Category Archives: Diabetes and Health

Turning Type One into Type None!

I have diabetes and at my age (no comment) many people erroneously assume I have type II (commonly called adult onset diabetes).  When I explain that I am Type I (originally known as juvenile diabetes) and have had the disease for 38 years I usually see raised eyebrows followed by

Wow! You don’t look diabetic! I mean, you’re thin and look so healthy!”old-40100_6401

Uh…Thanks?

I don’t take it as an insult, but this response is a reminder of how many misconceptions there are about both type I and type II diabetes. Type 2 affects about 90 percent of diabetics while Type 1 affects roughly 10 percent of all diabetics.

 According to the NIH

By age 18, approximately 1 in 300 people in the United States develop type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 is an autoimmune disease that destroys the insulin producing cells within the pancreas. Without injections of insulin, the Type 1 diabetic would not survive. Click here to see the difference between Type 1 and Type 2.

This summer I am completing internship requirements for my degree in communications.  Thanks to a good friend who just graduated from the program, I found a perfect internship at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s North Florida Chapter. I help a hard-working staff of three and a myriad of dedicated volunteers who raise money for research and community outreach. Nationally, the JDRF organization has been around since 1970.  The main mission is to fund research to improve the treatments of Type One diabetes (T1D) and hopefully find a cure – Turning Type One into Type None! jdrf

What does the JDRF do?

JDRF is the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. JDRF’s goal is to progressively remove the impact of T1D from people’s lives until we achieve a world without T1D. JDRF collaborates with a wide spectrum of partners and is the only organization with the scientific resources, policy influence, and a working plan to better treat, prevent, and eventually cure T1D.

JDRF’s highest priority remains funding research to deliver a cure for T1D and its complications. At the same time, JDRF is also focused on developing better treatments that will transform the way people with T1D treat the disease today, in order to help them live healthier lives now and in the future. Finally, JDRF also seeks to prevent T1D, to keep future generations from developing the disease.hero-research-male-scientist

This is all part of JDRF’s promise of “less until none”: to progressively remove the impact of T1D from the lives of those living with the disease until it is no longer a threat to them or their families.

Currently, JDRF is funding more than 50 human clinical trials, several of which are in the advanced stages of clinical testing needed before FDA approvals can be sought.

JDRF’s influence and leadership extends beyond funding research. We strategically partner with industry, governments, foundations, academia, healthcare insurers, and clinicians to ensure that JDRF and its partners are aligned and working toward a common goal of a world without T1D.

The North Florida Chapter – The Coolest place to work!

Our local chapter of JDRF covers an area encompassing 36 counties.  We have large and small fund-raising events throughout the year.  The most well-known events include our annual walk, the Gala, and bike ride.  However, events occur all year so anyone can get involved in helping  create a cure for T1D.

Our North Florida office is located at:11750685_10155802775440223_2523091286320753442_n

Pam, Candace, Board President Greg Carroll, Brooks Biagini They're not short - he's really tall!
Pam, Candace, Board President, Greg Carroll, Brooks Biagini
They’re not short – he’s really tall!

9700 Philips Highway, Suite 106, Jacksonville, FL 32256

(phone) 904.739.2101

(fax) 904.739.2693

northflorida@jdrf.org

I had the honor of speaking briefly about my lifelong relationship with JDRF at our last board meeting. It was my first opportunity to meet members of the board and express my thanks to them personally for the hard work and long hours they volunteer to JDRF.  This is an amazing group of people from our community who work tirelessly to support our mission to end T1D.  And I’m so very lucky to work with three amazing people, Brooks Biagini (Executive Director), Pam Williams (Outreach Coordinator), and Candace Monroe (Development Manager).  These three are the driving force behind the Northern Florida Chapter’s continued success. I am amazed every day at their dedication and commitment to funding a cure for T1D.

Ways to become involved

No matter what time or resources you have, there’s something you can do to help any chapter of JDRF.  Volunteers are needed for a large variety of tasks.  People help in the office, work within the community supporting various events, raise funds, help plan and promote events, offer professional services free of charge, and much more. From a few minutes to a few hours, there’s always ways you can help keep the mission going.

