Driving with diabetes

11/20/2017  By ThirtyPercenter

November 20, 2017 

November is American Diabetes Month.

Have you shopped online lately?

Somewhere between the vendor and your front door, the odds are high that a truck was involved in your order delivery. Currently some 80% of cargo in America is transported by the trucking industry, four times as much as all other methods combined.

Trucking jobs come in all shapes and sizes, but even with mandatory rest periods it's not unusual for drivers to spend the majority of a 24-hour day behind the wheel. Trucking is hard work, yet little of it involves physical exercise. Combine that fact with the need to get from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible and you get many drivers who regularly neglect basic dietary needs without giving it a second thought.

It's a recipe for chronic illness, particularly diabetes. The country's most expensive illness, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S., and nearly 1 in 4 diabetics don't even know they have it.

"For public safety, it's important that truck drivers have their blood sugar under control," says Medical Assistant Pam Dick. "A level that's too high or too low while driving could lead to accidents."

Be prepared, and be aware. - Pam Dick

Also a Certified Diabetes Educator, Dick has known of the trucking-diabetes correlation for years. In her current role at KVH Workplace Health, Dick assists with Commercial Drivers License (CDL) exams, one of many services offered at the clinic. "It used to be that drivers couldn't hold a CDL if they were insulin dependent," she says. "In 2005, the laws changed and now insulin dependent drivers can hold the license once they receive an exemption from an endocrinologist (diabetes specialist)."

Of course, it's not truckers with diabetes who need to take precautions.

Imagine for a moment that you're one of the over 30 million Americans who do have the condition. Now picture yourself at work, performing your usual duties. It's a typical day, except that this morning you were in too big of a hurry to eat breakfast and your blood sugar is dangerously low. You experience more than just hunger - you're fatigued, unable to concentrate, you have trouble making decisions, you lose consciousness... While it's easy to see the danger this presents behind the wheel, uncontrolled blood sugar levels can wreak havoc in any situation.

"Whatever your work situation, be prepared, and be aware," advises Dick. "Consistently eat meals and snacks. Take your medications. Stay hydrated. Know your blood sugar. Follow your provider's advice, and don't hesitate to contact them if you have questions or think that something could be wrong."

Dick advises people with diabetes to work with their employers when accommodations are needed. For those who may have been injured on the job, "getting good advice from a trained occupational medicine provider is important when you have that underlying chronic disease." For diabetics who need help navigating the work week, such as those who work swing or night shifts with shifting eating patterns and sleep schedules, Dick recommends talking with a healthcare provider and certified diabetes educator (CDE).

"If you stop to consider how much time we all spend at work each week, tuning out your diabetes at work will have a significant impact on your overall health," she adds.

That's advice no one with diabetes can afford to ignore.

Managed by Kittitas Valley Healthcare, Thirty Percenters does not provide medical advice. For medical advice, please see your healthcare professional.

Related: Commercial Driving (American Diabetes Association)