Diabetes Blog Week 2016: Hacking Exercise

Today’s Prompt: Let’s round out the week by sharing our best diabetes tips and diabetes tricks. From how you organize supplies to how you manage gear on the go/vacation (beach, or skiing, or whatever). From how you keep track of prescription numbers to how you remember to get your orders refilled. How about any “unconventional” diabetes practices, or ways to make diabetes work for YOU (not necessarily how the doctors say to do it!). There’s always something we can learn from each other.

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Because the health payoffs are so big, my tips are about hacking exercise. I thought I’d share what’s been working for me, in case it works for you, too.

Find Your Optimal Workout Time. For me, it’s 6:15 AM. Here’s why I love early morning workouts:

  • The rest of my life generally doesn’t get in the way.
  • If something does interfere with that morning time slot, there are often opportunities to squeeze in exercise later later in the day (multiple short walks, an evening run, etc.)
  • I’m able to dial back my insulin usage for several hours after the exercise. (That, in itself is hugely motivating!)

Leverage Technology. Here’s what I’m using right now:

  • Garmin Connect logo Garmin Vivofit / Connect App – a gift from my family two Christmases ago.
  •  5K Runner App Logo 5kRunner App – this $2.99 investment helped me get in shape for my first 5k.
  •  audible logo Audible.com – I listen to books while I run. Actually, I don’t let myself listen to books unless I’m out for a run. I found a Groupon for a 3-month trial. I’m enjoying it, so I’m continuing my membership. (Did you know you can share a subscription with up to 3 other people? How great is that?)
  • moth_podcast  TAL_podcast new yorker fiction podcast Podcasts – I also listen to podcasts while I run. Current favorites include: The Moth, This American Life, New Yorker Fiction.

Invite Friends and Family. I started with just one thing on this list. When a habit was formed, I added something else, and so on. Here’s what I did:

  • Challenged my husband, who recently got a pedometer, to a 10,000-steps competition. (I know the 10,000 steps thing is bunk, but it’s still the milestone I use. In fact, the 10,000-step goal is what motivated me to start running – because I didn’t have time to walk them all.)
  • Recruited a few friends to walk and / or run with me. It’s good for us all, right? Plus, it’s a great way to keep up with friends!
  • Invited a few other friends to go to Zumba with me. Just $5 a class at our local rec center. Great music, great company.
  • Signed up for a neighborhood 5k. Did I mention that I am was not a runner? (See what I did there? Now I am a runner.)
  • Invited my 11-year old to run with me on the weekends. (We take turns playing favorite songs for each other. I love learning what she’s into!)
  • Realized that my neighbor goes to the same gym I do. (Now we go to the gym together.)

Vary the Activities. Here’s what I’m doing now:

  • Cardio and weight lifting (2x/week)
  • Yoga (1x/week)
  • Running (2x/week)
  • Fast-walking (1x/week) or Hiking

How about you? How do you stay committed to exercise?

For more perspectives on this topic, click here.

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Diabetes Blog Week 2016: My Healthcare Wish List

Today’s Prompt: How would you improve or change your healthcare experience? What would you like to see happening during medical visits with your healthcare team? How about when dealing with your health insurance companies? What’s your Healthcare Wish List or Biggest Frustration?

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My Healthcare Wish List (I can dream, right?)

The Doctor-Patient Relationship

  1. At my quarterly endocrinology appointment, I see my actual endocrinologist.
  2. The appointment is scheduled for more than 15 minutes, allowing for thorough discussion and relationship building.
  3. My endocrinologist knows me as a person, and understands my health goals. We co-develop strategies to improve and maintain my health.
  4. Everything is designed in service to human beings – patients and doctors – rather than in service to the system.

The Health and Wellness Center (formerly “Medical Center”)

  1. What used to be known as a “Medical Center” is now called a “Health and Wellness Center” (like this one), reflecting a emphasis on health rather than medicine.
  2. The “Health and Wellness Center” houses:
    • my endocrinologist’s office
    • a gym
    • a nutritionist / dietician / Certified Diabetes Educator
    • a massage therapist
    • a café serving fresh, healthful food (with nutrition info)
  3. It’s located near enough to my home that I can walk or bike to it.