Like to shop?

You can purchase fantastic greeting cards and 20% of the cost goes to the JDRF. visit the merchandising site for other opportunities to help the JDRF through your normal purchases.

Attend an event

One of the best ways to help without the commitment of a regular block of time is to attend one of JDRF’s fantastic events.  For those that enjoy socializing and physical activity JDRF’s One Walk and Ride to Cure bike rides offer the perfect combination of both.   

Do you like a fancy soiree? Attend the annual Gala for a night of cocktails, dinner, dancing, and live auctions and silent auctions. This year’s theme is “One Night in Paris”.  

SaveTheDatejpeg

This year we’ll be at Sawgrass Marriott in Ponte Vedra Beach on October 10th from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.  Individual tickets are available, but you’ll get a great bang for your buck if you and friends pool your resources and get a table of ten.  Businesses can become corporate sponsors and have the benefit of advertising in the program.  People and businesses can donate items or services, for the auction.  Big or small, the proceeds all go to fund research into treating and curing T1D.

Over 400 people will attend so there a lot of people with varied interests and budgets.  Help make this a great night for raising funds to support our research.

A few Donation Ideas for North Florida’s Gala, “One Night in Paris”

  • any items that can be included in a gift basket – we’ll build it for you!
  • Products, services, or retail items
  • Frequent Flyer Miles
  • art
  • gift baskets
  • vacation time shares
  • gift cards
  • a check for any amount
  • Anything you think people might like to bid on! There’s no gift too small.

Call Candace Monroe for details or if you need us to pickup an item. 904.739.2101 

What JDRF can do for a community

Our outreach programs are for those with T1D and their families.  Educational programs, support for newly diagnosed diabetics, social events for adults with T1D, children and family events, and advocacy on behalf of people living with T1D are just part of what we do. JDRF works hard to create a supportive environment for anyone affected by T1D.  Many parents feel overwhelmed when their child is diagnosed and  JDRF offers education, tools, support, and connection to others experiencing the same issues.

Being on the forefront of new technology and medical innovation, the JDRF is a go to source for any questions regarding T1D. I encourage people to spread the word about the great work this organization does. If you’re affected by T1D or know someone who is, consider volunteering or giving a donation of any amount to your local chapter.

Having lived with diabetes for 38 years, it is my goal to see a day where T1D is a thing of the past.  If you contact my office….tell them Bowen sent you and Help Make Type One, Type None!

berry college

Dude! Are You Wearing a Pager?

I always get a kick out of someone staring at the contraption on my belt for a few minutes before finally bursting out, “Um….Is that a pager?”  Of course they have to be old enough to remember the pager craze.  At its height,  in 1994, over 61 million pagers were in use; but I digress. ..1359146916_beeper

The blue plastic device on my belt does look remarkably like a pager, but is, in fact, an insulin pump.  15 years ago, its predecessor started me on the road to better control of my Type 1 diabetes. I’m on my fourth pump now and doing extremely well thanks to this remarkable bit of technology.

In 1999 I began my love affair with “Old Blue”. insulin_pump_medtronic

At that time, I had been a diabetic for 22 years.  When I started pump therapy, I was taking four shots a day in an attempt to achieve tight control of my blood sugars.  Even with this regime, I had issues with my morning blood sugar levels being high.             SyringeCorePage

 

What made me want to change…

With shots, your diet is regimented and set in a strict time frame. Injections and food must be timed and spaced throughout the day.  The balancing act between food and insulin has little flexibility if you want to maintain good control

Life became all about my food schedule.  It also became a life of no spontaneous eating.  “Hey!  Want a cookie!” No thanks. “Look!  I have some grapes and crackers to share.” No thanks.  And don’t get me started about the holidays; they were never very fun. A table full of food and I had to worry about figuring out “exchanges” on my diabetic diet list.

My sister-in-law watched me one Christmas as I struggled to manage the balance between my shots and eating. “How much would it cost to get you on an insulin pump?”  I told her insurance would cover everything but $2000 and I had saved up half of that.  The next day she handed me a check and said, “Go get your pump.  Your brother and I never realized how difficult this is for you; it just isn’t acceptable!”

