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. ☯

Advertisements

Smile! It Makes Others Wonder What You’re Up To…

I was on my way home a couple of days ago when I drove past an elderly lady who was walking on an adjacent sidewalk. It’s in my nature to examine my surroundings as I go along, but something about this lady caught my eye in a particular way; she was smiling!

One would be inclined to think that a smile is not a big deal, right? Normally, I would agree. But here’s the thing: this lady had grey hair and was hunched over. She walked with a cane and had a very slow gait. She appeared to have lived through some of the more difficult aspects of life.

Despite the difficulty she appeared to be having, she was looking up at the trees and the sky and had a huge smile from ear to ear. She waved at another person as she walked by. Did she know this person, or was she simply spreading joy and friendliness? And it got me to thinking about the human condition.

We spend most of our lives trying to get things done. We grow up going to school, we study then get jobs, build families and worry about finances. We spend so much time doing all of this that we often forget to take a look around us at the world that’s provided so much beauty.

If this lady is able to enjoy the beauty of life and keep on smiling, then we should really have no excuse.

Life throws quite a bit of stress at us, so it’s important to stop and smell the roses every now and again. As Mother Teresa once said, “Peace Begins With A Smile.”

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! ☯

If It Is Not Right, Do Not Do It…

The title is part of a quote by Marcus Aurelius, who was a respected Emperor of Rome but was also known as a Stoic philosopher. His book, Meditations, is a great read. I highly recommend it.

I’ve done martial arts long enough to see most students come and go. After all, it’s often been said (in martial arts circles) that only one student in ten thousand will stay with it long enough to achieve black belt. I think we all deal with this at some point; thinking or believing that we aren’t certain why we’re still doing it or if it serves any purpose. I had to deal with one such instance recently.

For the purposes of this post, I will call this student Jane. Jane has been studying the martial arts for a number of years. She’s what I would call an adequate student, meaning she trains hard and puts in her workout. The question becomes whether she practices and pushes herself OUTSIDE the confines of two classes that add up to about four hours within a one hundred and sixty eight hour week!

Green belt level in the mid 1990’s. The pressures of continuing on would reach me within the next few years of training…

What many students fail to comprehend is how much dedication the martial arts require. If one simply shows up to class (even every class without missing any), progression can be extremely slow and even nonexistent. There has to be a certain amount of practice outside of the dojo, at home and during your free time. Study and cross-training are necessary for a student to grow from basic and adequate to promotable.

Jane approached me after class one night and asked me if I felt that karate was worth pursuing for her. I agreed that indeed it was, but that it had to be right for her. When I asked her why she felt the need to question that, she explained that she had been sitting at the same belt rank for the past few years and felt she wasn’t progressing. She felt ignored and believed she wasn’t being given the level of attention she required in order to promote and train further.

We discussed this for a lengthy period of time but at the end, I explained that coming to karate had to be for her and her alone. If her only reasons for being in karate was to get a certain coloured belt around her waist, it may not be for her. That being said, every person feels the need to be acknowledged and have SOME advancement, regardless of what form it may take. She left that night after saying she would put some thought into it and make a decision.

That was last year. I haven’t seen Jane since. It’s quite sad, but it’s an old and typical story within the martial arts. Many students feel that if they aren’t promoting or advancing quickly enough that they are wasting their time. Most students forget that karate is like a fine wine; it must be aged and practiced until perfection is reached. And ultimately, if you think you’ve reached perfection it simply means that you haven’t.

Three generations of karate. Myself as a green belt, next is Sensei Guy Levesque (my instructor) Eva (another student of Sensei’s) and Sensei Bob Blaisdell on the far right (my Sensei’s Sensei)

In the late 1990’s, I experienced the same phenomenon as Jane did. I found myself struggling to get through class. My techniques didn’t feel as sharp or as fast as they used to be. I had reached the rank of brown belt by this point, but it almost felt as though life was grinding to a standstill. I found myself wondering if, considering I had healed and improved my health, there was any reason for me to continue training in karate. I didn’t care about rank; the colour of my belt meant far less to me than how well I could use my acquired skills.

The thought of not being able to do it anymore, or stopping my training created a heavy weight on my shoulders and sent me into a slump. I was lucky to have Sensei to talk me through it and make me understand the further benefits of continuing on.

But there have been times when I’ve had to stop. Sometimes several weeks, at most a couple of months, time away to reflect has often been a tool I’ve used to bring perspective to my training and help guide me back. And I always have gone back.

