Mind & Body, You Need Them Both!

The human body is an amazing combination of biological function, mixed with intelligence and self-awareness. I’ve often written about the importance of proper diet and exercise. But it’s also very important to pay attention to the mind.

First and foremost, I think it’s important to recognize the difference between the brain and the mind. The brain is the organ primarily responsible for the intellectual and nervous activity of the body. It controls the body’s systems in tandem with other, semi-independent systems within the body.

However, the mind is something slightly less tangible. The mind is defined as “the elements of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought.”

Who you are is more than just the 3-pound chunk of tissue inside your skull!

Who you are despite the state of your body is what is contained within the mind. I’ve had a saying I coined from my youth: “When you aren’t exercising the body, you must exercise the mind.” This is important because most people assume that as long as they exercise consistently, they’ve done what needs doing. I believe this to be false.

There are a number of things a person can do to help exercise the mind. Meditation is a great first step. Not only does it help lower blood pressure and help with overall cardiac and bodily health, but it can go a long way towards helping your mind as well. It can aid in maintain a good mental health and strengthen one’s focus and concentration.

Get more sleep, and be certain it’s GOOD sleep. Your brain works hard during the night while you sleep. In fact, some studies have shown that dreams are part of a thought consolidation that is necessary for proper mental health. This is where the belief that some folks have that you can “sleep on it” when dealing with life’s problems. If you don’t get a solid seven to nine hours of quality sleep at night, you may lose some of the benefits it can provide for your mind and mental health.

There are certain aspects of diet that can help as well, but I won’t get into those too deeply. That errs a bit deeper on the side of the physical brain health as opposed to the mind.

Stay healthy and happy. I don’t think I need to explain that thinking positive can go a long way towards strengthening who you are as a person. This isn’t always an easy task. Life is designed to challenge us (and it’s damn good at it).

Exercise your mind. There a lot of simple ways to do this. Read a book. Do a puzzle. Crosswords, sudoku, the choices are almost endless! It’s been proven that the more conversations you have with your child and the more books you read to them, the more intelligent they’ll grow to be. This concept applies to adults as well, despite having grown beyond childhood.

Continue learning. Most people let go of this as they reach adulthood, but a person’s IQ and intelligence never stops growing. Read the book you’ve been putting off, learn another language. All of these things can help improve your mind. Many people think that it becomes much more difficult to learn a second language once we reach adulthood, but there are actually no studies to prove this. One simply needs to put in the time.

Your mind is not only an important part of who you are, it IS who you are. So it makes sense to train and develop it the same way as you would train and develop your body. Mind & body must work together. ☯

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You Put Your Left Foot In, You Put Your Left Foot Out… 🎵

People with Diabetes genuinely have a rough go at life. If it seems as though there aren’t any systems in the body unaffected by Diabetes, it’s because there really aren’t!

One of the more problematic areas where Diabetics have issues is with their feet. Because Diabetes has this nasty tendency of damaging nerve endings and restricting blood flow to extremities, folks with T1D are less likely to feel it when they injure their feet. This is what is referred to as Diabetic Neuropathy.

Because your feet are rather important for things like, you know, walking, running, standing and kicking (if you’re into the martial arts) there are many things you can do to promote proper foot health. Most of these apply to non-Diabetics as well.

Almost forty years of T1D and my feet and extremities are still in great health!

The reality is that Diabetes, regardless of the type, is the leading cause of neuropathic damage in the feet and accounts for almost 80% of all foot amputations that were not the result of a traumatic injury.

According to WebMD (obviously one of my favourite websites), your feet should be inspected daily. You want to check for scrapes, cuts, swelling and unexplained sores or ulcers.

Like everything else, keeping your blood glucose levels under control will go a long way to preventing the nerve damage that can lead to these issues. Exercise is also an important factor. Remaining sedentary for too long will increase your risk.

