The Heart Of The Matter ❤️

The heart is a rather important piece of equipment for the human body. Although technically a muscle, the heart is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body, which in turn provides oxygen and nutrients. The heart is also responsible for helping to filter out certain wastes from the body. Without this particular organ, most of the tissues in your body would die out. And you would, well… die!

The heart also plays an important part in society as it represents the love centre of our very being and contributes to the emotional aspect of our lives. This is a misinterpretation, of course. Despite its importance, the heart is actually pretty frail and delicate and can suffer a huge host of problems, none of which are pleasant or easy to deal with. If you have Type-1 Diabetes, some of those conditions can be aggravated as well, since both Diabetes and Heart Disease share a number of similar risk factors, such as obesity, poor diet and blood pressure issues

According to an article posted by WebMD, “Data from the National heart Association from 2012 show 65% of people with Diabetes will die from some sort of heart disease and stroke. I general, the risk of heart disease death and stroke are more than twice as high in people with Diabetes.” (https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/heart-blood-disease#1)

Although it’s more prominent in people with Type-2, people with Type-1 are still at an increased risk. There are a number of things that one can do to prevent and mitigate some of the risk:

  1. Physical Activity: I know I sound like an annoying parrot with this, but exercising regularly will not only help maintain blood sugars but will control obesity; hence, my next point;
  2. Weight Management: Keeping your weight under control can help increase insulin sensitivity and help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease;
  3. Control Cholesterol and Blood Pressure: My first two points will help with this, but there are also preventative medications that your doctor can prescribe to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. The same can be said about your blood pressure;
  4. Take Drugs: This sounds worse than it is… Besides the cholesterol thing, some preventative drugs can be useful for people with Diabetes in reducing certain heart risks;
  5. Quit Smoking: This one is pretty self-explanatory and is a good idea whether you have Diabetes or not. I’m guilty of the occasional cigar, but any type of smoking carries and increased risk for heart disease and stroke. Quitting is not always the easiest thing and often requires some help, through therapies or quitting aids such as nicotine patches or gum;
  6. Brush Your Teeth: Although you may be asking, “What the hell do my teeth have to do with my heart?” the answer is, quite a bit. Bad dental hygiene has been linked to bacterial infections through the gums, which can propagate to the bloodstream and affect the heart valves. The mayo clinic has a short article outlining the reasons. (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/heart-disease-prevention/faq-20057986);
  7. Reduce Your Stress: This one is easier said than done, but reducing the active stress in your life will help with blood pressure and heart issues in general; and
  8. GET CHECKED!!!: There’s absolutely no problem with making an appointment and requesting a check-up for your heart. I, myself, run a stress test every three years and get checked regularly. Prevention is an extremely useful tool!

Everything that is usually recommended for good Diabetes management will also help with good cardiovascular health. Proper eating habits, good exercise and blood sugar control are paramount to preventing heart disease. When you get right to the heart of the matter, your health is in your hands (see what I did there?). ☯

Quit Bitching About It If You Won't Fix It!

There is an undeniable truth in modern society that it’s far easier to whine and complain about things than it is to put in a genuine effort to try and fix whatever may be bothering you. This is not a generality, you understand. But for most people, it is much, much easier to complain about not getting that raise you wanted, or were overlooked for a promotion, than it is to constructively sit down with your boss and say, “I recognize that I wasn’t chosen for the promotional opportunity. Can we discuss what I can do to make myself a competitive candidate for the next one?”

This concept applies to most areas of life. Part of the reason is because it is, for the most part, much easier to complain than it is to do something about it. Diabetes and general health is no exception. I’ve had a lot of friends through the years with Type-1 who have often complained about their blood sugar levels, A1C levels and their weight or condition of their body. To these people, I’ve always asked the same question: What are you doing about it?

“Gardens Are Not Made By Singing ‘Oh, How Beautiful’, And Sitting In The Shade.”

– Rudyard Kipling

There needs to be a recognized acknowledgement that if you’re overweight and are not comfortable, healthy or happy with your body, then you need to do something about it. Start working out. Work on your health. Work on your diet. Consult a professional and get some help. There’s no shame in that. Some people feel they’ve become so far gone that they no longer believe it’s worth the effort. What are you doing about it?

If your blood sugars are running rampant and you’re suffering all sorts of complications with your eyes, kidneys and nervous system, then you need to start taking better control of your Diabetes management. If you only test your blood sugar once a month and indulge in every baked good that passes by, you’ve chosen an extremely slow and torturous form of suicide! There are nutritionists, dietitians, Endocrinologists and family physicians that can help bring you up to a healthier standard and get you to where you need to be. What are you doing about it?

