It’s a Lifestyle Disease…

In fact, we “don’t fully understand why some people develop type 2 diabetes and others don’t.”

That’s how Type 2 diabetes is positioned in people’s mind.

All you have to do is lose weight, or exercise, or not get old, or don’t be Latino or African American or Polynesian…

In fact, we “don’t fully understand why some people develop type 2 diabetes and others don’t.” There is a list of risk factors that is accepted. But here’s the thing, they are risk factors, not causes. And some of them (age, race/ethnicity, family health history) can’t be changed or “managed.”

 

 

Why aren’t there more Type 2 bloggers?

People living with Type2 don’t make up 95% of diabetes patient bloggers—not even close. Why is that?

Source: Flickr (cc) couragextoxlive
Source: Flickr (cc) couragextoxlive

This is a question that comes up now and again.

There’s a thriving community of diabetes bloggers. You can find some of them here.

Most of them are living with Type 1 diabetes. That’s the the kind that used to be called Juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes. Their blogs reflect experiences growing up dealing with the stress of having a disease that (if not controlled  well managed) could literally kill you. Some tell their story with humor. Others vent their anger at the disease, the medical establishment, and the promise of a cure in 10 years that hasn’t yet happened.

There are a few diabetes bloggers living with Type 2 diabetes. You can find some of them here.

According to the CDC there are 29.1 million people in the US, or 9.3% of the population, who have diabetes. This is a number that has more than tripled since 1980. About 95% of the diagnosed cases of diabetes are Type2.

But people living with Type2 don’t make up 95% of diabetes patient bloggers—not even close. Why is that? I think there are many reasons. And I’ll be taking a look at some pondering this question over the rest of this month.

 

When a Person with Diabetes Shouts in the Forest…

I spent time in the office. I played Ingress and walked 8KM in the process. My BG ran a little high and I didn’t obsess about it. I attended the DiabetesMine Innovation Summit and caused a ruckus.

…does anybody hear?

Heading home after a week in California.

I spent time in the office. I played Ingress and walked 8KM in the process. My BG ran a little high and I didn’t obsess about it. I attended the DiabetesMine Innovation Summit and caused a ruckus.

“You know what? I don’t give a s### about your balance sheet.” That’s the moment when everything changed. In the room and in my head. Whether I realized it or not my heart was already there.

It was during the payers (health insurance companies) panel. I stood up and yelled this out to the panel.

The reps, some with a medical background, were talking about how expensive chronic illness is. As if we, people living with diabetes, didn’t know this fact. The payers panel pointed out that the accelerating cost of  healthcare is unsustainable. As if we didn’t realize this every time we look at our personal bank accounts.

“I don’t see anybody up there (on the panel), except for the lady from Arkansas (Health Exchange), talking about patients.” I could feel the blood rushing to my face. I took a deep breath. I tried to calm down.

The tension in the room had been building.

Once again the patient was being scolded by the healthcare establishment. Do you take care of your diabetes? Do you know how expensive pumps are especially if you change them every couple of years? And with ACA the rules are changing and the future is even more uncertain.

The audience sat shifting around in their seats uncomfortably. The all too common questions rattling around it their heads. Aren’t these the companies who are supposed to help us get the care we need? Don’t they understand that we want the latest therapies and medical technology, not because it’s the latest and the greatest, but because it’s our only hope for a healthier life? We want to avoid those expensive complications. Without the illusive cure, access to the most current therapies is our only hope. We are putting our trust in the medical establishment and the healthcare insurance companies.

More than that. We’re putting our very lives in their hands.

I took another deep breath in an attempt to calm down. That was the point @SweetlyVoiced spoke up to tell her story. She let the panel know that even though they say their companies want to “get patients the care they need” that’s not what we patients are experiencing.

It was called the “Patients’ Voice Summit.” Sometimes, to be heard you got to raise your voice — even if it feels uncomfortable for everybody in the room.


DISCLOSURE: The folks at the DiabetesMine invited me to attend the 2013 DiabetesMine Innovation Summit as a winner of the Patient Voices Contest. They paid for my airfare, hotel, and meals while at the summit.

Willpower, It’s Fueled by Glucose

Willpower isn’t about pushing yourself to extremes. It’s about making conscious choices and following through on those choices. Blood sugar levels can help or they can get in the way

WillpowerWillpower, what is it?

It’s that thing that gives you the strength to persevere.

It helps you build a path to a better life.

But…when depleted, it’s the thing that leaves you overwhelmed, exhausted, and unable to carry on.

Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney explores willpower, what it is, how it works, and how you can put it to work for you.

The authors take an unexpected turn in their discussion of how to corral your willpower. Among the advice about getting organized, setting priorities, and working on one thing at a time there’s a discussion of blood sugar levels. Turns out that glucose to the brain literally fuels willpower. Too little glucose and willpower disappears.

What a revelation for a person living with diabetes!

A whole section of the book shows the effect of low blood sugar on a person’s ability to make decisions and follow through. We’re not talking about the “I’m a little peckish,” kind of low blood sugar, but the you get it together enough to test and you end up staring at a number below 70 on your glucose meter—sometimes a number way below 70, like 45.

Actor Jim Turner, who lives with type 1 diabetes, shares various experiences he’s had when dealing with low blood sugar. In one instance he’s at the beach with his young son and he can’t decide whether to  take his son to the bathroom or get some food to bring his blood sugar back up. There he stood paralyzed.

As a person living with diabetes these scenes are a bit frightening. The mere idea  a hypoglycemic episode can take away my ability to make the simplest decision left me feeling helpless. My head filled with what ifs. What if that happened to me? What if I was driving and totally lost track of things? What if I put my children in danger because I couldn’t make a simple decision?

Then I read the section on how to put glucose to work for me and I felt better. Understanding that I need to feed my body and my mind in a measured, consistent way helped. When you’re sick, the authors say to save your glucose for your immune system—in other words, rest and recover. And most importantly, when you’re tired, sleep.

In short, willpower isn’t about pushing yourself to extremes. It’s about making conscious choices and following through on those choices. Blood sugar levels can help or they can get in the way. Understand that and you’re in a better position to persevere and make your life better.

 

Can a Dog Be Your Exercise Plan?

Forget the treadmill. Get a dog!

Source: Flickr cc johnlemon 2.0

 

The Well health blog in yesterday’s New York Times boldly proclaimed Forget the Treadmill. Get a Dog.

Oh, if only it were that simple. Get a dog; take it out for walks daily; and your daily exercise needs were met. The data from several studies show mixed results. Not everyone went out for walks. Some just put the dog out in the yard to run around. Others complained about the weather. And some said they were too old or frail to walk the dog. Still others hired someone to walk their dog!

“If we’re committed to a dog, it enables us to commit to physical activity ourselves.” Said Dr. Rebecca A. Johnson.

There is something that is extra motivating in doing for others—whether they are human or canine.