A bargain isn’t one when it comes to your health

Now that the hazy, crazy shopping days are over, I recall an incident that occurred three years ago and seems apt to this story. On the brink of winter, I bought a bargain-priced pair of ear muffs off one of those typical tables of cheap goods on the streets of Manhattan. A month later trying to maneuver the cheap plastic band of the muffs over my ears on an absolutely arctic day, a few hours later I realized my bargain ear muffs had knocked my very expensive, designer earring out of my ear. Mind you, this is not how I typically dress, but I was on a job interview that day. The point is my $5 ear muffs cost me big time in the end. Bigger point? While shopping is a fun sport, and the odd bargain a real coup, quality is enduring and you usually get what you pay for. So now that the din of 2007 is quieting and 2008 is revving up, don’t forsake quality when it comes to your health.

I thought of our shopping behaviors and how we regard our health and our treatment regimen because a pharma rep. recently shocked me with the news that many doctors don’t prescribe insulin to their type 2 diabetes patients for fear their patients will shop for another doctor. Call me naïve, but it never occurred to me a doctor would prescribe less than the best treatment for his or her patients for fear of losing them. 

If insulin will better control your blood sugar and is the best treatment for you, yet you’ll shop for a doctor who’ll just tell you what you want to hear and, as many seem to be doing, become your pill pusher, that to me is the worst bargain – a Faustian bargain – a deal with the devil. 

The rep gave me a specific incident where he was talking with a doctor, a type 2 himself, who finally after having so much trouble managing his own blood sugars, “threw in the towel,” in his words and went on insulin. When the rep asked him how insulin was working for him, the doctor said, “It turned out to be the best thing I could have done. My blood sugars are much better and I feel so much better.” “So,” the rep asked, “now you prescribe insulin more often for your patients?” “No!” he replied, “If I did, they would leave me and go to a doctor around the corner who will give them the pills they want.”

Let’s face it, that great sweater in Filene’s basement may make you the toast of the party circuit but how many seasons is it going to last? With a sweater, who cares? With your health, I’m betting you want to see a lot more seasons ahead. Choose quality – in your doctors, your treatment, and in general, your quality of life. While I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions, the new year seems the perfect time to explore what options will give you the best outcomes for your diabetes, both today and tomorrow. 

Looking for a bargain, a short cut, the easy way can cost you dearly in the end.     I know. I really miss those earrings.

As diabetes month ends what did you learn?

UnknownTake just one new step today

Today marks the end of Diabetes Awareness Month. What did you learn? Of course the notion of naming a month ‘Diabetes Awareness’ is in part to draw the public’s attention to diabetes. Yet, ask yourself what you learned this month, or this year, that you didn’t know before?

Did you know that approximately 21 million people in the U.S. – 1 in 16  have diabetes and one-third of them don’t even know it? Out of those 21 million, 19 million have type 2 and 2 million have type 1. Did you know that 54 million more people have pre-diabetes? That means their blood sugar is slightly elevated, yet not enough to be considered diabetes. However most of them, if they don’t change their ways, will get diabetes within five years.

Did you know it’s predicted that one in three people born in 2000 will get diabetes? Did you know that every 10 seconds someone in the world dies of diabetes, and two more people get it? Did you know that diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death?

What did you learn about taking better care of yourself? Did you know that insulin controls blood sugar more effectively than pills, even if you have type 2 diabetes? Did you learn doctors hesitate to prescribe insulin because of patient resistance, and that it takes more of their time to educate patients and because of their own ignorance?

Did you learn that taking care of your diabetes is up to you, not your doctor? I guarantee you, he or she is not the one who’s going to wake up with complications down the road. Did you know that there’s a new insulin pump called Omnipod that has no plastic tubing and it’s controlled via a remote control? Did you know that if you have type 2 diabetes and you’re overweight losing just 10 – 15 pounds or 7% of your body weight could eliminate your need for medication? I have two friends with type 2 who just lost weight and both no longer require their pills.

Did you know that exercise is as important as diet to control diabetes because exercise not only burns sugar but makes you more insulin sensitive. This is particularly important for type 2s almost all of whom have insulin resistance. Did you know that?

Did you learn something about managing your head? For instance, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, fearful and crazed at times with all there is to do managing diabetes. You may also feel like your life’s falling apart at times taking care of a child with diabetes, but there is help.