As much as it breaks my heart to say it, going barefoot is also a no-no. As much as I enjoy being barefooted, your feet need to be protected from debris and sharp objects, as injuries to the feet will take much longer for Diabetics, which can lead to infection and other complications. You should always wear some footwear while exercising to protect the feet and one should avoid wearing high heels or pointed toes (I guess I’ll throw mine out 😆).

Despite the light callouses due to karate, my feet are injury-free, warm to the touch and properly cared for (let’s pretend we don’t see the cuts on my shins!)

When you check your feet, they should be a normal flesh colour (comparable to the rest of your legs and body), only slightly pink and warm to the touch. You should keep your toe nails trimmed and clean and if you use lotion to help with dry skin, be certain not to apply between the toes.

If you do discover sores or ulcers on your feet, don’t try to pop them. Cover them with a bandage and wear comfortable shoes, allowing them to heal on their own. If ANY injury does not heal within a couple of days, consult your doctor or medical practitioner. There are a number of conditions or injuries on the feet that won’t go away on their own and one needs to recognize when it’s time to seek out medical help.

As usual, I like providing some of the sources where I get my information. In that respect, WebMD’s article can be read here: https://www.webmd/diabetes/caring-feet#1

As usual, even though it’s not a cure, exercise, diet and proper blood glucose levels will go a long way to prevent complications related to proper foot health. ☯

We Didn’t Start The Fire… But We’ll Sure Stoke The Flames!

I tend to be a strange creature in terms of the circles in which I travel. I tend to deal with a number of fitness and martial arts circles, all the while dealing with the Diabetic community. Sometimes the two conflict with each other. After all, there some aspects that are observed in the fitness world that Diabetics would have difficulties with.

One of those aspects involves the metabolism. To touch briefly on this, the metabolism is the chemical and biological process through which the body burns fat and processes its calories. This process is necessary for a person to stay alive, and it can be “somewhat” manipulated to help with weight loss and working out.

First of all, one common misconception is that if you want to lose weight, you should eat less. Your body needs to be fed. That HAS to happen, no matter what your goal. in order to lose weight, you need to consistently feed your body.

Don’t skip breakfast! I’m the worst for this. I usually wake up in the morning and reach for caffeine, typically on auto-pilot. But if you fuel your body right from the get-go, you’re setting the bar for how you’ll eat and metabolize throughout your day.

I’ve often heard it said that eating often throughout the day helps to keeps your metabolism fired up and will help to burn more calories. Although this CAN be true, there are some exceptions.

According to Dr. Edward Bitok with the Department of Nutrition & Dietetics at LLU School of Allied Health Professions, the preferred wait time between meal is between 3 to 5 hours. This is the amount of time required for the stomach’s contents got be emptied out into the small intestine.

It’s a bit of a balancing act, since waiting too long can cause issues such as low blood glucose, genuine hunger and other issues. But if you eat too soon, such as folks who eat every two hours, you may be eating more out of habit and cause weight gain through excess calories and such. Here’s the article if you wanna check it out: https://www.insider.com/how-often-should-i-be-eating-during-the-day-2018-5

The ideal proportion that should be on your plate. I’ll admit that I usually don’t have THAT many vegetables on my plate.

Many fitness and nutrition gurus will agrees that eating smaller, more frequent meals will help with weight loss and overall health. Waiting too long between meals will cause your body to go into a panicked “calorie storing” overdrive, since it doesn’t know when its next meal will come. Hence, one of the main reason for more frequent meals.

Here’s the fun fact: if you carb-count properly and check your blood sugars often, your choice of meal plan shouldn’t affect your Diabetes. I eat often throughout the day, although my main meals tend to revolve around lunch and/or dinner. Doing shift work can be problematic as well, since you don’t always get to decide when to eat.

Personally, I make it a point to listen to my body and eat when I’m hungry. What a concept, eh? But eating every few hours will help to ensure to stave off hunger, help to keep your metabolism fired up throughout the day and help to keep you energized for workouts and fitness routines.