Integrated Technology

  1. My BG monitor and insulin pump seamlessly communicate with each other.
  2. I maintain my own Electronic Health Record (EHR) which pulls in information from all my doctor(s).

Insurance Companies

  1. In my perfect world, insurance companies don’t exist anymore.

For more perspectives on this topic, click here.

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Diabetes Blog Week 2016: Language and Diabetes

Today’s Prompt: Many advocate for the importance of using non-stigmatizing, inclusive and non-judgmental language when speaking about or to people with diabetes. Some don’t care, others care passionately. Where do you stand when it comes to “person with diabetes” versus “diabetic”, or “checking” blood sugar versus “testing”, or any of the tons of other examples?

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Of all the “hot-button” words around diabetes, the only one that rubs me the wrong way is “diabetic,” but only in certain contexts.

I’m fine with “diabetic” as an adjective that describes a thing – diabetic neuropathy, diabetic glucometer, diabetic low – no problem.

I start to get uncomfortable when I encounter “diabetic” as an adjective that describes a person, as in diabetic patient. There’s some eclipsing of the person that’s happening here, and it makes me a little twitchy.

But when it becomes a full-on noun, as with the diabetic who lives on my street? That’s when I clear my throat and shift uncomfortably in my seat. To me it’s reductive – the disease is defining the person. And there’s a connotation of permanence that I find dispiriting. At least “a person who has diabetes” might some day get rid of it…

For more perspectives on this topic, click here.

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Diabetes Blog Week 2016: The Other Half of Diabetes

Today’s Prompt: We think a lot about the physical component of diabetes, but the mental component is just as significant. How does diabetes affect you or your loved one mentally or emotionally? How have you learned to deal with the mental aspect of the condition? Any tips, positive phrases, mantras, or ideas to share on getting out of a diabetes funk?

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I was diagnosed with diabetes the summer before my sophomore year of high school. The initial treatment plan? “Take 2.5 mg of Glyburide daily and restrict sugar intake.” Because it was 1987 and glucometers weren’t available yet for home use, I was sent home with Tes-Tape® and instructions to test my urine about once a week or “whenever I felt like my blood sugar might be running high.”

For those who don’t know, Tes-Tape® was a roll of litmus paper. You’d tear off an inch or so, pee on it, watch for a change in color, then compare the color to swatches on the back of the container. The darker the the paper, the greater the concentration of glucose in your urine. (For kidneys to spill glucose, your serum glucose level has exceed 180mg/DL, high enough to be causing damage. And by the time it shows up in your urine, it’s likely been that way for several hours.) So, any color at all on the test strip indicated some degree of bad news (with no strategy for correction).

Tes-Tape

Image courtesy of perlebioscience.com

I carried the Tes-Tape® with me every day at school, zipped in an interior pocket of my backpack. I was supposed to have it with me, so I did. But I never, ever, would have used it while at school. (If you’ve ever had to pee on a narrow, inch-long strip of paper, you get it – it’s messy! And not something you want to do in a bathroom stall.) So, I didn’t test at school. And I didn’t talk about diabetes much at school. None of my friends had diabetes. None of my friends’ friends had diabetes. No teenager I had ever heard of had diabetes. And, like many teenagers, I just wanted to be perceived as normal.

Over Spring Break that year I visited my friend in upstate New York. At some point during the trip, her aunt asked me, “I hear you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, how is that going for you?” I answered that it was OK, but that it was kind of drag not to be able to eat everything my friends ate. She listened, and offered this perspective:

Had I ever considered how movie stars ate? She went on to describe that movie stars – who lived lives of luxury and could eat anything they chose, elected to limit their intake of sugar because it was bad for their bodies, bad for their complexions, and contributed to premature aging. She wondered, had I given that any thought?