If your fitness has gone to shit and you get winded walking from your couch to your kitchen, there’s a distinct problem. Humanity may have become sedentary, but staying in good physical condition is still an important aspect of a healthy life, whether you have Diabetes or not. Go for a walk, ride a bike, join a fitness club or go for a run. And if you’re uncertain how to go about any of it, there are plenty of resources both online and off that can help get you started and help you along. What are you doing about it?

“The Only Mistake You Can Make Is Not Asking For Help.”

– Sandeep Jauhar

There are obvious exceptions to every rule. It can be hard to get yourself going and there are people who have genuine conditions that make weight-loss difficult. Medical conditions can make it hard to achieve certain goals. For example, if you’ve gone blind, one would not expect that you’ll take up competitive archery! But the lesson here, is that if you find yourself capable of making a start but refuse to do so then you shouldn’t (as my title so eloquently put it) be bitching about it if you won’t fix it.

I think it was Confucius who said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step.” So take that step! Get off the couch and move a little. Test your blood sugar a few times a day instead of once a week. Opt for something healthier for your next meal instead of grabbing take-out or popping in a frozen tv dinner. Make a start. Improve yourself. Improve your life. And throughout all the progress, when faced with obstacles or adversity, keep asking yourself: What are you doing about it?

Rainbows Are Prettier 🌈

There’s a strange phenomenon that tends to happen when people train in the martial arts. Everyone becomes obsessed with black belts. I mean, I get it… Most people, especially when they start training in martial arts, consider obtaining a black belt to be “the” goal. This is a true falsehood, considering that obtaining a black belt is really only the beginning.

Last week during a karate class I attended, something was said that struck a chord… It’s been said a great deal in the past three years that I’ve been training there, but I really only noticed a problem last Thursday. While practicing some specific techniques, we were paired up with the following words:

“Grab a partner. Make sure that they’re as close to your belt and height level as possible…”

Hmm… Does anyone else see what the problem with this statement might be? I totally understand what the thought may be, behind this thought. By training with someone of your same basic height and build, it guarantees a consistency. By raining with someone close to your own belt rank, it guarantees that speed and skill will be a closer match. Wow, THAT sounds like it’s conducive to learning and improving…

One needs to ask a basic question: What are the odds that someone you may face in a confrontation will be the same height? Same weight and build? Same level of fighting skill? I can almost guarantee that there’s no chance of all those aspect lining up in your favour. That’s why it becomes important to acknowledge that training with a diverse number of different people is of the utmost importance.

I paired myself up with a white belt who has only been coming to class for about a month. Halfway through the drill, he apologized to me and shared his thought that I would be better off with one of the other black belts so I could practice harder and faster. I explained him that he was providing all the opposition I needed and that I could learn as much from him as I could coach.

And that’s the important lesson, here. A variety of different belt levels, skill sets and body types are what will help you to develop your skills and techniques properly. If you only ever train with people of the same skill level, there’s no opportunity for either one to progress. Make sense? So mix those belt colours up! Don’t be afraid to train with someone of a higher rank; they should be able to coach and teach you. Don’t be afraid to train to train with someone of lower rank; not only do we learn by teaching, but they have plenty to teach you as well. ☯

Countries Taking Care Of Their Own…

I think an aspect of modern society that’s often taken for granted is universal health care. Many countries offer universal health care, including Canada. Some other countries that have some form of universal or very low-cost health care include Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. This is just a handful of countries that I found through a quick search and is not a comprehensive list.

Amazingly, many countries that fall under the same societal status as many of the countries listed above don’t have universal health care. For example, the United States of America, which boasts being one of the greatest countries in the world forces its citizens to depend primarily on private and privately-purchased health insurance in order to cover medical costs.

Last year, I posted an article in which I outlined the cost of all my required Diabetic supplies. Just to get an idea or general reminder, here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Insulin Pump Infusion Sets: $205.00/month;
  • Insulin Pump Reservoirs: $43.50/month;
  • Freestyle Libre Sensors: $178.00/month;
  • Humalog Insulin Supply: $180.00/month;
  • Blood Glucose Strips: $153.98/month;
  • Ramipril and Crestor (preventative meds): $120.00/month.
  • GRAND MONTHLY TOTAL: $880.48/month.

