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Dealing with the unexpected: Diabetes

At The Insurance Surgery, we understand navigating life insurance with a pre-existing condition like diabetes can be confusing. That’s why we’re partnering with Diabetes UK for the next three years. Together, we’ll be creating informative resources to empower people with diabetes to make informed decisions about life insurance. For this article, we’ve gathered some information about living with diabetes, from our own research and from the team at Diabetes UK.

Below we’ll break down the different types of diabetes and the basics of taking out life insurance.

Visit our partner’s Diabetes UK website for additional tips and resources, and let’s work together to find the right coverage plan for you.

Knowing the different types.

Type 1:

Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune condition in which the body attacks the insulin producing cells in the pancreas, inhibiting them from producing insulin. Only 8% of individuals with diabetes in the UK have type 1 and although it is often diagnosed in childhood, it can develop at any age. While the exact cause of type 1 diabetes remains unknown, certain genes have been linked to an increased risk. 

Symptoms of type 1 include frequent urination (going to the toilet for a wee more often), excessive thirst, fatigue where an individual may be feeling tired a lot of the time, and weight loss (or getting thinner). These symptoms are often dubbed the four Ts (Toilet, Thirsty, Tired, and Thinner). If you have any of these symptoms you should see your GP or seek other medical help straight away. A diagnosis of type 1 could involve discussing the symptoms with your GP, followed by a urine test to measure the presence of glucose and ketones. If the results of the urine test suggest diabetes, you will be referred to the hospital for further blood tests. Most diagnosis of type 1 happens in hospital clinics as people with suspected type 1 are referred to the endocrine specialists for confirmed diagnosis and commencement of treatment. 

Type 2:

Type 2 diabetes develops more gradually than type 1 and is most commonly diagnosed in individuals over the age of 40; however, it can develop in any age group. Type 2 diabetes can develop when the blood sugar levels become too high, often as a result of insulin resistance, preventing the sugar from entering the cells and being used efficiently as energy.

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes can be similar to type 1, but they often develop more gradually and may go unnoticed for longer. Diagnosis usually involves a discussion with your GP and blood and urine tests to confirm a diagnosis. A hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C) test will be done to get an average blood sugar reading and this will usually be followed by additional blood tests.

Borderline diabetes/prediabetes. 

Prediabetes is a condition where blood sugar levels rise above normal, putting you at increased risk of type 2 diabetes and, as a result, increasing your risk of complications such as heart disease and strokes. But the good news is, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. We spoke to a person living with a diagnosis of prediabetes to gain more insight. 

This case study examines a 59-year-old white British man with prediabetes. While he has no family history of diabetes, his BMI is 26.8 and has high blood pressure. His diet normally includes food such as Sunday roasts, spaghetti bolognese, fish and chips, and he gets minimal exercise. He doesn’t smoke.

In 2020, he was diagnosed with prediabetes. Following this diagnosis, his blood sugar has been monitored via yearly checkups with his GP to check if he has developed type 2 diabetes. Currently, he is not on medication related to prediabetes and has not received any prevention advice or education. 

Since finding out he has prediabetes, his goals are to improve his blood sugar and blood pressure through diet and exercise. Challenges include finding low-sugar options, but his family is supportive, helping him to make healthier choices at home.

Due to being aware of the long-term complications that can occur, should he develop type 2 diabetes, he is focusing on diet and exercise. Aside from the long-term medical complications that can occur, one of his biggest concerns is the potential impact a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes could have on his ability to afford travel insurance.

Practical tools and strategies.

After a diagnosis of diabetes you might find it helpful to get to know the equipment that you might need to help you manage the condition and put in place routines that work for you.

Some examples of equipment for type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

  • Blood glucose meter: This handheld device provides quick readings of your blood sugar levels at any time.
  • Lancets: These tiny needles, used with a finger prick device, prick your fingertip to draw a small amount of blood.
  • Finger prick device: This device houses a spring mechanism that assists the lancet in comfortably pricking your finger.
  • Test strips: These disposable strips absorb the blood drawn by the lancet and, when inserted into the meter, provide a blood sugar reading.
  • Insulin pens: These convenient devices can come prefilled with insulin and when needed, allow for precise injection of specific insulin doses directly into the body.

