Tag Archives: diabetes and blood sugar

How the DOC Helped Me Check Again

Part of a diabetes art showing by Ana Morales

 

There have been times when I’ve slacked when it comes to how often I check my blood sugars.  Sometimes I get down to 4 times a day and I know that isn’t personally enough-not for my aggressive control of blood sugars.  But, I rarely keep that up for long because being connected to the DOC, or Diabetes Online Community, means constant reminders of how important checking blood sugars is along with encouragement and people to really relate to.

In January I ran out of test strips because I had given half of my last shipment to my brother, who was just recently diagnosed with type 1 and then I ran out of money.  I had to put money into paying rent and bills and focused on just getting by while not feeling pity for myself but instead, feeling happy and grateful that I normally am able to afford all that I need for my diabetes.

I made a comment on Facebook about having run out of strips and was shocked by how many fellow people with diabetes suddenly told me they would send me some extras they had.  Several people knew I didn’t have a certain kind of meter and ended up sending me strips and the meter that corresponded.

It has been so heartwarming.  Strips are a precious commodity for us people with diabetes-and they cost a lot  So to me these acts of kindness are HUGE!

I was getting by decently by eating low carb, skipping meals, and trying to constantly guess my blood sugars.  Thanks to certain members of the DOC, I was able to stop the stressful madness and check again.

I can’t thank you enough,.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I accepted the help on the condition that if these people ever needed anything they’d let me know.  I hope they know I mean that ;)

Just another reason why being part of the DOC is awesome.

Because of Diabetes

Courtesy of Prozac1

Courtesy of Prozac1

 

Because of diabetes…

I am hyper sensitive towards those with chronic diseases.

Because of diabetes…

I try extra hard to look healthy and be healthy in order to help combat the assumption that a diabetic is unhealthy or unhealthy looking.

Because of diabetes…

I am a little less confident in myself than I’d like to be some days.

Because of diabetes…

I am proudly confident in my ability to handle syringes and other medical equipment even in the dark if need be.

Because of diabetes…

I didn’t enjoy my Cancun honeymoon nearly as much as I should have.  I was constantly lifting my meter and safety supplies up over my head and the water to get into a boat or something.  And I had a lot of swimming induced lows.  You know what?  I think I’ll spin this topic off into an entire post.

Because of diabetes…

I have fully enjoyed a lot of small things in life such as Saturday mornings (yay, I awoke!), walking around barefoot (yay, my feet are healthy!), and seeing my children’s faces (yay, I can see!).

Because of diabetes…

I am more humble.  There is nothing more humbling than needing help from someone when blood sugar is low and your body isn’t able to move.

Because of diabetes…

I never get too comfortable.  It keeps me on my toes.  It keeps me paying attention to my toes.

Because of diabetes…

I am constantly reminded that my husband is truly committed because time and time again my diabetes tests him and he passes with flying colors.

Because of diabetes…

I recognize how valuable community and sharing is. 

Because of diabetes…

I have been forced to understand the importance of a healthy attitude in life and how without it I am not well.

Because of diabetes…

I know what it’s like to almost die.  And as bad as that feeling is, I wish some people would understand what it’s like.  Maybe then they wouldn’t act like nothing wrong could happen to them.  Maybe then they’d respect their bodies/they’re life just a little bit more.

Sticky Fingers = False Highs

 

I know this may seem obvious to many of you.  When you’ve handled something sweet, you wash your hands or wipe your finger before testing right? 

I thought I’d make a short post about this because I didn’t think of this before recently when my husband made me aware of it. 

Ever since, I’ve sometimes seen a 180 or a 200-something on the meter that didn’t make sense because I felt fine.  So I washed my hands and “oh ok, there we go, 120, that sounds better”. 

So maybe I’m not the only one who could go so many years without this info (which yes, is common sense but may still escape us)

Thinking back, I’m sure some of the crazy lows I had in the past could be due to this.  I’d test, see a high number, give insulin, and 15 minutes later be really low and have to treat, and treat again, until finally stabilizing.  I’d think, “wow, that insulin worked fast”.  Pshh.  If only I had known before.