Did you learn that you can do exactly the same thing two days in a row: eat the same foods at the same time, get the same exercise, take the same amount of medication and get completely different blood sugar numbers? Why? Hormone interaction, variable rate of insulin absorption, getting sick, lasting affect of exercise yadayadayada…Big message: it’s not your fault!

Did you learn that it’s actually advisable to take “diabetes vacations” from time to time – skip a blood sugar test or allow yourself dessert here and there, just make sure you prepare and don’t put yourself in peril. Did you learn – and this is my personal favorite – that if you shift your focus from the tiresome tasks of diabetes to why you’re doing them – to have more energy, be able to travel in your retirement years, continue a hobby you love or still be here to dance at your grandson’s wedding – that you’ll have more motivation, resolve and pleasure as you go through every day? 

Here’s a big one: did you learn that diabetes is not a death sentence? That today, unlike decades ago, we have incredible research going on, and the tools, information and know-how to control diabetes, and that if you keep your blood sugars as close to normal as possible much of the time, (an A1c < 6.5) that you can prevent or significantly reduce your risk of complications? Did you learn that this is within your control by getting educated at your local hospital, at a support group, online, joining a diabetes organization, or subscribing to a diabetes magazine. In other words, step up to the plate. Oops, you may also need to step away from the plate. Try controlling portions by using smaller plates, upping yourphysical activity in small everyday ways like climbing a flight of stairs, parking further away, dancing to the radio, and a big way — get busy on living your dream.

I hope you learned a lot this month. Finally, did you learn that you have to put what you learned into action for it to make a difference? And that if you do, it will.

Notice your thoughts – it will help you

I write this blog for several reasons. One, I love sharing my knowledge and helping others. Two, I want you to know that managing diabetes involves emotional resilience not just meds and counting carbs. Three, it keeps my mind checking in on how I regard and manage my diabetes.

Truth be told, my diabetes-life began poorly. My early years were spent in denial and ignorance. Then after developing a few minor complications, I found my way to the top of the learning curve and shifted my vision — from seeing diabetes as a burden to creating a healthy life. And how I deal with my diabetes has given me that. Over the years I’ve maintained a thirty-pound weight loss, I eat sweets only as a treat, I’ve wiped refined carbohydrates out of my diet, I use smaller plates and so eat smaller portions, I’m always taking food home from restaurants (usually it’s mine), I power-walk almost daily and watch my head for incoming negative thoughts. Today diabetes is just part of my routine, and I’m healthier for it. I believe we’re all capable of finding a gift in our diabetes, and for some, it will be better health. Frankly, though, you have to be ready to look for it.

Here’s a Zen sort of exercise that may help you do better: notice your thoughts about diabetes. How do you feel about it?  What do you do to manage it? What don’t you do? Do you resent it? Is it friend or foe? How do you manage it: peacefully or combatively? Do you keep diabetes a secret? Why? Checking in with yourself on these issues may help create some new thinking for yourself, and prompt new actions. How you hold diabetes in your life impacts your entire life.

I’m always curious why we think what we do, do what we do, expect what we do. I’m intrigued by how when individuals face the same issues, we each exhibit different behaviors. And now I’m fascinated by how diabetes shapes our lives: why can some of us deal while so many are so stuck?

Noticing your thoughts can help you see the life you’re constructing every day — your whole life and the role diabetes plays in it. Often I hear my thoughts best when I’m out of the house, walking around the park. My mind seems more free to travel under the open sky. If you let yourself rummage about up there in your head and then capture your thoughts on paper, it’s a great way to glean some new insights and work out frustrations. Both are powerful means for coping with diabetes. 

If you’ve read a few entries here you may think I’m schizophrenic. I report about feeling pride and celebration living with diabetes in one entry and then exhaustion and disgust in another. But, you see, I believe living with diabetes is all these things: the good, the bad, the ugly and the proud. And, our emotions are a significant part of what we need to manage along with our blood sugars.

I hope you find these entries fulfilling in some way. Maybe they validate your own feelings, provide connection with others, expand your learning or peak or satisfy your curiosity. Mostly, I hope they spur you to think about your diabetes-life, and try something new if you need to. I know it helps me to write them. Here’s where  all those thoughts walking around the park go.

You can take a stab at writing your thoughts here too to see them more clearly. You may find you notice something valuable in the process. If so, let me know. Sometimes it’s good for me to test my own theories.