Common ways to manage type 1 diabetes.

  • Insulin pump: This wearable device attaches to the body and continuously releases small amounts of insulin throughout the day, and larger doses when eating, mimicking the natural production of insulin in the body. These come in two types, tethered and patch. The tethered pump can be carried with you and is attached to the body using a small tube and a cannula. The patch pump is attached directly to the body by a strong sticky pad and cannula, with no need for tubing. 
  • Blood Sugar Monitoring: Regularly monitoring blood sugar levels throughout the day is crucial to effective diabetes management. Key times to check include: before meals, after meals, before bed, and around exercise (before, during, and after for some people). By understanding patterns in your blood sugar levels you can make informed decisions about your diet and insulin administration.
  • Insulin administration: Everyone with type 1 and some people with other types of diabetes require insulin injections to manage their blood sugar levels. The specific type and frequency of insulin use depend on the individual and their diagnosis (type 1 or type 2 diabetes). There are two main types of insulin used in injections:
  • Basal insulin: This long-acting insulin is typically injected once or twice daily. It mimics the body’s natural background insulin release.
  • Bolus insulin: This short-acting insulin is injected before meals. The amount is calculated based on factors like current blood sugar level, the carbohydrate content of the meal, and individual needs.
  • Diet: For everyone living with diabetes, it’s important to keep a healthy balanced diet. Choose whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and lean protein for a well-rounded diet. Reduce intake of sugary drinks and processed foods to avoid blood sugar spikes. It is worth noting that sugary drinks can be used as a form of hypo treatment. To keep things balanced, people with type 1 count carbs and adjust insulin accordingly. 

To keep things balanced, people with type 1 count carbs and adjust insulin accordingly. Someone with type 1 diabetes is still able to eat all kinds of food; a healthy diet, including food from all the main food groups, is recommended for everyone.

Some individuals with type 2 diabetes don’t take any medications and can manage the condition with diet and exercise alone. Diabetes UK advises that those with a type 2 diabetes diagnosis should make healthier choices more often and only have treats occasionally and in small portions. Diabetes UK discusses in detail some meal options that you could consider.

If you are overweight and have type 2 diabetes, losing weight can have many benefits, including managing blood sugar levels and reducing cholesterol and blood pressure. Some individuals with type 2 may also be able to go into remission. 

Benefits of taking out life insurance.

After a diagnosis, securing life insurance for diabetes can be a thoughtful way to protect your loved ones financially. The payout they receive upon your passing can help cover expenses and ease the burden during a difficult time. While the specific plan you qualify for depends on your diabetes type and severity (often assessed through medical records or online questionnaires), don’t let this be a barrier. By exploring your options, you can gain peace of mind knowing your family is secure.

  • Type 1 diabetes life insurance – While there isn’t a specific life insurance plan for type 1 diabetes, you can likely be covered under a standard plan. Your provider will assess your individual situation to determine your premium. This typically involves discussing how long you’ve had diabetes for, how you keep your blood sugar levels under control, medication levels, and whether you have any other medical conditions. Based on this information, they’ll find a quote that best fits your needs and protects your loved ones financially.
  • Type 2 diabetes life insurance Just like with type 1, there’s no specific life insurance plan for type 2 diabetes. Instead, insurers will assess your individual risk to determine your premium. As with Type 1 diabetes, this will typically involve questions about how the condition affects you and your age, weight (BMI), smoking habits, date of diagnosis, and current medication level.

This article has hopefully equipped you with the basics of understanding the different types of diabetes and the practical tools you’ll need to manage it effectively.

A diabetes diagnosis can feel overwhelming and stressful; however, through learning about the condition, potential medications, and dietary adjustments, you can develop a routine which can help you manage your diabetes and reduce stress.

Remember, even with diabetes, you can still enjoy a fulfilling life. Don’t hesitate to explore life insurance options, as it can provide peace of mind knowing your loved ones are financially protected.

To speak with an adviser today, please call: 0800 083 2829.