Theresa May First World Leader With Type 1 Diabetes

In the aftermath of the recent Brexit vote — a referendum in which the United Kingdom (UK) opted to leave the European Union — British Prime Minister David Cameron announced his resignation, and the role was taken over by Home Secretary Theresa May. And while her name, politics, and duties may not be familiar to most Americans, readers of this site will recognize at least one aspect of her daily routine, as May was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2013.

At age 59, May has become the first major world leader with the condition. Initially misdiagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at age 56 after she began exhibiting symptoms such as drinking a lot, feeling tired, and losing weight, May was ultimately diagnosed with Type 1 in November 2012. She has since been involved in advocacy for the diabetes research foundation JDRF.


May is one of 3.5 million people (roughly 5.5% of the population) in the United Kingdom diagnosed with diabetes, about 400,000 of whom have Type 1, an autoimmune condition in which the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas are destroyed. In the United States, approximately 29 million people (roughly 9.1% of the population) have diabetes, about 1.25 million of whom are living with Type 1.

“It was a real shock and, yes, it took me a while to come to terms with it,” May told UK newspaper the Daily Mail. “The diabetes doesn’t affect how I do the job or what I do. It’s just a part of lifeā€¦so it’s a case of head down and getting on with it.”

“There’s a great quote from Steve Redgrave who was diagnosed with diabetes before he won his last Olympic gold medal,” May adds. “He said diabetes must learn to live with me rather than me live with diabetes. That’s the attitude.”

This blog entry was written by Senior Digital Editor Diane Fennell.