Stress Is A Hell Of A Drug…

Most days, it seems as though there really isn’t a great deal of much that DOESN’T affect my blood sugar. It often feels as though if I take a breath the wrong way, my blood sugar may spike!

The past two years have caused a massive ball of stress in my gut. My thoughts often stray to the situations I’ve been dealing with. you wouldn’t think that worrying about something, being anxious or stressed, would adversely affect blood sugar, but it does. Here’s why:

When we become anxious or stressed, our bodies produces hormones. Some of these stress hormones can prevent the release of insulin in a normal person. But since most of us Type 1’s don’t really produce insulin anyway, those hormones tend to cause a whole bunch of other damage.

I think that most of us would agree that an hour and a half isn’t a significantly long period of time. Right? Or is that just me? My last karate class was a bit of a brutal ordeal. I started class with a normal blood sugar level. This usually means that I’ll stay level, maybe even have increased blood sugar, by the time class ends. This is because the release of adrenaline usually includes the release of glycol and causes spikes in blood sugar levels.

But this wasn’t the case for me. About an hour in, I was hit by a sudden wave of nausea, which is weird because nausea isn’t usually one of my low blood sugar symptoms. I bowed out and staggered over to my gym bag and tested my blood sugar through my sensor. I was sitting at 3.2mmol/L. For those in the know, this is starting to scrape the bottom of the blood glucose barrel!

I excused myself and wolfed down a handful of sour grape jellies, which resulted in a jump to 8.7mmol/L in under an hour. I have to be honest, fluctuating levels of that magnitude are exhausting. Add to the fact that class wasn’t out yet, and I tend to be too hard-headed to stop, even when it’s what’s best for me.

I spent the remaining half hour in a bit of a daze, trying to consolidate my sudden increase in blood sugar with the fact I still had to push myself to complete the class. All of this to say that even the mildest and most normal of human emotions can have an adverse effect on blood sugar.

All of this is to demonstrate how very important it is to test frequently and always be prepared. Carry sugared goods on your person at all times. Be sure to adjust your insulin levels and consult your medical practitioner often. Fine tuning and careful monitoring can often be the only way to ensure your continued health. ☯

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How Buddha Got His Groove Back

Well, Labour Day weekend has come and gone in Canada. Kids are back in school and with the start of school comes the re-opening of the karate dojo I train with here, in Regina. We usually close for the summer as the school gymnasium we rent isn’t available during the summer break. Last night was my return to class after a couple of months without training.

For those of you who read my posts religiously (I’m assuming everyone does!), I wrote a post a week ago about how in recent months, I seem to have fallen off the rails, fitness-wise. There are a number of reasons behind this, but needless to say I’ve been hammering out a few workouts at home since I wrote that post in an effort to try and get myself back on track.

Last night’s opening adult class was the icing on the cake. The reason I specify that it was the adult class is because the other black belts had the advantage of having trained at the kids’ class last Saturday. So they were full of piss and proverbial vinegar, ready to go. Meanwhile, I suffered just a BIT more. Let’s see if my vocabulary is eloquent enough to describe the experience…

I was the second one there, preceded only by Master Harding. He was setting everything up and we chatted for a few moments about our respective summers. It was good to be back and I was anxious to see how many of the students would actually show up.

I started with some casual stretches and experienced a sound akin to several hundred mousetraps going off at once! I felt muscles pull and realized that despite the workouts I’ve performed at home recently, last night’s class would put me through the paces.

The class was small but energetic. There were two other black belts besides Master Harding and myself. We spent almost forty minutes stretching, warming up and practicing techniques as a class. I recognized how out of shape I truly was.

By the end of the class, my movements were so sloppy that it almost looked as though I was performing some sort of dance that seemed to be a combination of an Irish jig, square dancing and twerking! By the time we closed and everyone bowed out, I was spent.

Needless to say, I’m in a reasonable amount of pain this morning. But it’s a good pain. It felt good to get back at it and practice the martial arts in a class environment. Next class is Thursday and I’m looking forward, despite moaning and groaning. ☯

What’s Good For You Can Hurt

Look, I post about the negative effects of Diabetes a LOT! It’s rather hard not to; Diabetes is one of the conditions with the highest number of side effects to the body that’s currently out there. And not just to the body… Studies have linked Alzheimer’s disease to a from of Diabetes.

Needless to say, if and when the day comes that there is a positive side to Diabetes, I’ll post about it. For example, if a side effect of Type 1 Diabetes ever causes me to gain sculpted abs, I’ll post about that like a mother-f&*ker.

If you’re like me, you tend to test your blood glucose at least six to ten times a day. If you still rely on a finger prick in order to test your blood sugar, this can cause some rarely considered complications. Especially to your fingertips!

