Diabetic Book Reviews

After leaving work at little early on Friday after not feeling the greatest and suffering some of the effects of high-blood sugar associated with Type 1 Diabetes, I decided it’d be very beneficial to me to read some book out there on the subject and see what I could learn.  I read Diabetic Athlete’s Handbook, Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution, Pumping Insulin: 4th Edition, and Think Like a Pancreas from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning.  Yes, this was a heck of a lot of reading, but when things concern your well-being, you tend to be able to maintain more focus than what you think you can.  All the books offer some great advice, some good advice, and some advice you’re just not going to take.

Diabetic Athlete’s Handbook is a great book discussing what changes a diabetic would need to make in order to perform at their peak during a given athletic activity.  The first seven chapters describe the basics of exercise, fitness, insulin, blood sugar control and other related subjects.  I’ll admit I found them very interesting since they describe in layman’s terms what is going on in the body when you exercise and how to best control your blood sugars.  The second section of the book is really what you want the book for.  This section provides guidelines on preventing low blood sugars while partaking in your particular athletic endeavor.  The book covers everything from gardening to football (both American and the rest-of-the-world) to motorcycle and off-road racing.  I found it worthwhile since I enjoy working out, mountain biking, and doing day hikes and nature trails.  This book has exactly what I need to do in order to remain safe without me having to go out there and find out for myself how to best handle it.

The next book, Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution is billed as ‘The Complete Guide to Achieving Normal Blood Sugars.”  I won’t disagree with the title, the book is very thorough on what exactly Dr. Bernstein does with all of his patients from how to draw insulin correctly to what diet you should eat.  Although he never comes out and says anything he doesn’t seem to be a fan of Insulin pumps which I think are wonderful things (thanks to my severe hypoglycemic reactions to the long lasting insulins like Lantus); however, the advice can still be followed by pump users even if you have to modify some of his advice.  Personally, I’m not a fan of his diet routine described in the book, but, I see where he is coming from and do intend to integrate some of his ideas into my diet.  I am also very big on his idea of getting all diabetics down to normal blood sugar levels seen by non-diabetic people, even if it will take them a little bit of time to drop their blood sugars and feel comfortable in doing it.  The section devoted to supplies that all diabetics should have is complete and matches almost exactly what I was told when I first visited my endocrinologist.  In fact, many of his ideas were used by my endocrinologist and diabetes educator so it was almost like redoing the first few visits at the doctor’s office.

Pumping Insulin: 4th Edition is nothing like Pumping Iron with Arnold Schwarzenegger unless pushing a button on a pump is like doing bench presses :).  Pumping Insulin is probably the best book for general information I read this weekend.  It goes into detail on everything needed to adjust and determine initial bolus and basal doses as well as carb to insulin ratios and correction factors when using a pump.  If you’re on an insulin pump or thinking of going onto one, this book is worth getting.

Think Like a Pancreas sounds like a children’s book, but it is most definitely not.  I was amazed that this book covered situations that occur in the real world and doesn’t tell you to just “don’t do it.”  For instance, drinking alcohol; most diabetic books will say never drink it, this one says, you can drink it, and here is how to make sure you don’t suffer from the low blood sugars afterward.  Of course, one still needs to exercise some form of discretion because getting hammered isn’t going to help you adjust your pump and there aren’t many people I’d trust to adjust settings on my pump.  This book in content is much like Pumping Insulin and covers most of what Pumping Insulin covers, just sometimes not as in as much detail.

If you’re looking for a good general reference book I think Dr. Bernstein’ book is the best bet.  If you’re looking for information on helping you adjust to a pump and are an adult Think Like a Pancreas is better than Pumping Insulin, but if you’re prone to forgetting things, Pumping Insulin is better.  Finally, if you’re an athlete or like to think of yourself as one; Diabetic Athlete’s Handbook is worth the purchase.

Exercise and the Diabetic

I think it is pretty safe to say that everyone has heard that exercise (in addition to a good diet) is a good way to keep yourself in shape and in better health.  In the newest Diabetes Forecast they have an article discussing the benefits of exercising.  Exercise does the obvious things such as improving blood glucose control and reducing the risk of diabetic complications but it can also combat heart problems, weight gain and depression.  The short-term effects of exercise can be felt from two hours afterward up to three days later and according to some doctors exercising every other day is great, but exercising every day is even better.