Choosing a pump

I had done my research and decided on a MiniMed pump.  The pump is manufactured by  Medtronix.  They were the first company to create a commercial pump back in the 80s. There are now many companies to choose from, (click here for comparison charts) but MiniMed has been the right choice for me.  They make an excellent product, have a 24 hour hotline and stand behind their product .  I found a doctor on their website that worked with my insurance and made the appointment.  I was elated and scared at the same time.

backpack
in 1963, the first pump prototype was a behemoth!

The Doctor Wants to Know….

The first question the doctor asked was, “Why do you want the pump?” I thought for a few moments and replied, “I can’t get my night-time blood sugars in control and someone told me that the pump uses insulin in a steady way that keeps you in tighter control”  She looked at me and said

Good answer.  If you would have said, “So I don’t have to take shots’, that’s not a good enough reason. This isn’t a fix all and you still need to control the disease yourself.  This pump makes that much easier and gives you a lot more flexibility in eating and exercising.

A pump educator from Minimed spent the morning with me at the doctor’s office.  We went over a great deal of information about the pump and she answered every question I could think of. She was a pump wearer herself and had lots of practical advice and some funny stories about mishaps she experienced. No, the pump isn’t foolproof. The one on one tutorial from a fellow diabetic was invaluable in making me feel comfortable about my decision to switch to the pump.

The first set was setting the basal rate.  This automatic program is continually giving a minute doses of insulin.  There are settings for multiple basal rates as people may need different rates throughout the day.  Like the pancreas in a non-diabetic, the basal rate provides insulin in between meals in order to maintain a more stable blood sugar level. Later in the afternoon, I was hooked up  to the pump via the infusion set and gave my first bolus dose before lunch.

Boluses are similar to an injection before eating, but hooked up to the pump you don’t have to stick yourself.  The amount is manually set and the pump administers it within a few minutes. A half hour  later I ate lunch and then waited two hours to check my sugar levels. All went well and I was cleared to go home.

 So does it do everything automatically?

No. You are still in control and have to actively monitor your health  when wearing a pump.  But the pump does many thing, sometimes thousands of things a day, that eases the burden of constantly thinking about your diabetes.  The pump has an incredible mini-computer on board that you program with your specific needs.  For example; I may need one unit of insulin for 15 grams of carbohydrates, where someone else may need 2 or 2 ½ units.  With the doctor and educator, you get your personal settings put into the computer.  Getting these settings tuned in takes time and patience.  This initial phase is, perhaps, the most difficult part of getting used to pump therapy.

Diabetics on a pump count only fast acting carbohydrates (carbs) within a meal.  In the past, this meant memorizing a lot or looking things up in meal books for the counts. With  smart phone technology, you can get menus put on your phone so you can look things up whenever you need to. You still have to judge your meal accurately and tell the pump who many carbs you will be eating.

The pump holds about a three-day supply of insulin depending on personal settings and food intake.  Every two to three days, the infusion site must be changed. This is simple to do and no more painful than an injection.

Regular-Insulin-Pump

 Is it safe?

Pumps have a long track record of proven safety.  As with any device, knowing the proper usage and following the doctor’s instructions will eliminate many problems and give you excellent control.

The new generation pumps have built-in safety features. The menu  screen lets you see how much insulin is left, the battery level, when the last time insulin was given, how much insulin is left and any problems the pump may have detected during its self-diagnostic phase. Alarms alert you when action is needed or a malfunction is detected.

The newest innovation from Minimed is the continuous glucose monitoring system.  This unit is worn in conjunction with the pump and continually monitors blood glucose levels and alerts the pumps if the levels fall outside of preset ranges.  It’s the first step towards a fully functioning artificial pancreas.

The benefits

There is a great deal of flexibility with insulin pumps.  You decide when and what you will eat.  The pump does most of the dosage calculating for you.  The on-board computer knows your personal needs and as long as you tell it the carbohydrates you’re eating and your blood sugar levels, it will know how much insulin you need.  Deciding on an extra snack or skipping a meal till later can easily be accommodated.  The  many adjustments and options on the pump allow you to personalize and change your routine whenever  needed.