Like everything else, what you do will be specific to you. What diet and meal planning one person uses may not be right for you. And if you are a Type 1 Diabetic, straying form the meal plan your nutritionist and/or dietician has set out for you may not be ideal. It may take a bit of experimenting in order to find your niche. ☯

A Mixed Bag Is Difficult To Keep Tidy…

A karate master my Sensei used to train with had a saying: “One Love, One Religion and Only one Style…” The first two are pretty self-explanatory but the third one refers to a martial arts style.

Training in more than one style of martial arts is difficult. Even if you happen to find a school that has similar styles and techniques, there will always be some inherent differences, however minor they may seem.

I’ve been doing it for about three years, at this point. As some of you may remember, I’ve been studying Okinawan Karate for over thirty years. Given that length of time, it’s safe to say that I’ve become entrenched in my techniques and how I execute them. The current school of karate I train with has some differences in their techniques as well as some stances that often seem strange and feel alien to me. But to them, it’s what they know and how it SHOULD be done.

Consolidating the two styles has been a challenge. Especially if I ever have any hope of continuing my martial arts education and obtaining my next Dan (next degree of black belt), I need to keep my techniques and forms from my home style crisp and proper. To stray from that risks making my techniques ineffective and cost me some progress.

So, which one is better? I hear a lot of head-butting comments within the martial arts community about how “my way is better” and “my technique is the proper way”… Even within my job, I’ve had a lot of debates with some people relating to what combat style and what techniques are more effective.

I think people should remember that there is not one style that is better than another. Every style of traditional martial arts has its own unique combination of factors that make it effective. And martial arts in general is very subjective to the student.

For example, Tae Kwon Do is a very effective form of Korean martial arts. But for the life of me, I would never be comfortable executing all those high-flying kicks and maneuvers. I’m simply not built for it. But the next person may take to it like a fish to water. For me, Okinawan Karate is ideal because it focuses on the use of hand strikes and grappling, allowing me to use my specific skill set in conjunction with karate techniques. But the Tae Kwon Do student may find my fighting method to be too restrictive. In a battle between the two, so long as the Tae Kwon Do student keeps me at a distance, he or she can deliver some devastating blows. But sure as the Sun rises every morning, if I get within grabbing distance, the advantage quickly becomes mine!

The point is that every style has its own benefits and disadvantages. It falls to the student to examine and try different styles until they find one that fits. That’s why there’s really no such thing as “mixed martial arts”. this is why I referred to “traditional” martial arts, earlier.

Be certain to find the style that is right for you. Then train hard within it until you achieve proficiency. Trying and/or training in a second style shouldn’t be attempted by anyone who hasn’t already reached a significant level or grade within their primary style. To do so will only serve to muddy the waters. ☯

Everyone Has A Type…

I write about Diabetes a great deal, mostly because I have been type 1 Diabetic since the age of 4, which means about 36 years at this point. Over almost four decades, I’ve accumulated a LOT of knowledge on Type 1 Diabetes, its symptoms and treatments and what you can do to make your life easier.

Something that has always blown my mind, is how little people actually know about Diabetes. Last year, just over 7% of Canadians were diagnosed with some form of Diabetes. So it isn’t like this is a passing thing.

When I was diagnosed in 1982, people believed that Type 1 Diabetes meant that your pancreas was totally dead and served no purpose. We’ve since learned that not only is this inaccurate, there are several types of Diabetes, and they differ from one another in the same way as candy bars differ from one another despite all having chocolate (See what I did there? A sugar pun…)

Here are the known types of Diabetes: Type 1 Diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes, Gestational Diabetes, Diabetes LADA, Diabetes MODY and Type 3 Diabetes. I’m gonna try and explain them all…

Type 1 Diabetes: This one is also known as “juvenile Diabetes” or insulin-dependent Diabetes. This type of Diabetes is based on the body’s own immune system attacking insulin production, which is what causes the issue. Because of this attack, the pancreas ends up producing very little or no insulin, and patients rely on insulin injections for the rest of their natural lives. There are a number of complications and issues attached to this type and it is the most well-known. But the pancreas still continues to function for other enzymes and hormones, despite this difficulty. This is also the type that I have.