According to the Mayo Clinic, here are the steps one should follow each and every time you test your blood:

  1. Wash and dry your hands well (Do this each and every time you test);
  2. Insert a test strip into your meter;
  3. Prick the side of your fingertip with the needle (lancet) provided with your test strip (Try to avoid pricking the fingertip; this is where all the sensory nerves for touch are located and it can hurt like hell);
  4. Gently squeeze or massage your finger until a drop of blood forms;
  5. Touch and hold the edge of the test strip to the drop of blood;
  6. The meter will display your blood glucose level on a screen after a a few seconds.

There are some meters that will allow you to take blood from alternate sites such as your forearm or your palm, but these tend to be a bit less accurate. (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/in-depth/blood-sugar/art-20046628)

Repeated finger pricks throughout the day can become very painful, regardless of where you test. Another problem is contamination. Obviously, jamming a piece of steel into your finger includes the risk of allowing access to a certain level of bacteria and germs. As with any injury when you have Diabetes, this can cause a risk of infection and other issues.

Using alcohol swabs to ensure a clean site is no longer a viable option, as residual alcohol on your finger can affect the blood sugar reading. If you insist on using them, you need t ensure that residual alcohol has been dried or removed prior to testing. This is why it’s necessary to wash with warm water and soap prior to each test.

Even with Continuous Glucose Monitoring, testing your blood with finger pricks is still necessary for accuracy and to calibrate your CGM. So there’s no getting away from it. But making sure you keep your sites clean and your testing accurate through calibrations and diagnostics will ensure you avoid unnecessary complications. ☯

Waiting It Out…

It’s no secret that if you’re visiting a doctor or health care professional, waiting room times in Canada are ridiculous as a general rule. I’ve written about this before; unless you happen to be going to a private clinic and the staff are really on top of their game, you can usually expect to be waiting for well over an hour beyond your scheduled appointment before getting in to see your doctor. Some studies have shown that the average wait time in Canada can reach three to four hours.

And why is that? Common sense would dictate that if you require X amount of time to see each patient, then you’ll schedule them accordingly, right? Maybe not. I’ve been dealing with waiting rooms in various forms for almost forty years, given that I have Diabetes. And some waits can be somewhat extreme and even dangerous, depending on why you’re there.

One good example I can give is an occasion where my son fell down some stairs onto a landing in our home. He struck his head and had a nasty cut right above his eye. As parents, you can imagine our panic as we bundled him up and rushed him to our local hospital. Once we were at the ER, they asked us two questions: was he alert and had he lost consciousness? The answers were yes and no, and we were ushered to the waiting room where we waited for over three hours. I was flabbergasted! Yes, I just used the word flabbergasted!

By the end of that three hours, I had checked on our expected wait time a number of times, complained and was told that nothing could be done to expedite the wait and to take a seat. At the tail end of it, my very impatient and destructive son was beginning to get his second wind and wanted nothing to do with being at the hospital waiting room. We ended up leaving without treatment. Although some would judge that we CHOSE to leave without treatment, my son’s state f being at the moment, coupled with the fact we were well into the night and he needed to be put to bed, became important deciding factors.

This is a typical example and seems to be the norm these days. Yesterday I attended a medical appointment where I showed up forty minutes early and checked in. I totally expected to sit and wait quietly for the remaining time and beyond. Then I was taken by surprise by getting called in and being seen and out the door by the time my scheduled appointment rolled around!

I got curious, so I decided to ask a few folks I know in the medical field. It stands to reason they’d prefer I not post their names, but here’s a bit of what they had to say.

I spoke to a member in the nursing field, a medical resident and a family physician, who were able to explain some of the ins and outs of the emergency room, triage and how people are seen. One of the main aspects that was explained is that when someone comes into the emergency room, they are “triaged”. This means that they are assessed based on the immediate verbal information they provide, and are placed in order of importance.

So if you come in with a runny nose and a headache that prevents you from sleeping, you can expect to wait over the mother who just went into labour or the man who passed out from chest pains or someone who happens to be spurting blood from anywhere on their body! Further, the average emergency room in Canada only has one ER doctor on duty, so he/she is swamped! We often forget that these people need to eat, sleep and use the restroom just as we do. Although pretty trivial on their own, those little activities add up in terms of wait times.

Last but not least, the medical industry is the slowest at catching up with current technologies. Pagers and fax machines? These haven’t been a standard technology in the average residential home for over a decade, but doctors still rock the ol’ pager! And most clinics and hospitals still make frequent use of fax machines. Sometimes, the incorrect on call doctor may be paged during emergencies, and this adds up to delays.