So if you don’t always ensure your fingers are clean, beware of false high readings.  Once you correct with insulin, they turn into scary low blood sugar readings, quite quickly.  If you’ve handled food, try to wash your hands or wipe your finger to be pricked with an alcohol swab. 

And if you see something over 250 and it just doesn’t seem right, test again.  Don’t be afraid of using another test strip.  I once saw a 380, tested again after washing my hands, and found I was 155.  Can you imagine the low I would have had?

But, I Can’t Eat That

 

I try to say, “I can’t eat that” in all sorts of different ways so other diabetics don’t get told, “But, you can’t eat that?!”  I say, “I’m not hungry” or “I personally don’t do well with that kind of food”, etc.

Truth is, there is a lot I can’t eat.  I mean I can, but my blood sugars pay a price which means my health pays a price which to me translates as a big no-no. 

I could eat pasta for dinner.  I’ll give the right amount of insulin to cover it and I’ll be fine.  Until a little later that is, when my blood sugars start creeping up in the most sneaky way.  Slowly…slowly and suddenly I test before bed and find I’m over 200. 

Frankly, anything white does this to my blood sugars.  ANYTHING.  So, although I could eat a hamburger, I better leave out the bun or I’m going to be sorry later.  Same goes for rice, a sandwich, and cookies.

You know how the “raw diet” has become strongly marketed for type 2 diabetics?  Well, when I stick to a “raw diet” or a “clean diet” I see wonderful blood sugars.  My insulin resistance lowers dramatically.  And I lose weight.   It’s fabulous.  Except for the part where I pay for the groceries.  It’s cheaper to buy the processed stuff for sure!

The way I see it, you have the “right” to eat what you want.  I just think that if you’re not getting good results with a particular food, it should be on your “only once in a while” list.  

Maybe it’s just me, maybe I have nerve damage and it makes me digest food more slowly.  Instead of being a victim to that I just eat differently and I’m fine.  But I guess my point is…I wouldn’t want anyone to scoff at me for turning down pizza.  I have the right to say “I can’t eat that” without people saying I’m fueling a diabetes myth.  Nerve damage affects a majority of type 1 diabetics after a certain amount of years.  I think the figure is 50-70%.  This means I’m not the only one and those who are safe now, may not be later on and they too, deserve to feel free and accepted when it comes to their health choices.

So although it must really be difficult for people to explain over and over and over again that type 1 diabetics can eat anything as long as they give insulin to cover it…the truth is it’s more complicated than that.  Not everyone has this liberty and not everyone will retain it. 

People can handle complicated answers (well…most people).  Next time someone says, “Wait, can you eat that being a diabetic and all?”  If you can then say something like, “Yes, I definitely can because I take insulin to cover the carbs, but this varies from diabetic to diabetic because of other factors.” (I’m sure you could come up with something much better)  Yes, this may leave a poor soul a little perplexed, but, the right thing to do is to tell it like it is instead of make a general statement that is meant to encompass everyone but instead falls short.

Perspective Helps

 

Something that has helped me A LOT in the past (diabetes-wise) was to have a paradigm shift or change in perspective about certain things. 

For example, I still struggle with feeling “poor” sometimes and yet, thinking about those who have no home, no food, no family, or no clean water quickly snaps me back into the “rich” category.

I’ve said this before but, I used to have a terrible time getting my blood sugar to stay below 200.  My goal was that: to keep it below 200.  I would fail miserably and endure lots of 300’s and 400’s. 

Then I thought to myself, “maybe my target should change?”  So I started aiming for 100-all the time.  No mind that this isn’t possible, the point was, shouldn’t I be aiming at the right place in the first place?  Then when I get a little outside my target zone at least I’m still not doing too bad?

I thought this was a silly thing to think although I tried it anyway.  And I couldn’t believe it but, it worked!

It was the equivalent of raising my own bar.  It was bringing up my expectations.  As a result, my actions met these expectations and I got much closer to where I needed to be. 

A major change in perspective also helped me in another crucial area:

I used to feel like the most unlucky gal in the world because of having type 1 diabetes.  And so I blamed every single negative thing in life on my diabetes.  I didn’t push myself through college because: diabetes.  I didn’t have confidence in myself because: diabetes.  I didn’t exercise regularly because: diabetes.  I wasn’t happy because: diabetes.