That monthly total is in Canadian dollars. So if we compare what it would cost a US citizen given the current exchange rate, a US citizen would be expected to pay $664/month out of pocket or through paid, private health insurance. Considering that the median salary in the US is about $4,700 before taxes, we’re talking 14 to 15 percent of the monthly income is contributed to Diabetic supplies. That percentage increases once you consider monthly salary AFTER taxes.

Despite universal health care in Canada, health insurance is still required for many, if not most prescription medications. This includes Diabetic supplies. There are some exceptions. For example, Prince Edward Island covers Diabetic supplies 100%. In Ontario, insulin is free for residents aged 24 and under and I know that certain supplies are provided free of charge in some of the Territories. Unfortunately, Canada lags behind many other countries with respect to insulin pumps being a “required” part of Diabetes management, and usually have to be paid out-of-pocket if one isn’t fortunate enough to have private insurance.

The bottom line is that Diabetes is one of those conditions that require constant technological upgrades, medications, different treatments continued costs that will last for life. Diabetes isn’t going away, and neither is the inherent cost to keeping yourself alive if you have it. ☯

Keep An EYE On It…

Did you ever play that game as a child where you and your friends ask yourselves, “Which would you prefer? To be blind or deaf?” Yeah, it’s a weird game and I never said that my friends and I were normal! The point is, I always chose deafness or blindness. As an adult, I know that no physical impairment is ever preferred, but I always assumed that I could live without my hearing in a much easier fashion than without my sight. Maybe I’m wrong. Who knows?

The point is, our eyes and eyesight are very important. And there are a number of serious complications that can be caused by Type-1 Diabetes that affect the eyes. Most people don’t seem to understand that the eyes are actually an extremity. one wouldn’t think so, considering the eyeballs are attached to the body mainly by the optic nerve. Despite being contained in the ocular cavity, the eyes are very much an extremity of the body and are subject to many of the same complications as your fingers and toes.

“The Eyes Are The Window To Your Soul.”

– William Shakespear

Diabetic eye disease is a common problem that affects people with Diabetes, regardless of type. And the risk of these problems increases in tandem with the length of time one has had Diabetes. There are a LOT of these complications, but I’ll cover off the most common ones as well as the ones I’ve actually had at some points, myself.

  1. Cataracts: This is a blurring of the lens of the eye. The blurriness causes your eye to be unable to focus on what you’re looking at. This means impaired vision and surgery is normally required to replace the damaged lens. People with Diabetes can develop cataracts much earlier than the average person and what’s more, it will get worse much faster;
  2. Diabetic Retinopathy: Here’s the first one that I’ve had to experience. This one is a condition where the blood vessels at the back of the eye are damaged. Although both Type-1 and Type-2 can get this condition, it’s usually attributed to poor control of blood sugar. It’s usually treated by way of laser procedures that burn away the damaged vessels;
  3. Diabetic Macular Edema: This is the second condition I’ve had to deal with, and still do. Macular Edema is a result of the accumulation of fluid near the retina and is usually a result of leaking blood vessels. If you’ve had Retinopathy, you’re likely to develop Macular Edema. Macular Edema can sometimes be treated by way of laser procedures or injections into the eyeball. I get the latter. Which sucks. A lot.
  4. Glaucoma: This is a pretty common one, and it involves fluid in the eye causing too much pressure that ultimately damages nerves and tissue. It can often be treated by medications, depending on the type but surgery is often required; and
  5. Corneal Ulcers: The most common way to develop corneal ulcers is by way of infection, and I don’t need to tell you how vulnerable to infections we Diabetics happen to be. It referred to as “corneal” because it presents as an open sore right on the cornea. However, it’s diagnostically called Diabetic Keratopathy. They usually won’t heal on their own and are usually treated by way of antifungals or antiviral medications.

There are other eye-related complications, but these are the most common ones that I’ve heard of/dealt with throughout my years with Diabetes. Obviously, prevention includes proper exercise, firm control of blood sugars and proper diet. Whether you have Diabetes or not, you visit an eye doctor at least once a year to ensure your health and prevent some of these conditions from worsening should you develop them. ☯

Doin' It Just To Do It…

I’ve been asked on a few occasions why I write a blog and how easy it is. The truth is, it happens to be a very subjective thing and unless you’ve tried it yourself, you may not understand what it requires. In a lot of ways, writing a blog is just like the martial arts. I’ve often written that everyone has a reason for joining the martial arts and that there usually isn’t a BAD reason, unless it involves wanting to harm someone else.