When I left New Brunswick in 2009 and moved out to Saskatchewan, I had to deal with the prospect of training once or twice a year when I went home to visit. I spent several years training on my own, which meant progress and belt advancements were no longer possible. It wasn’t until late 2016 when I found a local school in which I could train. I won’t lie, it’s good to be back in a dojo environment.

If you’re questioning why you’re doing it, there’s nothing wrong with taking a break. If you step away for a little reflection and clarity, you’re not alone. And it doesn’t mean you have to quit. However, if you’ve had that time of reflection and don’t feel it’s for you, then it should likely be accepted as a sign that you should stop. And that applies to all forms of arts and sports, I think.

Be true to yourself. Nothing you do for yourself should be done because it is expected. It should be because you want to. Yes, I’m a firm advocate of pushing through and having the will to go one, but it also has to fit within your lifestyle and your personality. Taking that into consideration, we need to add to the title of today’s post. If it is not right FOR YOU, do not do it!

Expectations Are Never What You Expect

Do you ever wonder what life expects out of you? Have you ever wondered if you’re on the right track, based on those expectations? Well, I have some illuminating news for you: life expects nothing. You’re not “expected” to be on any track. Your life depends on you.

For centuries, there have been expectations out of people through the natural course of their lives. In medieval times, a boy became a man and was expected to take a wife and raise a family. This could happen anytime after the age of 12. Can you imagine? People today would cringe at the very thought of allowing such a young child to marry.

Throughout Contemporary History, you were expected to serve a tour of duty in your country’s military, return home and marry, have kids and get a house and solid job. Not even a career, mind you. Simply a job that would bring in the income required to support your family. That’s all that mattered.

What do you think the expectations are now? There are certain things that people impose on themselves. There are several people who believe that they need to go to post-secondary studies, obtain a university degree, meet someone and get married prior to their 30’s and have children, secure a career and a stable home.

One good example is how most teenagers start meeting guidance counsellors at 16 to start deciding what career they want and what path they’ll choose in life. I don’t know about you, but I had a hard time deciding what I would be doing on any particular weekend; I certainly wasn’t ready to plan out my life at that point!

Things need to happen in their own time. There is no template to how life should be lived. It’s okay if you chose never to go to college or university. It’s okay if you don’t meet the love of your life until later in life. The choice to have children is also yours and can’t be dictated by others.

Pooja Rajkumar once said: “Everybody have their own pace in achieving things in life… just because it happens to others, doesn’t mean it should happen to you as well… You will have your time and when it is to happen it will, without you being worried about it… just have one thing in your mind to clear off the frustration, “all things happen for a reason” and you will be fine!!!”

Don’t be so hard on yourself. Even if things don’t go “according to plan”, it doesn’t mean you’re off track. Don’t push so hard. Don’t stress so much. The things that bring you happiness will always outweigh the things that bring you money. Or possessions. Or suit the expectations of society. Do what brings you peace. ☯

The Heat Is On!!!

Guess what, folks? Summer is here, and with it comes the intense heat that often makes me feel like I’m working out in the thirteenth circle of hell…

All jokes aside, summer heat can adversely affect your blood sugars in an extreme way. Exposure to summer heat can potentially lead to dehydration. First and foremost, dehydration will lead to reduced blood circulation and therefore less insulin absorption. This means your blood sugar levels will spike.

When you dehydrate, as your blood sugar rise, you will experience frequent urination, which leads to further consumption of water and further urination… It’s a brutal cycle.

Although it’s important to monitor what you’ve eaten and adjust your insulin dosage accordingly, it becomes even more important to remember that including physical activity in the mix will cause further issues. It would be important to either avoid physical activity during the hottest peak hours of the day, or work out in a properly air-conditioned environment.

Make sure to drink plenty of water, even if you aren’t thirsty. This will ensure you don’t get dehydrated. Avoid alcoholic drinks during extreme heat as they will contribute to dehydration. As much as it kills me to say so, caffeinated drinks should be avoided as well. Caffeine acts as a diuretic and will dry you out further.

The next issue is your Diabetes medications and equipment. They don’t do so well in the heat. In fact, leaving your insulin in the hot sun will effectively cause the medication portion of it to evaporate and will basically become expensive water! The same can be said of your glucometer. Extreme heat will result in malfunction of your electronics and improper calibration of the same items. Keep all your equipment and medications in a cool, shady location during peak hours of the day.