The truth is that diabetes DOES make everything in life harder.  I know that.  I want you to know I know that.  Problem is, not taking care of our diabetes will eventually make life EVEN harder later! 

I often think, “It’s like I can’t win”.  Maybe you do too, sometimes.  Well, we’ve got to scratch that line from our brains.  We need to just focus on how we’re alive (others have not made it to whatever age we’re at).  We have a roof over our heads (many others do not).  We can afford insulin (unbelievably so, some cannot).  And many of us still have the ability to gently exercise each day, have confidence in ourselves and be happy simply because we choose to, and push forward with our dreams and aspirations even though we’ll have to push much harder than others.  We can! 

And having the right perspective…helps.

PS: Don’t let any negative person tell you that diabetics don’t want to hear that perspective helps.  If we’re humble, we’ll know it’s the truth and if we let it, it helps.

Let a Diabetes Routine Checklist Help You Out of a Diabetes Rut

 There are many ways to get into a diabetes rut.  Frankly for me, something as simple as a late night or a cold can snowball me into a rut that lasts a month.  Meaning, my numbers aren’t right, I’m not feeling 100%, and I don’t even know where to start in order to get back on track.  So it has occurred to me to try something to prevent and remedy this. 

Here is my Simple Daily Checklist:

Test first thing in the morning

Remember to give insulin before eating

Wait the appropriate time between insulin dose and eating

Drink enough water

Exercise

Remember to give Lantus

Watch carb intake

 

These items may seem obvious, and they are.  The thing is, during the holidays, or busy weeks, or stressful times, etc., obvious things are forgotten. 

The other day I wasn’t feeling well and my blood sugars were running higher than normal and I looked at my check list and realized I hadn’t been drinking much water-in fact, two days went by and all I had were two coffees!  Yikes.  (The color of my urine should have alarmed me, but I guess I didn’t pay attention?)

Anyway, I put this list somewhere I can see it each day and even though it seems dumb to read, “exercise”, surprisingly enough, when I read it I’m like, “oh yeah!  I need to do that!”

Now not everyone responds to a list, or likes it, or is motivated to keep up with it.  Which is totally cool, but, if you’re the type that does like a little checklist (and boy do I love them!) then give it a try.  Make it personalized.  Perhaps you don’t need to mention water intake because you’re not as goofy as me and feel it’s only natural to drink enough water/liquids.  Maybe you tend to forget to give insulin before taking a bite from that cookie?  That has happened to me, too.  In any case, this might help you.  At least during months like, December, oy!

The basic things aren’t typically what we put on a list and yet, why not?  They may be the most important!

Apply Pareto’s Law to Your Diabetes Management

 

Things which matter most should never be at the mercy of things which matter least.

~Goethe

There are things we all do for our health and things we undeniably don’t do for our health-that we know we should.  Many of us are aware of a number of things we should do and in order to compromise with ourselves, we pick and choose a few things to focus on instead of do them all.

But don’t you want the most bang for your buck?  What I mean is, don’t you want the efforts you make, to provide the greatest positive impact on your health possible?  Sure you do!  I know I do!

This is where Pareto’s Law or the 80/20 rule comes in to possibly help.  Here is a little bit of history.  Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist.  In 1906 he noticed that 20% of the pea pods in his garden gave him 80% of the peas.  He applied this observation to many other places.  For example, he found that 20% of people in Italy owned 80% of the land/wealth.  Even today, it has been observed that (according to Wiki) “In health care in the United States, it has been found that 20% of patients use 80% of health care resources”.  (I wonder if a good chunk of those 20% are diabetics and I wonder if the government placed more importance on helping us diabetics manage our health better, would we all save and benefit? Hmmm…)

So what if 20% of your actions created 80% of your overall state of health?  Are you doing the right 20%?

For example, you could drink plenty of water, exercise, eat healthy, and control stress, but if your blood sugars are always high, you’ll be dehydrated, unable to get much out of exercise, have difficulty controlling stress, and your healthy eating won’t save you.  That is because managing blood sugars is very key to your overall health.  In fact, it’s crucial. 