With the continual infusion of insulin and the flexibility of dosing, the blood sugar’s highs and lows can be lessened substantially.   In the long run, tighter control means better health and less side effects from diabetes.

Sounds great!  Why isn’t everyone on a pump?

The technology is amazing but  it requires time and patience to learn how to use the device; the pump is only as accurate as the operator.  Pumps require the same vigilance as injecting insulin with syringes.  While there is a great deal more flexibility and freedom with the pump, it’s not for everyone.  Patient education, medical supervision, and product support make for a successful combination in pump therapy.

On a pump, one must test their blood sugar regularly and pay attention to their carbohydrate intake.  Since the pump is not automatic, the user needs to take charge of the device and not rely on it to do all the work.  Care must be given to the injection site as  Discomfort and infection can occur.

Pumps  and their supplies are expensive and those without insurance may not be able to afford them.  Pump companies will help patients estimate initial set up costs as well as monthly maintenance expenses.

Something to think about

Pump therapy can be a life changing experience for diabetics who must take insulin.  I encourage everyone to talk with their health care professional, seek advice from fellow diabetics and do your homework on the pump and options that will work best for you.  Once you’ve learned how to use the pump, you’ll enjoy the flexibility and many benefits of accurately controlling your sugar levels.

People who use a pump for managing their diabetes

 

 

 

Does this come in XXL?

 Americans are getting fatter each and every year and they just don’t seem to care.  Even with dire warnings about health issues, shortened life expectancy, and a diabetic epidemic in full swing, people are getting fatter every year.

 Not just fat, but medically obese; and that concerns health care professionals immensely.  Currently 68 percent of adults are overweight. Of this group almost 35 percent are obese. Obesity is defined as 20 percent or more over ideal body weight.

Overeating may not affect someone today, tomorrow or next year, but over time most obese people will suffer the consequences of that extra weight. The more obvious concerns are conditions such as:

  • Heart disease and stroke    pinch an inch
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Certain forms of cancer
  • High blood pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Kidney disease

 

Physicians are so concerned with obesity that during the June 2013 annual convention of the American Medical Association (AMA) they voted to call it a disease.  While the AMA holds no legal authority, recognizing obesity as a disease sets a precedent for future treatments and possible insurance coverage of those treatments. “Obesity is a complex, multifactorial chronic disease that develops from an interaction of genotype and the environment,” according to an evidence report on the CDC’s website.

As powerful as these arguments are, Americans keep packing on the pounds. A look into the various aspects of why we overeat may help explain the trend in weight gain and the difficulty in reversing it.

The understanding of why obesity develops is far from complete.  Factors such as social and cultural behavior, economics, physiological and genetic factors can help explain the phenomenon. Looking at the connections between these factors may give a broader, yet more thorough understanding of the epidemic America seems to ignore.

Fast Food Culturefast food

Fast food restaurants have a huge influence on diet; and they know what they’re doing.  This food is cheap and plentiful across America. Low nutrition foods on the menu include high amounts of salt, fat, and sugar. Our bodies crave these high caloric foods because of physiology. Our nomadic ancestors were hard-wired to eat and store high calorie foods whenever possible because they were rarely found.

Super sizing in America has helped tip the scales towards obesity.  Some say David Wallerstein started the concept in the early 1960s.  He was the owner of a chain of movie theaters in the Midwest. Wallerstein wanted to boost popcorn sales.  He’s tried matinee pricing and two-for-one specials to no avail.  One night the answer came to him and the Jumbo-sized popcorn box was invented.  Sales soared and so did another high margin item, soda.

A decade later, Wallerstein was serving on the board at McDonald’s when the chain was confronted with a similar problem. People were purchasing a hamburger, fries and a drink and leaving.  How could they get the customer to buy more?  Wallerstein suggested bigger bags of fries.  When it was pointed out that the customer could simply buy two bags of the smaller fries Wallerstein is reputed to have said, “They don’t want to eat two bags-they don’t want to look like a glutton.” This “super sizing” is an economic boon for fast food companies and a strain on the belt line of Americans.