I had not, and she got my attention. Call me vain, but what I heard was not so much the promise of everlasting beauty, but the message that I could fit the constraints of diabetes within a larger, and more appealing framework, as long as everything was aligned. I didn’t have to decide that I was deprived of sugar; I could simply bypass it in favor of something better, like ripe, seasonal fruit. I remember this conversation often when I reach for a luscious pear instead of, say, a sugary doughnut. “What would Jennifer Anniston do?” I think.

To read more posts on this topic, click here.

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Diabetes Blog Week 2016: Message Monday / Why I Blog

Hooray for Diabetes Blog Week! It’s as good an excuse as any for me to resume blogging (ahem), and a great opportunity to discover other diabetes bloggers. (Follow these links to see who else is participating and join in the fun! You can also follow along on Facebook or on Twitter with the hashtag #DBlogWeek.)

Today’s Prompt: Why are you here, in the diabetes blog space? What is the most important diabetes awareness message to you? Why is that message important for you, and what are you trying to accomplish by sharing it on your blog? 

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In early 2004 I was pregnant with my first child. I had recently switched to insulin therapy since the pills I had been on for years were not FDA-approved for pregnancy. So, I was learning to count carbohydrates, manage multiple daily insulin injections, and minimize the effect of fluctuating hormones on blood sugar. I was excited about the eventual baby, but felt acutely overwhelmed and isolated by diabetes. I pined for someone who understood what I was experiencing.

I searched online and found a diabetes message forum run by the Joslin Diabetes Center. I drafted a short post describing my situation and asked if anyone could relate. When I logged on later that day I found FIVE friendly, supportive responses. One that I found especially encouraging was signed “Type 1 Mom of two grown sons, 20 & 23.”

Years later I came across Kerri Morrone Sparling’s highly relatable blog Six Until Me, and was again inspired by (wait for it…) a person with diabetes talking about what it’s like to have diabetes. When I had trouble finding blogs specific to MODY (my form of diabetes), I realized I should start a blog of my own and contribute something to the conversations!

To read more posts on this topic, click here.

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I am a walker. What type are you?

OscarBanner

Have you heard about Oscar? Oscar is a “start-up” health insurer that launched in 2013 and serves consumers in New York and New Jersey. The company aspires to leverage technology, data and design to improve customers’ engagement and experience with health care. I like these goals, so when Oscar invited me to write post to help spread awareness about diabetes, I was happy to oblige. Oscar’s campaign is designed to highlight how people live unique lives through common approaches to diabetes.

What type am I? I’m a walker…

I have had diabetes for over 25 years. I’m an active person – I jog, swim, life weights, practice yoga and Pilates, play volleyball, etc. But hands-down, what works best for me for staying healthy is walking. Among the known benefits for people with diabetes, walking:

  • Lowers blood glucose levels
  • Improves the body’s ability to use insulin
  • Lowers stress levels
  • Raises “good” (HDL) cholesterol levels while lowering “bad” (LDL) levels
  • Reduces risk of heart disease and stroke

I aim to walk 12,000 steps a day (roughly 6 miles). Finding time for those 12,000 steps takes some planning. Here’s what works for me:

  • Instead of catching up with friends at a coffee shop, we get our coffees to go and walk around a park.
  • Whenever possible, I schedule “walking meetings” during the workday. (Not a good option for meetings with lots of note taking, but this format works great for strategy and big-picture planning meetings.)
  • I do a lot of walking errands. Since I happen to live close to a grocery store (6,500 steps) and a library (5,000 steps), these errands contribute significantly to my daily goal.
  • I opt for the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • When really pressed for time, I jog some of my steps. The efficiency of jogging is hard to beat.

The best news? The benefits of walking are good for everyone – not just people with diabetes. So, it’s pretty easy to recruit others to join in the fun!

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Diabetes Blog Week 2014: A Poem

Diabetes Blog Week 2014 The prompt: Write a poem, rhyme, ballad, haiku, or any other form of poetry about diabetes. (Thanks, Tu Diabetes, for the topic.)

Since yesterday would have been Edward Lear’s birthday, how about a limerick?

The guest – we’ll call her Amalia –
Stood chatting amongst the regalia.
On hearing it squeal
She dared not reveal
The pump in between her mammalia.

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