Blogging falls very much under the same category. Most people have different reasons for why they write a blog, and there isn’t really a BAD reason. To a point. There are some unfortunate exceptions, and my fellow bloggers are welcome to expand on this at their leisure. For example, there’s a blog out there that is a “blog about how to blog.” Although that’s a cute concept, eventually you need to post more content than just repetitively posting that you’ll teach someone everything they need to know to successfully blog if you send the writer money through PayPal.

There are some points you should bear in mind, if you intend on drafting your own blog. These are just my perspective, of course. But that makes them no less important.

  1. It’s not a diary! This is probably one of my biggest pet peeves. A blog is not intended to be a diary or a journal of your daily activities. If this is your intention, go buy yourself a paper journal at a stationary store or, better yet, write a digital journal that you can save on an external media;
  2. You need a topic. If you expect to draw and attract readers, you need to have a topic in which you base your blog. For example, this blog focuses on Buddhism, Martial Arts and Diabetes. Even if I stray from those three, whatever I’m writing about usually falls under the realm of those three main topics. If you write about anything and everything that crosses your mind, you spread yourself a little too thin and readers may become confused as to what you’re writing about;
  3. Make sure you love what you’re writing about. You have to be passionate about what you’re writing about. Not only does this make it easy to come up with pertinent blog posts, but it also shows in your writing. The reader can sense whether you’re writing for the sake of writing or if you’re passionate about your topic. I’ve spent my life studying and practicing the martial arts and I’ve had Type-1 Diabetes since the age of 4. This makes it exceptionally easy to come up with aspects to write about and be passionate about it. For most posts, I have to forcibly cut my writing short, otherwise it would be WAY too long for a blog;
  4. Post to your blog daily. I can’t stress this enough. It’s all well and good that you create a blog, but you need to add content daily. Yes, DAILY! If you only throw something up there once every few weeks, your blog will have difficulty getting off the ground and propagating to multiple readers; and
  5. Advertise yourself! I’m one of those few, rare individuals of my generation who doesn’t use social media. This makes it all the more difficult to advertise and spread the word about my blog. Luckily, I have some friends who have taken care of this aspect for me. But if you have the ability to spread your posts through your Twitter, FaceBook and other popular social media platforms, it will go a LONG way towards increasing your readership. What I did for the first six months that I was writing this blog, was create business cards at home with my web address and email and I would post them to bulletin boards at local grocery stores and coffee shops. I would also provide them to folks, since most of the time, even when you say, “Hey, I have a blog. You should check it out” people usually won’t. With that business card in their back pocket, they’re far more likely to look up the web address.

So, there you have it. At the end of the day, even if you’re doing the opposite of all five points I wrote out above, you’re not hurting anybody and your blog is ultimately meant to be an expression of yourself. As long as you keep pumping out that content and you enjoy doing it, you can’t go wrong. ☯

Warming Up Isn't Just For The Cold

When people hear the term “warm up”, they usually associate it with stretching and getting the muscles warm. But there’s a whole bunch of other stuff that you should be paying attention to, especially if you want to prevent injury while doing your preferred activity. Warming up becomes all the more important when your fitness is taking place in a colder climate or during the winter season.

Muscle tissue is elastic. The whole point to stretching is to provide a bit of “give” to that elastic tissue, allowing for a greater range of motion with less chance of injury. take note that I say “less” chance as opposed to “no” chance… Stretching doesn’t guarantee you won’t pull o tear a muscle and in fact, muscle damage is actually how you get an increase in muscle mass. But I don’t want to get too technical on that aspect.

Most people seem to forget (or they simply don’t know) that it’s important to focus on your joints, cartilage and the fluid between your joints as well. This fluid is known as Synovial Fluid, and it’s responsible for reducing the friction in your joints as you move around. I’ll just let y’all Google that term, but these things need to be warmed up prior to a heavy workout as well, and are often neglected by most people. This is often because they aren’t even aware that these parts of the body require any warming up. But they do.

When stretching and warming, it’s important to chose a wide range of full-motion exercises that will include the joints by rolling them and getting a full articulation of movement. This ensures that you warm up that fluid and “activate it”, ensuring that your joints are as ready to go as your muscles.

The human body is an amazing machine. Despite the aches and pains we feel on a daily basis, the average human body thinks of almost everything. But you still need to nudge it along and give it the help it needs to work as efficiently as possible. Make sure that when you get ready for any strenuous, physical activity, you prepare muscles and joints for the hell you’re about to put them through. this will help to prevent injuries and potentially, long-lasting pain. ☯