When the biggest jump in Americans weight occurred in the 1980s, sizes for single servings of food also increased.  Even in cook books, a recipe that served 10 people suddenly served only six. People are relying on an external cue of a serving versus how they feel when they eat the food. 

 

Social behavior

Most everyone has a favorite recipe, holiday dish, traditional feast, or an obsession about some type of food.  Every culture around the world comes together to feast on special occasions.  Ethnicity, economics, sex, age and education influence eating habits.

  • Non-Hispanic blacks have the highest age-adjusted rates of obesity (47.8%) followed by Hispanics (42.5%), non-Hispanic whites (32.6%), and non-Hispanic Asians (10.8%)
  • Obesity is higher among middle age adults, 40-59 years old (39.5%) than among younger adults, age 20-39 (30.3%) or adults over 60 or above (35.4%) adults.
  • Among non-Hispanic black and Mexican-American men, those with higher incomes are more likely to be obese than those with low-income.
  • Higher income women are less likely to be obese than low-income women.
  • There is no significant relationship between obesity and education among men. Among women, however, there is a trend—those with college degrees are less likely to be obese compared with less educated women.

Tech-besityThe repercussions of a more sedentary lifestyle due to computer use must be considered. Digital Natives, those born 1980s and later, have grown up with the internet and cell phones as part of their lives.  Video games have all but replaced playground activities. Only 1 in 4 children, aged 12 to 15, meet the recommended hour or more of rigorous exercise daily, according to a 2012 National Youth Fitness Survey.

Economics

Poverty areas of communities are often called “food deserts” because of lack of access to fresh food.  Counties in the U.S. with the highest rates of poverty also have the highest rates of diabetes according to the information from the American Diabetes Association.

fat graph

The link between obesity, inactivity and poverty maybe too expensive to ignore. Associated chronic diseases account for 70 percent of the U.S. Health costs.

Americans aren’t the only ones getting fat.  In Asia, Africa and South America obesity is on the rise.  It seems that those living above the poverty level are gaining weight most rapidly in impoverished countries.  While being fat is seen as better than starving, it is possible to be overweight and malnourished at the same time. “People on modest incomes suddenly fine, cheap, calorie-packed diets within their grasp and make the most of it…” according to “Globesity”, a book about the international problems of weight gain.

Physiology and genetics

 In a University of Chicago-led study, researchers discovered  what appears to be the functional obesity gene, named IRX3.

In a University of Chicago-led study, researchers discovered
what appears to be the functional obesity gene, named IRX3.

Yes, scientist have found genes that can make people store fat.  The old gene studies put the blame on a gene known as FTO.  Just recently another gene, the IRX3, was found to be a distant, but connected gene to fat retention. However, overweight individuals can’t blame it on their growing girth. There’s news from a new study published by the Public Library Of Science, titled, “Physical Activity Attenuates the Influence of FTO Variants on Obesity Risk”

The study found the effect of this gene on weight gain is very small; about two pounds. Further, the study found that at least one hour of moderate to vigorous activity per week reduces the effects of the “fat gene” by a third. As the study notes the research, “demonstrates that a genetic susceptibility to obesity is modifiable by lifestyle choices…We can’t control our genes, but we can control what we eat and how much we exercise.”

So where do we go from here?

It’s clear that many people are getting comfortable with getting larger.  Americans cheer for positive self-image and personal acceptance while simultaneously buying magazines that photo-shop cover models into ultra-thin images of unrealistic perfection.  We complain about Airline seats getting smaller while asking for an extension for the seat-belts. Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, characterized the threat as follows

Because of the increasing rates of obesity, unhealthy eating habits and physical inactivity, we may see the first generation that will be less healthy and have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

There are positive changes in the air

The Slow Food Movement (click to see website)                     Snail Of Approval

What’s it all about?  Taking time to eat good, healthy food

Slow Food USA seeks to create dramatic and lasting change in the food system. We reconnect Americans with the people, traditions, plants, animals, fertile soils and waters that produce our food. We seek to inspire a transformation in food policy, production practices and market forces so that they ensure equity, sustainability and pleasure in the food we eat.

