Think healthy men don’t get diabetes? Think again!

May 8, 2014 9:30 am

Couch potatoes and old age are stereotypes for just one form of the disease. The other is just as life-threatening, health damaging and diagnosable in the physically fit. Steve Hassall, a 28 year old gym goer, explains living with diabetes and why you could have it too…

Concerns heard in the fitness world have echoed: “Can I eat too much protein?”, will I get muscular eating twenty chicken breasts and five sachets of rice?” and “eating baby food every hour will make me huge and lean, right?” The average worries of a young health freak… Gym gods needn’t worry about diseases like diabetes.

Actually, stop there. Male or female, young or old, herbivore or junk food junky, this serious disease can happen to even the most health-conscious person and must be controlled with daily care.

Subtle killer

533596_10151324170567642_397543794_nType 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease that occurs when the pancreas (a small gland behind the stomach) does not produce any insulin, a hormone necessary to regulate blood glucose levels. A high amount of glucose in the blood can cause serious damage to your organs, making it extremely important to inject insulin into your body every day.

According to Diabetes.org, type 1 diabetes affects 10% of all adults in the UK and more often than not it occurs under the age of 40.

Steve Hassall, a Men’s Health survival of the fittest achiever, lives with type 1 diabetes, a disease that he prefers to be addressed as ‘insulin dependent’. Instead of debating a flavour whey-protein, the 28-year-old prioritises checking his blood sugars four times a day, enabling him to dodge any late-night hospital trips.

Diagnosed at 15 years old, Steve is one of few who already had it in his family genetics, with his brother being identified a few years prior. “I’m lucky to be able to recognise the symptoms as I would have never have made a fuss to have myself checked.” He commented.

Unquenchable thirst, frequently passing urine and fatigue are the most common signs of the disease; worryingly similar to that of a water-guzzling gym-goer.

Suffering on-going problems, Steve visited the doctor to find his blood sugar levels had rocketed sky high.

In shock at hearing the news, he said: “It was frightening to be told I had a disease that could cause loss of limbs, loss of touch and cardio-vascular problems. It really hit me hard as I didn’t think it would ever happen to me, I became unstuck.”

Family and friends supported Steve through the moments he was, and continues to be stereotyped for living an unhealthy lifestyle: “I still get judged now for apparently having ‘bad’ nutritional habits. It really is infuriating.” He said.

Accepting that the disease cannot be cured, the football lover explains that he tries to lead his life as if his diabetes were everyday ‘normality.’

Lifestyle advice

Healthy eating and regular exercise has become a priority over choice for Steve as it helps to regulate his blood sugars. However, taking extra precautions has allowed him to have a well-balanced social life.

He comments: “I go out with friends and enjoy vodka and diet coke over pints of cider as it’s far less on my sugar levels.”

IMG_1357Steve added: “I still enjoy sweet things as I know a lot of information on carbohydrate counting and the amount I should inject for what I eat on occasions, which is usually a one off as I still have to find somewhere to discreetly inject my insulin. I am very careful to prevent myself from getting any internal damage.”

He also emphasises that it is important for diabetics to enjoy themselves from time to time and they “shouldn’t be terribly strict as they may end up going off the rails.”

The discipline and drive to live like an average man is reflected in his job role as a Crime Scene Investigator.

Expectations of his occupational doctor were exceeded when they warned him that his career choice would be stressful even for a non-diabetic, which he proudly labels as a personal achievement.

Aspirations are also something that fail to be dampened by the disease, as in 2013 alone he battled through a 10k trail blazer and ran a half marathon (a not-so-delicate 13 miles).

He comments: “There is a sense of pride and accomplishment completing tasks that I once thought weren’t do-able as a diabetic.” If that doesn’t inspire you to start reaching personal bests in the gym, (or run up the stairs like the scene off Rocky) there’s not much else that will.

Steve puts up with medical check- ups, boxes of insulin and doctors letters just to travel, yet he recently jetted off to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. “Anything could have happened but I prepared well,” he says, apart from breaking his arm and spending four days in hospital.

Proving his disease is nothing discipline can’t handle, he comments: “I don’t believe diabetes should be an obstacle in life,” adding: “The different types need to be clarified as it’s unfair on the ones not having the chance to prevent this condition.”

Visit your doctor if you recognise any of Steve’s symptoms, it may be the best health decision you make.

 

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