Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thoughts on Thanksgiving

Another holiday has come and gone.  Another day filled with family, laughter, nostalgia and…food.  I could write about what I did that was good, or bad.  I could feel remorse for something eaten that wasn’t in “my plan”.  I could beat my chest and crow about “good numbers”.  I could weep out of frustration because food has become so complicated.  But I won’t.

I won’t say that diabetes didn’t sit next to me at the table, but it was quiet for a change.  It’s not that I ignored my condition.  It’s not that I didn’t care to take care of myself.  It was just so much more important to enjoy the time with my family that was present.  It was good to reflect on something other than food.  I think it’s important for all of us to do that now and then.  We spend too much time worrying about what we’re eating and how much we’re moving.  It’s ok to have a holiday now and then.  I had a full week spent not following my usual routine.  Now it’s time to get back to it and I feel refreshed. I’m ready to move forward.  I hope you all have the same feeling.  

Happy Thanksgiving

Saturday, November 23, 2013

I’ve checked my blood sugar, now what?

As a follow up to my last post about how the establishment is beginning to spout more realistic guidelines for people with diabetes, I want to talk about blood sugar testing.  No one enjoys poking their fingers and bleeding.  No one.  However, just like watching what we eat and adding more regular exercise to our day, checking our blood sugar levels at different times of the day is an important step toward controlling our diabetes.

I wrote here about why I test and it pretty much covers it all.  I still fail to understand why people with diabetes don’t test!  Denial?  Fear?  Economics?  Part of the reason people with type 2 (who don’t use insulin) don’t test is because they aren’t encouraged by their healthcare team to do so.  Insurance companies (including Medicare) don’t generally allow T2s to have test strips.  Ludicrous!  This has to change.  Studies have shown that checking our blood sugar when we don’t use insulin doesn’t do any good.  Instead of just railing about that, I looked into the why of that statement.  The reason is because T2s often don’t do anything with the information they receive from testing.  If you test, and don’t make changes in what you’re eating or how much you’re exercising, then your blood sugar will likely not improve.  Your diabetes will likely progress much faster.
The important thing to remember when you’re dealing with a life with diabetes is that you do have some level of control.  Yes you do!  YOU control what you eat.  YOU control how much you move.  YOU are in charge!  Checking your blood sugar, and doing something with that information, is a basic tool for improving your health.  USE IT!

Here are some basic things to know about checking your blood sugar and what to do with the information.

·       Checking your fasting blood sugar every morning will give your healthcare provider valuable information about how your body is doing overnight. If your numbers are consistently high, then a change in medication might be in order. It will also give you information about how many carbs you can safely eat for breakfast.

·       Checking before and after certain meals will help you to understand how your body is handling those foods.  Check before your first bite and then again approx. 90 minutes after your first bite. “They” recommend checking 1-2 hours after eating.  Everyone is different and you need to determine for yourself when your peak sugar point is.  Mine is 90 minutes.  How do I know?  Because I took the time long ago to test at 1, 1.5 and 2 hours after a few meals.  Lots of pokes; worth the effort.

What should you do if your blood sugar rises too high?  You have several options: Stop eating that food, reduce your portions or tweak the meal, ie: add more protein and/or fat and reduce the carbs.

·       Want a snack?  If you check your blood sugar level before snacking you can avoid serious spikes.  Testing before snacking can help to guide you to a better food option.  Blood sugar high?  Drink water and munch on veggies/pickles/nuts.  Blood sugar lower?  Go ahead and have a few carbs if you want.

Do you have to test all the time?  Heck no.  I test, on average, three times per day.  I’ve been known to test 10 times in one day but that’s only when things are out of whack and I’m trying to regain some control.  I’ve also had many days when my fasting reading is the only one I do.

Now that you’re testing, be sure to write down your results.  You need a record of your results to share with your healthcare team and to remind you of what your body does in certain situations.  Personally, I have an Excel spreadsheet that I use, because I’m a geek.  Dates down the side, columns for fasting, breakfast/lunch/dinner, 1.5 hours after each meal and bedtime.  Again, I don’t use them all every day.  I also have a column for notes where I can explain something wonky.  “I was sick”.  “Today sucked.” “I don’t freakin care!!!!”  "Dang, I'm good!" Stuff like that.  You can use whatever works for you; paper and pencil, computer or even a fancy tracker app on your smart phone.  Whatever method you use, be sure there’s an option to print out/email/show your doctor.

That’s about it.  I cannot stress enough how important this is.  Testing can enable you to better control your diabetes.  Information is essential.  Don’t fly blind!  Also remember that it’s just a number; a number that can help you make informed decisions about your health.  It isn’t a judgment or a “test”.  It’s just a smart way for you to be in control.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The ship, she begins to turn

Most people who are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes don’t bother to do research to determine how best to control their condition, at least that’s my gut feeling.  My gut is backed up by what my healthcare provider tells me is the norm in her practice as well as what I hear in my support group meetings.  Too many people want to pop their pills or inject their insulin and continue eating whatever the hell they want to eat.  At that rate, we are doomed to see a lot of people develop severe complications from their diabetes.  However, there is some hope.

The American Diabetes Association recently released new nutrition guidelines for people with diabetes.  I wrote about these new guidelines here at Diabetic Connect.   As I said in that article, I find it encouraging that these guidelines no longer give a recommended carbohydrate level but instead tell us to focus on nutrient-dense foods, avoid consumption of processed foods and tell us to follow a diet that works for us.  That is refreshing.  Please note that I emphasized the word avoid.  My feeling is that we should avoid them like the plague, which I personally feel they are.

On top of these new guidelines, I’m pleased to see more research being brought to the public’s attention that tells us that saturated fat is not a demon and that eating it will not increase cholesterol as we’ve been told, oh these many decades.  Check out this article if you don’t believe me.
I often feel defeated and hopeless when I think about the fact that more people just don’t pay attention and take ownership of their diabetes.  I’m trying, damn hard, to feel more hope and these two facts that I discuss above are helping.  People will listen to the establishment and the establishment is beginning to change their tune.  I also feel that people need to hear about things that work from Joe Citizen and people who succeed because they take ownership.  I’ll keep on blogging with that in mind.  Just maybe, this ship is beginning to change course.