Let’s say we have five goals right now. (For the purpose of this example)

1.  To make more money

2.  To spend more quality time with friends/family

3.  To exercise more

4.  To improve blood sugar management

5.  To lose weight

A lot of people have these goals.  They are relatively common.  Realistically though, if we try to tackle all five of these goals at once, we’ll quickly either become overwhelmed or unmotivated. 

How about we just focus on blood sugar management.  Years ago, these were my five goals at some point.  And after ongoing failure to achieve any of the five goals I decided to tackle the biggest one-blood sugar management. 

To my surprise, I started losing weight, which helped me exercise more.  My mood, focus, and energy levels improved and I became more productive at work.  Eventually I started making more money. 

I just needed to take care of that which yielded the highest results.  And since I only had one goal-blood sugar management, all of my focus and energy went full blast, enabling me to succeed.  Not to mention, having great blood sugars impacts all areas of one’s life.

I could have focused instead on trying to make more money or losing weight, but, with blood sugars still out of whack, I might have never really become more productive at work or lost any weight. 

We don’t have to necessarily think about 80/20.  In some cases it’s 90/10 or 60/40.  The point is however, to place your focus and energy on that which will yield the greatest impact. 

Pareto’s law is mostly used in business.  Remember, Pareto’s law means that 80% of consequences or results come from 20% of causes.  Business students are taught (or should be taught) that 20% of customers provide 80% of sales.  And 20% of customers also provide 80% of business complaints and hassles.

From the above last two sentences, which 20% of customers would you focus on?  And that’s the point.  There are only a few things which are really important.  If you spend your time and energy on those few things, you’ll profit, in business and in life.

So back to our diabetes…let’s say we want to break down things we need to do in order to improve our blood sugars.  Make a list of 10 things you know you need to do better in order to improve blood sugars.  Put a percentage next to each.  The higher the percentage, the more positive impact on your blood sugars you foresee that one item providing you.  For example, I’d personally rate “testing blood sugar more frequently” as a much higher percentage than I would “eating healthier”.  This is because if I don’t test, eating healthy may still mean I’ve got unmanaged blood sugars since without testing I don’t even know where they are.  Get my drift?

Anyway, when you’re done with your percentage values, take a step back and pick out the one or two highest percentages.  Those are the one or two things you need to focus on.  Those one or two things will greatly impact your blood sugar management.  Once you’ve got that down as a habit, you can move on to tweaking your blood sugar management by addressing the other items on your list which hold lower percentage values.

Few things really matter…the rest, not so much.  I know we can think of all sorts of ways to apply this.

Why Testing is Queen and What Docs Should Know

 

Ok, weird title, I know.  Let me make sense of it.  For us type 1 and type 1.5 diabetics and some type 2 diabetics, Insulin is king.  We need it so bad we can’t live without it.  And In my opinion, testing is queen.  We don’t stand a good chance without testing our blood sugars every day.  Just look at what happens to the insulin dependent diabetics in 3rd world countries.  They don’t live very long.  Some don’t get enough insulin and most don’t have a personal glucose meter to use.  They’re blind before blindness sets in.

I’ve long tried to understand why I rarely meet a doctor that is okay with me testing frequently (8-12 times a day).  They have told me “it’s an exaggeration”, “it’s not necessary”, and “four times a day should be sufficient”.  Well, Doctors…it’s not an exaggeration when I say to you, “It is necessary, and four times a day just isn’t as good as 8”.

I wish I could sit down with all the doctors who have felt this way and explain to them a typical day of mine.  I’d include the way I feel when I’m not in range and how it affects the way I do things.  I’d talk about how low and high blood sugars really hurt my quality of life.  I don’t test more than four times a day because I enjoy it.  I have small hands, small fingertips, and I favor two fingers on each hand for testing and believe me it hurts.  Not to me mention how awkward it can be to test in the middle of a dark theater using the small light from my cell phone, hoping no one will notice and get me kicked out or be offended.  I test more than four times a day because catching a 150 before it becomes a 250 is priceless.  Because finding out my blood sugar is 70 before carrying my 25 pound twin babies down three flights of stairs and to the playground is just being safe.  And because I’m the one with the kidney failure, blindness, and amputation risks hovering over my head each and every day. 

