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Diabetes Developments - A blog on latest developments in diabetes by David Mendosa

The New York Times: “Is Sugar Toxic?”

May 21st, 2011 · 1 Comment

In 1961 I started to read The New York Times when I went to work in Washington. But its magazine always disappointed me.

Until Sunday. This week’s issue focuses on “Health and Wellness 2011.” All four of the magazine’s main articles are essential reading for everyone.

The cover story by Gary Taubes, “Is Sugar Toxic?,” makes the case against sugar. This isn’t his first time to tilt at the medical establishment in this magazine. Nine years ago his article, “What if It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie?,” began his crusade to expose the myth that fat was bad and carbohydrates are good.

His 2007 book, Good Calories, Bad Calories, built on that article so well that it convinced me and thousands of others to follow a very low-carb diet. In “Addicted to Carbs” I wrote here three years ago about how that book changed my life. With his book, Why We Get Fat: and What to Do About It, Taubes takes his argument to a wider, non-scientific audience.

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Posted in: Diabetes Diet, Exercise For Diabetes

Why We Check Our Blood

April 18th, 2011 · 2 Comments

With all the emphasis on how we check our blood glucose levels using all the new meters that we can choose from, many of us who have type 2 diabetes forget or never learned why we check our levels. Anyone who has type 1 diabetes has to know why he or she checks as do those type 2s who uses insulin. Those of us who inject insulin check their levels so they can take more if their levels are too high or take a glucose tab or something similar if they are too low.But three-fourths of all type 2s don’t take insulin. Some of them still use the first oral medication, one of the sulfonylureas that can cause hypos, a level below about 70 mg/dl. Then they too will need to take something like a glucose tab to bring their level back to normal.

The overwhelming majority of all people who have diabetes rarely if ever get hypos. So why should they go through the trouble of checking their blood glucose? What can they do with that information?

If our doctors and nurses ever told us why, most of us have forgotten by now. As a result, a lot of people with diabetes don’t bother at all any more with blood glucose checks.

That’s a shame, because even people who don’t use insulin or one of the sulfonylureas, can benefit from checking if they do it at the right time.

The most right time is after eating a big meal, especially one that has a substantial amount of starch in it. Nothing raises our blood glucose level as much and as fast as starch — the stuff in potatoes and grains and grain products, like bread, bagels, pizza, or anything made from wheat flour.

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Posted in: Diabetes Testing

Doing Tai Chi for Balance

March 3rd, 2011 · 1 Comment

When you have diabetes, you know that falls come with the territory. If you are a senior citizen, this is doubly true.

Even worse is when you hike a lot on mountain trails, as I do. In the past few years I took several tumbles, fortunately not falling off a cliff or breaking a hip.

That never worried me much, but I was concerned that a fall could bring back an old knee injury that not long ago had made climbing difficult. When you are 75 years old with a history of 16 years of diabetes and a hiker, you’ve got to be careful.

And just being careful isn’t enough. All of us who have diabetes, who have more than a few years of life experience, or who hike need good balance.

So when a friend told me last year that the Tai Chi Chuan she was learning improved her balance, I listened. I remembered that Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that millions of people around the world practice for its defensive training or its health benefits. Tai Chi enhances our balance and body awareness through slow, graceful, and precise body movements.

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Posted in: Exercise For Diabetes

Walking Meditation

March 3rd, 2011 · No Comments

As I hiked out of the wilderness all I could think about was how much my feet hurt. It was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life.

Wearing a brand new pair of boots on a long backpacking trip into West Virginia’s Dolly Sods Wilderness about 35 years ago could have been a big mistake. The new boots gave my feet terrible blisters, and I had forgotten to take any moleskin. Returning to the trailhead after four or five days, I knew I had just one other way to control the pain. Deliberate walking meditation put my entire consciousness into my feet.

I don’t punish my feet any more to get the high that walking meditation brings. But I still hike or walk and meditate at the same time.