Hopefully, we will realize that our health is the most important asset we have. No fad diet, special herb, amazing pill, or quick fix workout machine will replace the amazing effects of a lifetime of healthy eating and a physical active lifestyle.

family exercise

Dealing With Diabetes

 

michael

Curly white hair and a beard surround a set of merry blue eyes that twinkle with mischief. With a slap of the knee and a hearty belly laugh, everyone is greeted with a smile and a
warm embrace.  For a moment I am returned to early childhood. “Wow! You look like Santa!” I say as we shake hands. The bespectacled man grins, and with a wag of the head says, “That’s not the first time today, but no, my name is Michael”

While Michael has the same jovial personality as old St. Nick, he’s had significant challenges with his health. Michael is one of millions of Americans living with Type II diabetes.  He’s had some struggles and a few scares, but he’s managing the disease with medications, diet, and a positive attitude.

Day to-day, Michael Whitehead is a 51 year-old accountant who gets a laugh when he sees people’s expression of disbelief about his last name. “They always say, ‘really? No way!’ and I tell them it’s the honest truth but I didn’t start out matching my name so well.” As he sits down he offers, “I gotta tell you straight up, I don’t have much time to exercise!”

While he may not exercise with any regularity, Michael is constantly on the go.  He and his partner, Bill, own an accounting business that keeps them hard at work. Tax season is especially busy, requiring months of long hours and exhausting mental work.  Arriving early in the morning, working up until noon before grabbing a quick lunch and continuing the work late into the evening takes its toll.

mike and bill coffee

Usually dinner is eaten out before going home and collapsing into bed. “Who has time to cook?” Michael asks, “Free time comes later. We have deadlines to meet, papers to file, questions to answer, computers to update…the list goes on and on.” Michael’s health also seemed to take a backseat for many years. He admitted he’s not really surprised he’s diabetic.

Michael’s paternal aunt and uncle had diabetes and as did his maternal grandmother.  In addition heart disease and cancer run through the family. “My mother, father, one brother, and a sister have all had various forms of cancer.  We’re a happy family, but not exactly a healthy one!”

Michael also shared:

I had all the typical preconditions of diabetes.  I have been overweight most of my life, lead a sedentary life and have a family history of type II diabetes. I am asthmatic and have high blood pressure. Oh, and I’m also a stress eater.

Michael is the fourth youngest of five siblings. By the time he came along his mother was tired of cooking and the family was better off financially so eating out became routine.  “Living in California meant we had tons of restaurant options so we ate out a lot. It was mainly fast food, and we had a steady supply of pizzas, hamburgers and fries.”

Michael was 36 when he was diagnosed with diabetes in 1998.  A trip to the doctor because he wasn’t feeling well revealed an astronomically high blood sugar. His doctor said it was a miracle he had been able to walk into the office.

diabetes-symptoms
Symptoms of Diabetes

Michael was immediately sent to the hospital for treatment.  They began a double dose of the drug Actos and had him down to a stable blood sugar in about a week. “I was basically left alone after that with admonishment to lose weight, eat right, and exercise,” Michael said with a sigh and a shake of the head.

It wasn’t until 2008 that Michael became aware of potential side effects of high doses of Actos. By now he had been on it for nine years.  Doctors lowered the dosage of Actos and the drug Metformin was added.

In 2010 trouble set in again.  “I started experiencing really blurry vision and felt odd,” recalls Michael. “I was off to the hospital again where they had to give me two shots of insulin to get my blood sugar down.”  He was sent to a new endocrinologist after being released. Like all the other doctors, he was adamant about the weight problem.” This time the drug Byetta was added.

Finding the right combination of medicine can be an adventure in trial and error.  Michael is a perfect example of the many individuals who take multiple medications to control blood sugars.

many pills

Medications were only going to do so much for maintaining the disease. Many of the doctors Michael visited gave the same advice on diet and exercise, but didn’t seem concerned about getting him motivated or educated about managing his disease. Fortunately for Michael the new doctor sent him for a three day intensive workshop with a certified nutritionist.

