A diagnosis of diabetes can be overwhelming, with all the do's and don'ts of how to change a lifetime of habits in order to get the condition under control. In order to provide assistance to those recently diagnosed with prediabetes or diabetes, we decided to interview our resident Dieticians, Anna Koszecz, and Dóra Lengyel about the patient journey. We started by asking them about the process, from the point of diagnosis onwards; our secondary goal was to highlight the role DiabTrend can play in Diabetes Management.
Introducing Anna Koszecz
Anna: I’m a registered dietitian and joined DiabTrend during the pandemic, I've been part of the team for a little more than a year now.
Previously I worked for 2 years on a project where we were teaching kids about cooking and healthy eating. I really liked working there but it ended when the pandemic started. Afterwards, I worked in a hospital for a short period of time, but I quickly realised that’s not for me.
I joined DiabTrend because I wanted to be a part of creating something useful together as a team. My brother is type 1 diabetic, so I know the struggles, it can feel like a full-time job sometimes. It just makes me happy when I see we can help others living a better and easier life with diabetes.
Introducing Dóra Lengyel
Dóra: I am a dietitian and have been working for DiabTrend for a year.
Previously I worked in hospitals and encountered a wide range of illnesses and gained experience in nutrition education.
I like to work for DiabTrend because the mobile app is really useful, and I am sure that it continuously evolves and provides more and more help to diabetics.
Can you walk us through the process, what can a newly diagnosed patient expect?
Medical professionals help freshly diagnosed diabetics to create a proper lifestyle and prevent further complications.
Newly diagnosed patients are admitted to their local diabetologist (a doctor who specialises in diabetic patients), where their therapy will be adjusted to their needs and lifestyle. (Their therapy will depend on whether they were diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, what are their current lifestyle and health conditions, whether they need insulin or not, do they have other risk factors, etc.)
After the doctor's appointment, it’s advisable to also see a dietitian, as lifestyle changes are probably needed to have a successful therapy. The dietitian can determine an individual's daily energy and carbohydrate needs and adjust their nutrition therapy to the insulin/medication the doctor prescribed previously. To have successful therapy, the dietitian then provides nutrition education as well.
Is type 2 diabetes entirely a preventable disease?
As type 2 diabetes has both modifiable (physical inactivity, obesity, diet) and non-modifiable (ethnicity, genetic predisposition, age) risk factors, we can’t say it’s entirely preventable.
But according to the UK Society for Diabetes, more than half of all cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed with the right choices. The most effective intervention is changing one's lifestyle; including weight loss (if necessary) and dietary modifications, and increasing physical activity.
We hear a lot about type 2 diabetes, but what about type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is when the body's immune system destroys insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas and leads to complete insulin deficiency. This affects about 0.3% of the worldwide population, making up about 10% of those with diabetes. Appr. 50% of the diagnoses are made before the age of 15.
Scientists are working on preventing this process but currently, we are unable to prevent type 1 diabetes.
Is it true that you can only get type 2 diabetes if you are overweight?
Being overweight is one of the most significant risk factors, but this doesn’t mean people who have average body weight can’t develop type 2 diabetes. Around 10-15% of those who have type 2 diabetes, have a healthy body weight.
Can type 2 diabetes be reversed?
Type 2 diabetes is developed over several years, starting with pre-diabetes (or borderline diabetes). If you discover you have pre-diabetes early enough, there is a good chance you can prevent or delay developing type 2 diabetes with lifestyle changes.
If you have already been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, it is more difficult but still possible to obtain a reversal through intensive lifestyle intervention. While the prevention of developing type 2 diabetes has around a 60% success rate among high-risk individuals, reversing type 2 diabetes has only a 10% rate of success and even less remained diabetes-free after several years.
From your experience, what are the biggest challenges people face?
When you are newly diagnosed with diabetes, one of the biggest challenges is to accept your condition. In the beginning, you have to learn a whole new language about diabetes and carb counting you haven't been aware of. To be honest, it can be very stressful in the beginning. However, one really useful tool is the Diabetes Plate Method which can help to ease into a new lifestyle while educating yourself on carbs counting.
You work with DiabTrend, how does it help people living with diabetes?
One of our primary goals is to keep our food database up-to-date so people can easily calculate their daily energy and carbohydrate intake. Currently, we are using a food database that meets the European Union standards and we are continuously expanding it based on our users' needs.
We also have educational cards within the app, and we have just released a new Recipe feature that helps individualising food logging even further.
One of the new features helps Diabetics with recipes, it's great, but do you have a Favorite Recipe?
Dóra: My life is busy, so I like quick recipes that are easy to make; of course, there are some in our app.
Anna: I love adding a twist to classic recipes and since I have a sweet tooth, my favourite one is the lentil banana muffin. You would never guess it has lentils in it! 😊