The summer heat is inevitable, especially in the Prairies where I live. But it is possible to take preventative steps to keep it from affecting your Diabetes. Drink plenty of water, test your blood sugar often and remember to adjust your work outs accordingly to prevent issues during the peak summer season. ☯

What Did You Think You Were Eating For?

One of the key reasons behind the consumption of food is to obtain carbohydrates for energy. The human body requires energy to carry on normal functions and, well… stay alive! But what else do we get from the food we eat?

A proper diet will also include a number of vitamins and minerals that we require to maintain proper health, growth and energy levels within the body. We’ve all heard about getting enough vitamins from a young age; I remember getting my Flintstones vitamin everyday as a kid.

But if you’re like most people, you’re likely wondering what these vitamins are for and what they do. My goal is to cover off the main ones here:

Vitamin A: This is an all-around vitamin that provides a number of functions including but not limited to the proper health of various bodily functions, tissues and helps to fight chronic disease and is known to be good for the eyes.

Vitamin B: This one is a bit complicated, as there is a large grouping of enzymes, vitamins and minerals that fall under the “B” category. In general, B-vitamins are used for energy production, immune function and absorbing iron. Some them include B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B9 (folate) and B12. There are a few more that I can’t recall, but B12 is considered amongst one of the most important of vitamins overall because it helps you turn food into energy.

Vitamin C: At some points, this one has been referred to as the sunshine vitamin. I’m thinking that’s mostly because people’s main source of Vitamin C is from citrus fruits. But this vitamin also helps with iron absorption, immune function and is a natural antioxidant that helps with the elimination of free radicals. Eating citrus fruits are also what sailors used to eat on long voyages to prevent scurvy.

Vitamin D: This vitamin helps with the strengthening of bones and teeth. Our bodies are designed to self-generate this vitamin naturally through exposure to sunlight, but obviously that needs to be done in small doses. Modern life has created an environment where more people spend their time indoors, away from the sun. So supplementation becomes important.

Vitamin E: A pretty straight forward vitamin, this one helps with proper blood circulation and clear skin.

Vitamin K: This vitamin is essential for blood-clotting. In order words, if you’re deficient in this vitamin, small cuts or injuries can cause excessive bleeding that can become dangerous.

Folic Acid: We hear people speak about this one as being necessary during pregnancy. And they would be correct! Folic Acid helps to prevent certain complications during childbirth but is important to everyone for proper cell renewal. This one is also known as Folate, or Vitamin B9 (as listed above).

Calcium: Most people should be familiar with this one. Teeth and bones, people! Teeth and bones! Good calcium levels are required to keep those body parts healthy.

Iron: This helps to build muscle tissue naturally and helps with proper health of the blood. As an interesting sidebar, it’s also what makes your blood red through the reflection of light!

Zinc: Immunity and Fertility. I’m a little unfamiliar with this one and haven’t had the opportunity to research it a great deal.

Chromium: This one is near and dear to my heart. Because it helps to control blood sugar levels. Chromium is what helps all the systems of your body to get the energy they need when they need it. Some traditional medicine practitioners will suggest Chromium supplements for Type 1 Diabetics who may have difficulty in maintaining proper levels.

Magnesium: This one helps your body to absorb all the other vitamins and minerals. It also acts as something of a relaxant to muscle tissue and play a role in proper muscle contraction.

Potassium: This mineral helps with the proper hydration of your body and helps to control blood pressure.

There are many others of course, but I’ve tried to cover off the main vitamins and minerals required for a proper diet. For more information and possible food sources for these vitamins and minerals, I’ve found the following two online articles that provide a lot of good information:

https://www.comvita.com/blog-article/10-essential-vitamins-your-body-needs/4100544

https://www.goodnet.org/articles/11-essential-vitamins-minerals-your-body-needs

We get most of what we need by eating regularly and including a variety of healthy foods. A lot of people take a daily multi-vitamin, which is fine. But unless you are experiencing symptoms or unexplained illnesses, there shouldn’t be a need to actively try and take added amounts of anything. Your medical practitioner should be able to advise you if further supplementation is required. For example, patients who are recommended to take Folic Acid and Iron during pregnancy.

Obviously, all of this is extremely important; not only for proper health and fitness, which is important to me, but to help with Type 1 Diabetes as well. A big shout out to my wife, Laura, who provided me with this blog post idea by asking about B12 yesterday. ☯