Type 2 Diabetes: This one is popularly known as “adult onset Diabetes”, and the difference is that people with Type 2 experience insulin resistance or their bodies are affected in the way they metabolize glucose. What causes this type to differ from Type 1 is that obesity and lifestyle choices can CAUSE Type 2. This type of Diabetes can also be reversed, given weight loss, diet and proper treatment.

Gestational Diabetes: This one only occurs in pregnant women. It’s referred to as Diabetes because it affects the way your body uses sugar during the pregnancy. Any complications are cause for concern during a pregnancy, but Gestational Diabetes tends to clear up once delivery has occurred. That being said, it should be noted that women who have experienced Gestational Diabetes are susceptible to Type 2 Diabetes, later on.

Diabetes LADA: This is a weird one. Sometimes referred to as Type 1.5, LADA stands for Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults, and holds many similarities to Type 1. The difference is that it usually occurs later in life, say after the age of 30, and can usually linger for years before insulin therapy is required. This one is often misdiagnosed as Type 2.

Diabetes MODY: This one is an unfortunate genetic gift. The acronym stands for Maturity-Onset Diabetes of the Young, and is usually considered a mutation brought on by factors such as obesity, or passed on by the patient’s progenitor. This one is subject to frequent misdiagnosis since it actually requires a DNA test to confirm.

Type 3 Diabetes: This one is linked to Alzheimer’s Disease. It involves the neutrons in the brain becoming resistant and unable to respond to insulin. This is necessary for memory and learning. There’s still a lot of research and learning required for this one, but it’s ongoing. It’s also a relatively new form of Diabetes, discovered sometime in about 2005.

There are a number of added sub-types, such as Double Diabetes, Steroid-induced Diabetes, Brittle Diabetes, Secondary Diabetes and Diabetes Insipidus. I won’t get into the details attached to these sub-types, but the United Kingdom’s Diabetes website has a great article thatbdescribes these at https://www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes-types.html

Hopefully, this shows all my readers that there’s more to Diabetes than simply avoiding or not eating sugar. It is a complex condition that can affect a person on multiple levels. As usual, exercise regularly and maintain a proper diet, and don’t be afraid to ask your doctor about symptoms you may have that lead you to believe you may be suffering from one of the types listed above. ☯

Blood Pressure Isn’t Where You Want To Get High Score…

Diabetes is an extremely complicated condition, and it tends to affect all systems within the body. Recently, I’ve been trying to cover off the areas that seem to have the most impact. One of those areas happen to be high blood pressure.

Blood pressure is one of those enigmatic medical measurements that people generally don’t understand until their doctor tells them it’s too high. Speaking in general terms, a normal blood pressure for most people is about 120/80. This is the optimal range for people looking to maintain proper health, although your doctor will advise you what numbers are proper for your specific health and condition.

So what do those numbers mean? According to http://www.healthline.com, “the top number refers to the amount of pressure in your arteries during the contraction of your heart muscle. This is called systolic pressure. The bottom number refers to your blood pressure when your heart muscle is between beats. This is called diastolic pressure.”

Now that we have the medical jargon out of the way, how does this affect someone with Diabetes? There is a known and proven relationship between Type 1 Diabetes and high blood pressure. Having one automatically puts you at risk for the other.

Diabetes tends to cause damage to the arteries, which can lead to hardening and blood pressure issues. High blood pressure issues can lead to eye and kidney disease or aggravate an already existing condition. There are a number of other complications caused by high blood pressure that can be read on WebMD at https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/high-blood-pressure

There are a number of easy things you can do to help with blood pressure levels. Eating healthy and exercising are obvious steps. Maintaining your blood glucose levels and keeping your weight down can also help.