When it comes to clinics and office settings, wait times can be attributed to the fact that although specific time slots are allotted for each patient, some patients will often CAUSE delays by bringing up several issues not originally meant for the appointment they scheduled. For example, if you book an appointment at your doctor’s clinic for a prescription renewal and you end up inquiring about a weird rash on your inner thigh “since you’re here anyway”, you’ll end up taking way more of your doctor’s time than you were scheduled for. This will cause the subsequent appointments to get bumped further down. You’ll actually see many clinics post a notice in their examination rooms that read, “One issue only”, indicating that you are only there to discuss one problem and a subsequent appointment is required if there is something else.

You’d be inclined to think that an added five minutes shouldn’t cause an issue, but imagine if all the first appointments in the morning included that added five to ten minutes. By the time your afternoon appointment rolled around, you could be looking at a minimum of a couple of hours added to the day’s roster, simply because of all the added little details patients brought up early on.

Obviously, the patient isn’t uniquely at fault. In private clinics, overbooking frequently happens as some physicians are often paid by the visit. So the more patients that are cycled through within a day, the more income the clinic generates.

Clinic physicians are also subject to several outside interferences, such as being called to surgery, a patient at the hospital going into labour or attending meetings and appointments of their own. Plus, we need to consider the rarely recognized reality that doctors tend to get sick too! And when they do, we don’t need them breathing their pox into our throats as they make us say “ahh”…

An article posted by the Ottawa Citizen back in 2017 explains that Canada has some of the worst wait times out of 11 countries that were surveyed (https://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/barua-why-are-canadas-health-care-wait-times-the-worst). So what can we do to help alleviate some of these wait times?

Some of the things that we, as patients can do are pretty simple:

  1. Schedule your appointments well in advance. You should have intimate knowledge of your medication use, so if you know your prescription will run out in the next three weeks, schedule an appointment for your renewal right away;
  2. Avoid going to the hospital for non-life threatening illnesses. Colds and sniffles affect the best of us, but tying up the ER for something you could attend a walk-in clinic for will usually result in a longer wait for you and longer waits for the folks after you;
  3. Recognize that wait times are a continued problem, and it’s only gotten worse in recent years. Until Canada fixes or alleviates this specific problem, make sure you schedule your appointment around a healthy period of free time! If you schedule a doctor’s appointment with another important engagement happening an hour after, you may be in for some disappointment.

At the end of the day, I’ll gladly accept waiting longer for the free health care our country provides. Remember that if it is something critical and life-threatening, don’t try to attend the hospital or clinic on your own; make use of 911 and have yourself transported to the emergency room. Many people avoid this option because of the cost, but it’s a better alternative than serious debilitation or death. ☯

The “Tooth” Of The Matter…

My 4-year old son comes around the corner and I have the following dialogue with him…

ME: “Nathan, time to go brush your teeth…”

Nathan: “No, I don’t need to, Daddy…”

His voice carries a light, invisible cloud of noxious breath that causes the paint on the walls to bubble and forces the dog to retreat for cover in the basement…

Oral hygiene and dental health are extremely important. Perhaps more so than most people understand. While growing up, I remember that the standard was simply that you needed to brush regularly and floss in order to keep from losing your teeth. Since then, studies and medical advancements have proven just how serious the problems can become if you don’t pay proper attention to your mouth.

Let’s think about our mouths for a moment: it’s the entry point for your food and the air you breath. This means that you have a lot of stuff from the outside world that enters your body through your mouth. Like most surfaces on your body, your mouth is full of bacteria. Some of that bacteria is good, but the bad bacteria is what can lead to tooth decay, bacterial infections and gum disease.

Bacterial infections can be pretty serious, especially for Type 1 Diabetics. Our weakened immune systems make us more susceptible to infection and makes them worse. Just to make you grit your teeth harder, (see what I did there?) the gum disease caused by improper oral health can make it harder to control your blood sugar levels.

Even if you don’t have Diabetes, poor oral health can leave you susceptible to cardiovascular complications, pregnancy complication and pneumonia. So, what can you do to hep prevent those oral health issues?

Brushing your teeth is an obvious first step. Despite what some of us were taught as children, brushing three times a day (or after every meal, whichever is greater) is not necessary. According to the Mayo Clinic, brushing twice a day is what the current recommendation indicates. This means brushing once in the morning and once before bed. Despite this, most dentists still stick to “old faithful” and tell folks to brush three times a day. It’s not a bad thing.

Although some dentists have indicated that even once can be acceptable, you tend to run into some problems with that, including potential bad breath throughout the day and unsightly food stuck in your teeth if you’re out in public. If you only brush once a day, best to do it first thing in the morning to eliminate morning breath.

Be sure to floss. Most people overlook flossing or it bothers them. But flossing is required to eliminate the bits of food that can’t be removed by a toothbrush. Leaving that food between your teeth against the gum line can lead to an increase in bacteria.

Use an antibacterial mouthwash. Don’t forget that mouthwash is supposed to complement your dental routine and isn’t meant as a substitution for brushing.