No.  I don’t test because I want to, I test because after 16 years I’ve tried it all.  I’ve tested 4 times a day, 12 times a day, and 0 times a day.  And in the end, my blood sugars speak the truth.  They tell me testing more equals better blood sugar management. 

How come famous type 1 diabetic athletes have doctors supporting them when they test 25 times a day?  They’re not more special than the rest of us and even though I’m not trying to win an Olympic medal, I am trying to stay at the top of my game of life.  And I refuse to settle.

I will say, I can have pretty good glucose control with 4 blood sugar tests a day IF I limit variables within my control.  For example, If I do the following: 

-Eat the same exact meals each day, at the same exact times each day.

-Do the same exact amount of exercise and type of exercise at the exact same time each day

-Go to sleep and wake up at the exact same times each day

-Test at the exact same times each day

Now, since many of us can’t or don’t want to live this way, 4 tests a day isn’t going to cut it.  And this doesn’t even begin to mention sick days where diabetics may have to monitor their blood sugars much more frequently nor does it take into account stress and hormone fluctuations that cannot be controlled like a machine.

I used to keep a reasonable amount of routine in my day because it does help avoid unusual blood sugar surprises, but for me personally, and I’m sure many others, every moment is changing and lots of variables come into play.  It’s just not possible.

Another thing:  Why would I be told to test before getting into a car and driving and before each meal and before physical activity and then told to only test 4 times a day?  I’m not too good with math but, even I can see this doesn’t add up.

Dear doctors, insulin dependent diabetes is dependent on quickly adjusting the sails from breezes that come in from all different directions.  Testing is how we adjust the sails.  Insulin is our boat.  We are the captain, and you are our trusted advisor and mate.  Please listen and consider our words.  I don’t like feeling hopeless, like I should just jump ship over some little test strips you won’t let me have.

Friends, if you’re in the same situation as me or if you have a loved one who is or if you care about your fellow diabetics, please read Wil’s important reporting on what the new plans will be for testing supplies and medicare patients and find out what we can all do to help.   Read: The New Minutemen and a Completely Different Kind of Tea Party. 

Endocrinologists, you know better than the General Practitioners and Internists out there when it comes to diabetes and testing and I hope you’ll fight for us on this, too.

I leave you with another enlightening article from Wil over at his blog, please read: Meters Matter.  I highly recommend it to all persons with diabetes and to all doctors.  He gives 10 can’t-ignore reasons why meters matter to all diabetics.

If we choose not to fight for our rights to test as needed, we are starting to see ourselves as undeserving of excellent health and that should never happen.

Latest A1c Results

 

Before last week, my last A1c was a 5.3, taken just at the end of my pregnancy last year.  So after almost a year and a half I was definitely due for the A1c test again.  I know diabetics are supposed to get it done more frequent than that but, I have had a busy year with my twins and feel I don’t absolutely require an A1c telling me what my blood sugars are…my meter does that pretty well.  And since I test a lot, I have a good idea what my A1c is before getting back the results. 

Last week I went to the doctor, a new one I thought I’d try out.  This new doc pretty much let every diabetes stereotype and “no no” slip from his mouth.  For example, he refers to patients not doing well with their diabetes management as his “bad patients”, and he says that “technically, you should only be testing 4 times a day”.  I couldn’t help but laugh to myself and wonder what he meant by “technically”.  I found it ironic that I, according to my A1c would probably be considered a good patient and yet at the same time, by the number of blood sugar tests I do, maybe be considered a bad patient, too?  Why do so many doctors not understand that my testing directly correlates to my A1c and successful diabetes management?

My A1c was once again a 5.3.  I had estimated it to be between 5 and 5.5 and I am pleased to be pretty close. 

Please don’t feel I’m trying to sway you away from getting an A1c done.  I typically get two a year because it is a handy tool and a good back up to the meter (what if it’s off?).  I just like making the point about how important testing is, how it hides no secrets, and how testing during off times like the middle of the night can do wonders to troubleshoot ways to improve blood sugar levels. 

One quick question.  When you get back great lab results, do you get congratulated?  All I got was a “All your labs are ok.”

Gee…thanks Doc…

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