Your medical practitioner may also chose to put you on preventative blood pressure medication. Although I’m not a big fan of taking medication that isn’t needed in the immediate moment, this is one of those rare exceptions that prevention is best. I, myself, am on Ramipril, which is an ACE inhibitor that helps to treat high blood pressure.

Readers will likely notice that eating healthy, exercising and maintaining good blood glucose levels are the aspects I keep repeating over and over. But those three steps will certainly lead to an easier life when dealing with type 1 Diabetes. ☯

Don’t Get Burned…

Recently, I wrote about the issues surrounding fitness during extreme weather and the effects of high heat on blood sugars. I’m going to reiterate by saying that during the summer season, blood sugars can be adversely affected by high temperatures. It can be different for some people, but in my case, my blood will often drop.

This can be caused by the body straining to lower your core body temperature through sweating and an increased heart rate due to the heat. This is why it’s SO important to consistently sip water throughout the day. It helps to keep you hydrated and aids in regulating your core body temperature to avoid issues like heat stroke and dehydration.

But before I start repeating everything I posted on a previous day, let’s address the culprit of all these issues: the Sun!

Now before I get into the crux of this post, I’ll take a moment to explain exactly what our Sun is. It is a star. It creates heat by fusing hydrogen into helium and this process is the reason behind the Sun’s light and heat. This energy travels to the Earth where it is responsible for most of the life on our planet. (Although explaining this shouldn’t be necessary, we live in a world where some people actually believe our world is flat, sooooo… you do the math!)

Ultraviolet light, or UV rays, are present in the Sun’s radiation and prolonged exposure to this radiation can be damaging to living tissue. This is where the application of sunblock or sunscreen lotion plays an important role.

Last week, I decided to be a smart ass and cycle for 21 kilometres. The temperatures that afternoon reached the high 20’s, low 30’s (that’s in Celsius) and I took off from home thinking if I got too hot, I’d simply turn around. By the time I started to feel the effects of the heat, I had already gone about 10 kilometres and would have to peddle another 10 to get home!

I drank plenty of water and stayed hydrated but as it is the beginning of the hotter season, I totally neglected to apply sunblock before taking off on my trek. Needless to say I got a nice red-skinned surprise later in the day.

Let’s talk about sunblock for a moment. Sunblock is a topical gel or lotion that’s applied to the skin. It helps by reflecting UV rays away from the skin, which prevents damage and sunburns.

What many people don’t know or understand (and what I only learned a couple of years back as well) is what the SPF number on your sunblock refers to. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and the number is a multiplier. So what that means is that if it takes you 10 minutes to start burning and you apply an SPF15 sunblock, you can theoretically be in the sunlight for 150 minutes before you start burning. Theoretically.

You should be applying sunscreen daily, or even any time you step out into the sunlight. According to an article posted by Men’s Health Magazine, the Centre for Disease Control recommends using AT LEAST an SPF15 or higher. To be honest, I don’t recall ever seeing anything lower. Most retail locations in Canada will carry SPF 15, 30 and 50. When I travelled to Japan, they had an SPF110 available, although I can’t speak to whether it was more effective than the 50 or not.

An important factor to consider is to ensure that you apply sunblock properly. Most people tend to dab here and there and assume they’re good to go. But you need to consider full coverage of your bare skin in order for the sunblock to be truly effective. Remember that you may need to reapply more frequently if you are swimming or sweating profusely.

Here’s that Men’s Health article if you want a bit more information: https://www.menshealth.com/health/a19541357/how-much-sunscreen-do-you-need/

Sunblock is important to help with the prevention of certain types of skin cancer and can help you enjoy the hotter season without the perils of getting sunburned. Apply sunblock often, drink plenty of fluids (bearing in mind that caffeinated and alcoholic beverages will contribute to dehydration) and take added precautions by wearing some sun-blocking clothing. Remember, don’t get burned! ☯