Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Tools of the Trade

Well, here we are again. Like I promised last week, today I want to share with you some of the tools I use to manage my program. But first, let's look at last week's results:
As you can see from the trend chart I have been keeping myself within the “green” zone fairly consistently. OK, I hate adjectives when I'm trying to get a handle on something, so let's do numbers. I have stayed within my desirable parameters 66% of the time this week and been under 100 17% of the time for a total of 83% performance below the commonly accepted “diabetic” threshold of 140 mg/dL.

That leaves 17% of my readings above 140. Now, although this is very close to the results I got the prior week, the details of how I got there are significantly different. In the previous week I was much more tightly controlled, with less variability in my readings. This is a good thing when managing diabetes, because, although it is desirable to keep you blood glucose level from getting too high, wide fluctuations in BGL are potentially damaging to your nerves. So, even if you are staying under 140, you can do yourself some harm if you bounce between 140 and, let's say, 70. Better to live between 120 and 160 but not have the wide swings. This past week I bounced around a lot more. I also noticed that in this past week I have had a few unusually high BGLs, For example, on Thursday, January 27th I went up to 254 mg/dL. In checking back to my food log ( I will get into this when I talk about tools) I see that that was about 2.5 hours after I finished off the remains of my daughter's mutli-grain cereal (ah, what the hell, it's less than a bowl-full, how much could it hurt?). Hey Jonathan, you reading this? Eat my dust!
OK, time to geek out on tools of the trade!

If You Do Not Track It, You Do Not Control It

The first weapon in my arsenal is a program for keeping a diary of what I eat. While a pencil and paper would serve nicely, I likes me my toys and am more motivated to keep up with something I can fiddle with on electronic devices. I found an iPhone app called My Net Diary that you can use on your iPhone, iPad and on the web to record and track the food you eat. It has over 296,000 foods in its database and gives you all the information on the nutrition label for each food. In addition you can add you own entries for foods you like and use that aren't to be found in the data base. You can even use your iPhone's camera to scan in the food's UPC code and bring it up so you don't have to manually search for it. In the end, you get an ongoing record of what you have put into your mouth. That's how I looked back to find what I ate that shot my blood sugar up last Thursday.

Measuring for Control is Weigh Cool!

So, the thing is, you can't obsessively document your food intake if you don't measure it. For both losing weight and controlling my intake of carbohydrates I bought myself a food scale. This baby measures up to 11 pounds so I can easily put a regular plate on it and weigh the food as I add it on. The display even pulls out so I can see it if the plate is large. I have had no end of fun dissecting my dinner plate into its individual parts and logging the amounts I eat. sometimes life IS a bowl of cherries!

I was really happy about this, but tended to get frustrated at restaurants where I didn't have my kitchen scale with me. A short search on the internet later, I found this pocket size scale that weighs up to 2.2 lbs. Although it is meant for jewelers, it was inexpensive and measures only 4x4 inches so I can easily take it along with me. Sure, I get some funny looks at restaurants while I tear my elegantly presented plate into small enough pieces to fit on the scale, but I also get interested comments from fellow diners and wait staff. Besides, if I were worried about looking funny I would hardly have bested Jonathan in Mark's personal version of "America's Got Talent?".

But by far the pivotal measuring device in my arsenal of death-defying diabetic doohickies is my ever present friend, the glucometer. I was thrilled to find the Contour USB glucometer made by Bayer as it fits me to a T. It is a glucose measuring device in the form of a USB flash drive, so I can just plug it into my computer and download all my readings into their software to create the lovely charts I share with you.

A companion to the glucometer is a new product on the market, also by Bayer, called the A1C Now. It measures you HbA1C level. This number is indicative of your average BGL over about the last three months and used to be available only by going to the doctor's for a blood draw and waiting for the lab results to come back. No I can do it at home and gain visibility to whether or not my program is successfully causing my BGL to trend down towards normal.

The Missing Link

The one thing I could be doing to really help this process along is regular exercise. The movement of muscle tissue works to massage insulin into your cells so it can get at the carbs and sugars to process them. This process also is impeded by my "richly marbled" physique. All that fat in my body gets in the way of the insulin, blocking it from getting into the tissue and into the cells where it needs to go to do its job. So far I am still a couch potato, but I am going to start a program of regular exercise to address this issue as well. swimming is my favorite sport. It is time for me to uncover and marshall the technology to geek my way into that.

Open Wide and Swallow

Last but not least, I am on an oral medication to improve my body's ability to metabolize carbs and sugars so they don't hang around in my blood. I don't mind, but my plan is to eventually get off the meds when my weight and lifestyle habits come into line.
See you all next week!


  1. Wow Mark,
    your post was put together really well! I love how you presented all the gadgets, your experience with them and their effectiveness.

    Maybe you have a future as a diabetes coach?


    PS I've got some thoughts about how you might better approach the exercise challenge.

  2. I love numbers too.

    Keep going Buddy, you are doing great !!!

    - how about taking up swimming again? you used to sound happy when you had been to the pool.


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