 

“We all think we know what’s right to eat, and in some vague sense we do, but I love to eat and always have; it’s a hard habit to break.  It’s the easiest thing in the world to say I’ll eat better tomorrow, or next week, or next month.” Finally sent along the right path, Michael’s health saw dramatic improvement.

how-to-serve-up-a-balanced-meal

While taking the nutrition class Michael began to understand that diet was as important to a diabetic as taking medicine.  Carbohydrate counting, meal planning, and food combining were explained in detail.  “Even with all this help it seemed a bit overwhelming. I mean, who can keep track of all that!”  His health scare made him determined to learn as much as he could about managing his diabetes.

The nutritionist grabbed Michael’s attention with these magic words:

For those of you that are tech savvy, we have apps for your smartphones. With them you can track what you eat, download lists of carbohydrates from most chain restaurants, learn portion sizes, and calculate carbs for foods you eat at home.

Michael explained his excitement, “I am an App freak.  I have a bowling app that I use when I’m in league to help me keep track of what I’m doing.  I’m an accountant by profession so numbers I understand! This was going to be a new game for me.  I love keeping track of stuff!”

Before Apps Michael loved old hand held games!
Before Apps Michael loved old hand-held games!

Within 23 months Michael dropped from 275 pounds to 225.  His blood tests that determine a three-month average of blood sugars, called a hemoglobin A1C, dropped to healthy levels. His energy levels rose, and he began to feel great.

When Michael went to the class, his partner Bill attended as well.  “We’re constantly together, so we eat at the same time.  I am always pulling out my phone to check carbs and portion sizes so Bill has lost weight along with me.”

stomach pic

When friends and family understand it’s all about controlling the disease and staying healthy, they become your cheerleaders. Michael admits having his partner aware of how he should eat is a big help. “Having constant back up and a voice of concern from someone who cares is a major motivator for me. Well, MOST of the time anyway!”  But like life, sticking to a diet has its ups and downs.

“I’m still a work in progress,” admits Michael. “Being a stress eater has its challenges.” Currently Michael has regained about 15 pounds and his A1C is up some. “Yep….tax season is getting me again. Once it calms down and we get into summer I’m sure I’ll shed some of those pounds.”

Michael checked his watch and realized his lunch break was over. With a hand shake and a nod, Michael got up to leave.  It was time for him to get back to work on those taxes. Driving off in his red Honda, he rolled down the window and yelled as he rolled out of sight, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Santa-Claus-Cartoon-HD

Diabetic Dilemma

An assignment for Print story.   

This is distilled in my concise writing blog, Basically in a Nutshell and Make it Quick!

Part one in a series on type two diabetes

Grandma Tucker lived to 75, but the last ten years on dialysis were extremely difficult. Before her kidneys failed, other complications had set in. Blindness, foot amputation, and several small strokes had severely diminished the quality of her life. Her relatives said after her diagnosis 20 years ago Grandma Tucker refused to change her ways just because she had “a little of the diabetes”.

Diabetes is traditionally seen as an “old age” ailment that is nothing serious to worry about. The truth is adult diabetics in the United States have more than tripled from 493,000 in 1980 to over 1.5 million in 2011. In fact, it’s the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. and is considered an epidemic across the nation. Diabetes has more deaths than breast cancer and AIDS combined according to ABC News chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser.

 

Total (inc. Survivors)

Diagnosed / Year

Deaths / Year

 
Diabetes

104,800,000

1,900,000

231,404

Breast Cancer

2,900,000

200,000

40,000

AIDS

1,148,200

32,000

15,000

There is also an alarming increase of type two diabetes in people under twenty. More than 20,000 adolescents and teens in the United States now have Type 2 diabetes compared with almost none 20 years ago.  Diagnoses of the disease among young people could climb 400 percent by 2050. One out of every three children born after 2000 in the United States will be directly affected by diabetes according to the federal estimates.

.

In the Unites States more than 20-percent of obese adults are diabetics, compared to 7 percent of non-obese adults,” states the Well-being Index published by Gallup-Healtlthways.  The data points to the upward trends in obesity rates playing a substantive role in the increase in diabetes rates. “Obesity is the biggest risk factor that’s changeable and we haven’t been able to tackle the obesity,” said Dr. Besser.

