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stephen diabetes tech supports me to ride stronger than ever

Stephen – ‘Diabetes tech supports me to ride stronger than ever’

“I genuinely didn’t realise the significance of my diagnosis”, recalled Stephen. “I think my first reaction to being told I had diabetes was probably ‘no I haven’t’ or, even if I have, ‘I can get rid of it by riding my bike even harder’. But I was given a leaflet, told to take medication and to watch my food intake.” For quite a while, an early morning finger prick test became part and parcel of Stephen’s daily routine – and eventually a daily long-acting insulin injection. According to Diabetes UK, the number of people living with diabetes has now exceeded five million, and approximately 90% of diagnoses are type 2 diabetes [1]. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type and can develop when a person experiences high blood sugar levels due to their body not making enough of a hormone called insulin and/or insulin not working properly. Left untreated, high blood sugar levels, also known as glucose levels, can cause serious health problems called diabetes complications. On average, 7.3% of residents in the North East of England are currently living with the condition [2]. In June 2022, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published a set of updated guidelines making glucose sensors available to selected people with type 2 diabetes who are administering multiple daily injections of insulin [3]. This means that people living within Hereford and Worcestershire who are eligible, now have access to Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre system to help manage type 2 diabetes [4] . The FreeStyle Libre 2 system empowers people with actionable insights, giving them real-time access to their glucose levels on their smartphone [5], so they can make more informed health decisions, leading to an improved quality of life [6]. Things started to change for Stephen when he was hit by a car whilst out cycling in the Peak District. He flew over the roof and landed on the road, unconscious. When the paramedics arrived, they saw from Stephen’s medical ID wristband that he was someone living with diabetes and did a finger prick test in the ambulance to check his blood glucose levels – 6.9 mmol/L, or in other words, ‘absolutely fine’. But there was something playing on Stephen’s mind. He said: “I couldn’t work out why I hadn’t at least tried to take avoiding action when the car suddenly drove at me. Then I thought – ‘low blood sugar’. A few minutes before the crash, I’d eaten a fruit bar. But, when the accident happened, my glucose levels were probably at 4.0 – so had risen by the time the test was done. “Looking back, I think that if I’d had a FreeStyle Libre 2 sensor on my arm, the alarm [7] would have probably sounded, meaning I would have eaten earlier and possibly been more alert to the situation.” It was less than a year later when Stephen discovered the FreeStyle Libre system, through his career where he needed to regularly follow developments in health technology. So, in 2018, he began self-funding his use of the device. He said: “I would say that I only really started taking my condition seriously when I began using the FreeStyle Libre system – it was transformative.” Then, in May 2019, he suffered two heart attacks. “This made me redouble my efforts to monitor and manage my health”, said Stephen. “I’ve been riding regularly for 40 years. I ride to manage sugar levels and to avoid falling into the trap of my only exercise being a walk to the shops.” Since the heart attacks, Stephen has averaged over 100 miles a week. He completed the Cycling Weekly 5,000-mile challenge in 2021 and 2022 – and had only 20 days off his bike last year. Even the British weather is no match for Stephen, who cycles indoors when it’s too cold or wet. Stephen also believes the FreeStyle Libre 2 system has reignited his love for data. “I know my levels before, during and after my rides. I manage insulin, diet and effort based on my readings. I can reduce my glucose levels from 11.5 to 5.0 mmol/L in 40 minutes on the indoor trainer. I can also set alarms [7] to warn me if my levels are going too high or too low.” Stephen goes on to explain how, when he’s riding for three or four hours without a break, this alarm [7] feature can be life-saving. As he unfortunately found out, the period between feeling fine to being potentially unsafe is very short when you’re burning calories quickly. Stephen cites the FreeStyle Libre system’s ability to help with understanding what is happening inside the body and cause and effect as one of its main attributes. For example, “if I do/eat/take this, what does it do to my sugar levels/weight/resting pulse/heart rate variability?” “The sensor is essential – providing someone is motivated to use the technology to manage their condition, rather than just observe it”, said Stephen. He also emphasises the importance of having access to clinical support that can help the person address their personal circumstances, rather than take a generic approach. “As an older person who employs regular, serious exercise to improve physical and mental health – as well as a sense of self-worth – it is important that the apps and devices I use take account of my conditions rather than simply seeking to increase strength or improve personal bests”, adds Stephen. Stephen’s FreeStyle Libre 2 sensor is now provided to him via the NHS since he was put on rapid acting insulin around 18 months ago. And, while he admits that in cycling power and speed terms, most of his ‘bests’ are behind him, he believes his determination, focus and ability to ride are stronger than ever. Neil Harris, general manager for Abbott’s diabetes care business in the UK and Ireland, said: “Those living with type 1 diabetes have benefitted from Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre system for almost a decade, and it is good to see people with type 2 diabetes also enjoying the benefits of the technology to support their diabetes management, by giving them actionable insights so they can make informed decisions about food and lifestyle and other factors that impact glucose levels. “The FreeStyle Libre system is the most widely used CGM system worldwide [8] helping more than five million people living across more than 60 countries [9] to easily monitor their glucose levels [10]. We are committed to broadening access to sensing technology for the millions of people with diabetes who could benefit from taking back control.” To try the FreeStyle Libre 2 system for free, visit www.freestyle.abbott/uk-en/getting-started/sampling.html Disclaimer: The information provided is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. Please consult your healthcare professional about your diabetes management. Individual symptoms, situations and circumstances may vary. ADC-84780 (v1.0) 01/2024

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