Continuous To mark the 30th anniversary of our inevitable good health section of our landmark series of pullouts, here are more inspiring stories and practical advice from our archives.
Today, the focus is on diabetes and what can be done to prevent and treat the condition, starting with this refreshingly down-to-earth interview with actor James Norton, star of War & Peace and the ITV drama Grantchester.
First published in 2019, he revealed that he had been living with type 1 diabetes since being diagnosed At 22 years old…
24 April 2019
James Norton stars as Andrei Bolkonsky in War and Peace, Tommy Lee Royce as terrifying villain in BBC 1’s Happy Valley, and banker-turned-gangster Alex Godman in McMafia. He has also been tipped as the next James Bond.
But behind the scenes, what viewers don’t see is how 33-year-old James, who plays crime-solving disorder Sydney Chambers in the ITV detective drama Grantchester, always has a glass of orange juice on the set of the film, Just in their case the blood sugar drops too low.
Or that if he’s doing a scene without his top, he’ll have a glucose monitor underneath that will be out of sight.
James Norton (portrayed with Paul Dano and Lily James) slays as Andrei Bolkonsky in War and Peace and the actor has type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune condition
James has type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune condition that affects around 300,000 people in the UK and is on the rise.
It occurs when the body’s defense system mistakenly attacks beta cells in the pancreas where the hormone insulin is produced (in contrast, type 2 diabetes is linked to poor diet and obesity).
Outwardly, type 1 is an invisible condition: people look healthy. But poorly controlled blood glucose (also known as blood sugar) can wreak havoc, damaging tissues — especially the small blood vessels in the eyes, kidneys and those that supply nerves in the hands and feet. .
Very low blood sugar can cause ‘hypos’ (hypoglycaemia), which is characterized by dizziness and shakiness. If not treated quickly – for example, with a sugary drink or glucose tablet – this can lead to drowsiness and confusion, fainting, or, rarely, seizures or coma.
James explains, ‘Being in a play is complicated because I can be on stage for an hour and a half.’
Discussion will save patients
by Roger Dobson
January 10, 2017
A British doctor has developed a hand-held buzzer that can reduce the number of ulcers and limb amputations in people with diabetes.
The device, the size and shape of a key fob, uses vibration technology (similar to that used in mobile phones) to test sensation in patients’ feet.
Early research suggests that it may provide an early warning of nerve damage, which, if left untreated, can lead to severe scarring and amputation.
A handheld buzzer can reduce the number of ulcers and limb amputations in people with diabetes (stock image)
Up to 50 percent of diabetic patients have some form of nerve damage, or diabetic neuropathy.
One of the first tests for this relies on a crude form of vibration technique – a tuning fork – to check a patient’s sensation.
The VibraTip was invented by Andrew Levy, Professor of Neuroendocrinology at the University of Bristol.
The doctor holds it twice on the patient’s skin, then randomly activates the vibration on the first or second touch and subsequently asks the patient if they felt the vibration on either of the two touches.
‘If it’s a period drama I’ll ask the costume designers to make a hidden pocket where I can keep some sugar pills. Then, if I start to feel shaky, I’ll improvise: I’ll spin upstairs, throw three dextrose pills in my mouth, and then move on with the scene.’
But if he now manages his situation well and with good grace, Jacob will be the first to accept his family’s example.
And, more recently, the latest diabetes technology – something he believes all people with type 1 diabetes should have access to.
‘Within our small nuclear family of four, it is completely normal to have type 1 diabetes; My father is the only one who doesn’t have it,’ explains James, who was brought up in North Yorkshire by his parents, Lavinia and Hugh, both teachers, and then studied at Cambridge and Rada.
‘My sister, Jesse, was diagnosed when she was nine. My mother was diagnosed when she was 58. Then when I was 22, I started experiencing similar symptoms. I was losing weight, urinating more often and feeling very tired.’
A blood test confirmed that he had type 1 diabetes.
James does not follow a special diet and has never cut down on sugar.
‘If I turn down pudding, it’s because I need to lose weight for a role, not because of my diabetes,’ he says. ‘I like chocolate, I like red wine.’
The real difference for James is a new continuous glucose monitor called the Dexcom G6, which looks like a small battery attached to a plaster and sends a continuous stream of data to his phone to see if his blood sugar level starts up. If it is happening then the alarm is going to go too high or too low.
It’s the only monitor that’s accurate enough that users don’t need to finger at all.
‘Since using Dexcom, I haven’t had a single hypo, and my blood glucose has dropped below 3.7.’ (The normal range is between four and six.)
James, who pays for his own glucose monitor (it costs around £160 a month), believes that everyone who would benefit should have access to the NHS.
‘The sooner this is made available to all Type 1s from an early age, the more manageable the condition,’ he says.
This means that people with diabetes can relax and live their lives without the constant burden of feeling isolated.
‘I want to be able to sing from the rooftops how great this technology is. But I am sad that not everyone on the NHS can have it.’
The big question of obesity: diet or genes…
by Sarah Ebner
16 July 1996
Pandemic is one that we are all at risk from, many of us without realizing it….