The obesity rate in Florida is on track to hit close to 59-percent by 2030.  That’s more than double the almost 27 percent it is today, as reported in the Orlando Sentinel. Floridians are increasingly feeling the effects of diabetes …many may have diabetes and not know it. “Between 120 and 130 thousand people in Duval County could have diabetes without knowing it,” says Amanda Intravaia, the communications officer of the Jacksonville ADA chapter. “We have a quick risk assessment on our website that helps people see if they are at risk for diabetes.”

Obesity isn’t the only risk associated with type two diabetes. Family history, ethnicity, age, and lifestyle are also important factors to be considered. Certain ethnic groups suffer disproportionately from diabetes. Ethnicity based programs are available for high these risk groups. Thanks to ADA efforts, doctors can sign patients up directly for these programs at the time of diagnosis

Hereditary factors such as ethnicity and family history can’t be changed, but maintaining a proper weight and a healthy lifestyle are within everyone’s grasp. The ADA offers community outreach programs such as “Living with Type II Diabetes”. This free, 12-month program provides support for the newly diagnosed patients. The program focuses on guiding people through their first year of living with diabetes. Common misconceptions about the disease are also addressed.

It’s not true diabetics can never eat sweets. And everyone can enjoy pasta, breads and starchy vegetables in correct portion sizes. A balance of complex carbohydrates and lean protein are crucial to avoiding spikes in blood sugar. Endocrinologists, registered dietitians, or local diabetic supports groups are great resources for dietary guidelines.

While Diet and exercise are the most important tools in controlling type two diabetes, there are some people who need the addition of prescribed medications in order to properly control the disease. Heart disease, kidney failure, circulatory issues, blindness, neuropathy and death are possible side effects of uncontrolled diabetes. Intravaia emphasized the importance of early detection, “We encourage everyone to talk to their doctors about their risk of diabetes. Prompt treatment can reduce the burden of diabetes and its complications”

The next story for “The diabetic Dilemma” series will follow one man’s journey from  the devastating diagnosis to the break through tool that made all the difference in taking control of his health.

The Eyes Have it! Data for Diabetics is a Blink Away

Google scientists are in the process of creating a bit of miracle technology for diabetics  that painlessly checks blood sugar through a contact lens.

The announcement came last Thursday on Google’s blog where project co-founders Brian Otis and Babak Parviz detailed their new invention:

At Google[x], we wondered if miniaturized electronics—   Hand holding - zoomed in
think: chips and sensors so small they look like bits of glitter, and an antenna thinner than a human hair—might be a way to crack the mystery of tear glucose and measure it with greater accuracy.

The lens, according to the blog, is in the development phase, but Google is hoping to work with a smart lens company to develop the technology.   Otis and Parviz said they are looking to work with other companies to create apps so the data is readily available to lens users.  The ease of collection and  instantaneous downloading of data would help many diabetics control their disease more precisely.

I am an insulin dependent (type 1) diabetic.  I’ve lived with this disease for 36 years.  The thought of not having to prick my fingers up to six times a day makes me jump for joy!

finger stickThis device would be a painless way to continually test your blood all day. A more accurate look at how foods, exercises, or illness affect blood sugars can help avoid the serious complications possible with diabetes.

Many diabetics will say that drawing blood by pricking a finger is often Painful. Testing can be a time consuming part of the day. Every day I carry my insulin pump, glucose monitor, hand cleanser, glucose tablets, spare batteries, and assorted supplies. It’s easy to feel overloaded with all that stuff.

Technologies that lessen the “stuff”  are always welcome! Combining the lens with an app on a smart phone, for example, would make data collection fast and incredibly easy. For diabetics with sight or mobility issues, this technology would be welcome relief from difficult tasks.

I encourage diabetics to  look at the technology that is currently  available for managing this chronic diabetic suppliesillness.  There are a multitude of products to chose from and experts waiting to talk to you.  Twitter and Facebook have communities sharing outreach programs, news, and the latest developments concerning diabetes. Call the  American Diabetes Association or the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation for more information.

Please remember to always consult a  physician or medical professional when making any health decisions.