. They’ll be able to suggest the right creams, socks and balms to keep your skin in the best health it can be, while many also offer a foot check-up to help you tackle issues head on.

Monitoring diabetes

Home testing kits to monitor your blood glucose, which includes blood glucose meter, test strips and lancets, are all available from your local pharmacy. What’s more, you’ll find that many community pharmacies offer a diabetes screening service, looking at your HbA1c (haemoglobin A1c) and blood glucose levels to check they’re at a safe amount. They can then suggest the right lifestyle changes you can implement at home to help manage your condition, or reduce the risk of you even developing type 2 diabetes in the first place. And don’t be afraid of speaking to your pharmacy if you’re worried about administering insulin or monitoring your blood glucose at home. They’re trained to advise and help on all your diabetes medication – you can even ask questions about your medicine/s if you’re unsure whether your prescribed medication is working correctly for you.

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