Here are some articles posted by Colgate and WebMD that explain some of what I’ve written and can provide further insight: https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/conditions/gum-disease/how-poor-dental-care-can-affect-your-overall-health-0313 and https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/features/oral-health-the-mouth-body-connection#2

Some other small changes can also help with improved oral health, such as avoiding staining drinks such as red wine or smoking tobacco products. And don’t forget to replace your toothbrush every few months. That s&*t gets gross!

So it may not have been a post about blood sugars or exercise, but proper oral hygiene can help prevent Diabetic complications and other issues that be aggravated by Diabetes. Why take chances when the prevention is so simple? And no, 9 out of 10 dentists did NOT ask me to write this post…☯

My Counting Sheep Fell Asleep, Why Can’t I…?

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? You reach the end of your day, change into comfy jammies and curl into a familiar sea of blankets. You lie there, staring at the ceiling or perhaps thumbing your smart device in the hopes of getting tired enough to fall asleep. Of course, using your smart phone or tablet can actually inhibit your sleep.

Image from The Simpsons

But that sleep never comes. You toss and turn, try different positions and even get up and walk around a bit but none of it helps. Then the morning comes and you feel exhausted, despite having EVENTUALLY fallen asleep.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Proper sleep plays an integral role in the control of blood sugar. Proper control of blood sugar also plays an integral role in getting a good night’s sleep. The two go hand in hand.

Studies have shown that blood sugar levels tend to spike during the night as we sleep. For normal people, the excess glucose can be absorbed. But for someone with Type 1 Diabetes, insulin may not be working in your favour the way it should, especially with the rise and fall of specific hormones your body produces during the night. This is why doctors will often recommend testing blood glucose at 3 am when trying to establish a pattern. So here are a couple of issues involving the important relationship between blood sugars and sleep.

High Blood Sugar: When your blood sugar spikes and rises, it places your body in a state of stress. This can make it extremely difficult to fall asleep as the stress will keep your body in an increased state of alertness. This can also be one of the causes of the “restless legs” syndrome (besides damage to the nervous system) you may experience on some nights while trying to get to sleep. I know I personally hate the feeling of being unable to settle.

Low Blood Sugar: If you have low blood sugar, your body responds by releasing adrenaline and cortisol to help you compensate. These hormones will wake you and energize you in order to ensure you can seek out food for your low. Not to mention that eating in the middle of the night causes all sorts of issues for your body as your circadian rhythm hasn’t accounted for it.

Lack Of Proper Sleep: It can very well be possible that you can’t fall asleep for reasons unrelated to Diabetes. Perhaps you have something on your mind, you’re dealing with a lot of stress, etc… Some of the things you can do to increase your chances of a good night’s rest include eating regular meals, following a consistent sleep schedule and incorporating exercise into your daily routine. Meditation is also a great tool, as the deep breathing and calming effects can help send you off to dreamland.

There needs to be a respected balance between sleep and proper blood sugar. That way, you don’t spend the majority of your day walking around in a caffeine-fuelled haze of exhaustion like I’m doing today. Diabetes UK webpage has a decent article on the subject: https://www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes-and-sleep.html

And don’t forget that ensuring proper sleep means getting to the root cause of why you can’t sleep. And caffeine is only a band-aid and isn’t a replacement for a good night’s sleep. Sweet dreams. ☯

It’s Never Too Late…

Regret is a hell of a thing. Sometimes it can consume you, if you allow it to overcome the important aspects of your life. I’ve often written that one cannot allow oneself to have regrets as the events you might consider regretting have led you to the here and now; and if you could change those events to prevent that regret, you would seriously alter the person you’ve become.

I’ve spent the majority of my life trying to defeat every stereotype that’s been thrown at me. And having Diabetes has certainly made that challenging, let me tell you. Controlling and maintaining my health has always been a priority and I’ve worked hard to KEEP it a priority.

But in recent months I’ve begun to slip. A work out less a week here… An added beer or two a night there… Apathy and laziness have snuck up on me without even noticing. I’ve told myself, “Oh, I’m just tired, I’ll get back at it tomorrow.” Then tomorrow comes and I certainly don’t get back at it.

A good sweat and a little pain can go a long way

I think it may have been equal parts self-pity and self-generating laziness. The less you do, the less energy you have to get to where you need to be. But last night I was reminded of the importance of never stopping one’s physical development and health.

I was reminded because I saw the potential result of that laziness. Weight gain, reduced mobility, latent health issues and difficulty breathing… It’s amazing how much damage can be caused by not being physically active.

Don’t be afraid to try heavier weights. If they’re comfortable to use, they’re not heavy enough

I feel it’s time to recommit and buckle down. I couldn’t believe it when I looked at my workout log and realized I only worked out once, last week. Time to up the ante and start getting back into shape. Sometimes we need to get shaken a bit and have a little reminder to bring us back on course. ☯