In terms of exercising it was found that a mixture of aerobic and resistance training have the greatest improvements in their A1C rates (A1C is an accurate measurement of blood glucose levels in the body for the last two or three months).  However, any sort of exercise helps reduce the A1C value and hence, have better blood glucose levels.  It is also suggested that a diabetic person do 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week in addition to two or three strength training sessions within the week as well.  This is important since people with diabetes are two to four times more likely to die of heart disease than those who are non-diabetic.  These risk factors are due to high levels of blood fat (triglycerides and cholesterol) and high blood pressure present in most diabetics.  And now the kicker (which is probably also valid for non-diabetics) has to deal with weight loss.  To lose weight at least an hour a day of exercise should be done along with a diet to reduce the amount of calories taken in.  A study done found that in person who lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for the entire year of the study were exercising on average seven hours a week.

Obviously, it looks like being a diabetic the idea of exercise shouldn’t be something that is taken lightly.  It is like the rest of what happen, you change your lifestyle in order to take control of it as opposed to letting it control you.

Reversing Type 1 Diabetes

The Faustman Lab at Massachusetts General Hospital has been working on a vaccine for Type 1 Diabetes using a generic drug Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG).  The experiments have passed every research milestone ahead of schedule and and the Phase I safety trial in humans is almost complete.  In Phase II they will study the dosage and frequency of the administration to reverse Type 1 Diabetes.  The kicker in all of this is that BCG is a generic drug that has been in use for over 80 years as a vaccine.  BCG has the ability to attack and destroy auto-immune disorder causing T-cells while causing the release of new healthy T-cells at the same time.  BCG also does not attack the healthy T-cells so the autoimmune system is left in-tact.  With the immune system working properly it allows the pancreas to regenerate the islet cells and start producing insulin again. I hope the second phase of the testing works as well as the first, as much as I like the idea of being a cyborg, I like the idea of not having to worry about pricking my fingers, replacing pods, insulin and batteries and being healthy a whole lot more.

A much more in-depth article about the research can be read here and more information about the Faustman Lab is here.

Dexcom Seven+, installed

This morning in what was supposed to be a simple combined pump checkup and CGM sensor start doctor’s appointment turned into a rushed CGM sensor start and pump follow up appointment.  They had forgotten that today was going to be two appointments in one instead of two seperate ones.  So the CGM start part was slightly rushed (which was no big deal since the device is fairly simple) but I’ve now got a CGM and an insulin pump attached to me.  The CGM is pretty damn nice in that it gives a fairly accurate reading on what the blood glucose levels are however, it is not 100% accurate so the finger stick tests are still going to have to be done.

The nice thing is that I’ll be able to see which way my blood sugar is trending and if I need to take action.  The other thing I’m waiting for is the integration of the OmniPod and the Dexcom SEVEN+ sensor which is supposed to be happening “sometime soon now” or last quarter of this year, first quarter of next as the other answers I’ve gotten from the reps.

Memories stored in your DNA

The game Assassin’s Creed would have you believe that you hold the memories of your ancestors in your DNA.  At first, it seems ridiculous and a good way for the creators of the game to let you run around and assassinate people in The Dark Ages.  However, I stumbled upon this article that says the idea of your DNA storing memories isn’t so far fetched.

Many genes are already coated with methyl groups. When a cell divides, this “cellular memory” is passed on and tells the new cell what type it is – a kidney cell, for example. Miller and Sweatt argue that in neurons, methyl groups also help to control the exact pattern of protein expression needed to maintain the synapses that make up memories.

So given this, there is potential that your memories could be enscribed in your DNA and passed down to your progeny.  Now we can start wondering if people experincing ‘past lives’ are actually recalling their ancestors memories (even if it is impossible it is fun to imagine).  Oh, the craziness.

The ‘Most Wanted’ and ‘Least Wanted’ Songs according to science

Browsing the web, like we are all wont to do, I was sent this link by a friend:

http://blog.wired.com/music/2008/05/survey-produced.html

which led me to this link:

http://blog.wired.com/music/2008/04/a-scientific-at.html

These are respectively the ‘Most Wanted’ and ‘Least Wanted’ songs according to a questionnaire that people filled out when asked about their musical preferences. After listening to both the songs, I find the ‘Least Wanted’ song most impressive because the composer went out of their way to make the song sound as good as possible given the constraints. However, the ‘Most Wanted’ song has some amazing parts like the heavy metal guitar solo that morphs into a saxophone solo and them singing about working the night shift and ketchup.