A leading exponent of walking meditation is Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist who is one of the important influences in the development of Western Buddhism. His book with Nguyen Anh-Huong, Walking Meditation (Sounds True: Boulder, Colorado, 2006), says that when we practice walking meditation, “We walk for the sake of walking…We walk slowly, in a relaxed way, keeping a light smile on our lips.”

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Posted in: Exercise For Diabetes, Psychosocial

The Korean Paradox

November 30th, 2010 · 4 Comments

South Korea is different from the United States.

In some important respects this Asian country is more like America than most of us would think. This country is a democracy with a booming economy.

But the differences are great and go beyond Korea’s use of a different language and even a different alphabet than Westerners use. The differences go far beyond history and tradition. The biggest differences that I have seen during my visit this month are in the people themselves.

I saw with my own eyes how thin almost all Koreans are. Coming from the United States — even though I live in the thinnest state — I have been amazed to see almost no obesity here.

So, of course, I expected that almost no one in Korea would have diabetes. After all, didn’t the American weight problem lead to the rapid rise of diabetes in our country?

We know that some sort of link between being overweight and having diabetes exists. We do know that being overweight doesn’t cause diabetes, because two-thirds of American are overweight and about one-tenth of us have diabetes. But as our weight has gone up so too has the proportion of people with diabetes. Those two conditions have to have some association. [Read more →]

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Posted in: Exercise For Diabetes, People With Diabetes

Visualize Yourself

November 4th, 2010 · No Comments

My friend Jay has type 2 diabetes and is a member of the diabetes support group that meets every month in my apartment. But he is also a primary care physician, and almost half his patients have diabetes.

Jay is therefore uniquely qualified to help us. At the most recent meeting of our support group we were already  running overtime. But it was Jay’s turn to speak, and he wanted to share with us the “shock treatment” that he uses with his new patients who have diabetes. I’m glad that he did and that I can share this treatment with you.

Jay starts by explaining that diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease are the three main silent killers. Because they usually don’t offer us any advance warning of the hidden damage that they do to our bodies, these diseases are truly insidious.

Then, he suddenly turns off the lights in the windowless office. “Visualize yourself 15 years from now,” he says. “This is what you might be seeing then, if you don’t control your diabetes.”

This is Jay’s shock treatment. But any technique that will get us to open our eyes to the consequences of uncontrolled diabetes is better than none, he says.

Jay asked each of the members of our support group to look in the mirror each morning and visualize ourselves 15 years later. For me this gave me one more piece of encouragement to eat right, stay slim, and exercise so I will still be able to see my face in the mirror 15 years from now when I will be 90. If I’m still around then, I hope to continue seeing a computer monitor so I that I will still be able to write you.

As Jay left my apartment that day, I took him aside and told him that I already could visualize his shock treatment. My ophthalmologist had just told me after my semiannual checkup that I have two small micro-aneurysms in my left eye that he hadn’t seen before.

Jay’s shock treatment worked especially well because I was already shocked. Micro-aneurysms can lead to diabetic retinopathy, which can, of course, lead to blindness, the complication of diabetes that I have always dreaded the most.

Now I have even more incentive to keep my A1C level in the low 5 range, if not down to 4.5, which is my goal. I hope that you don’t need any more incentives to control your own diabetes.

This is a mirror of one of my articles that was originally published on Health Central.

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Posted in: Diabetes Complications

Walking with Poles

July 14th, 2009 · No Comments

Walking is the exercise of choice for most people, especially when we would rather be outdoors than in a gym. Walking is one of the best ways to prevent heart disease, the biggest problem that those of us who have diabetes face.

If all we want to do is strengthen our lower body, we need only comfortable clothes and supportive footwear. But walking does little or nothing to strengthen the muscles of our upper body.

Unless we walk with poles, like Ken Mundt does.

“The advantage is that I get a whole upper body workout,” he told me when I called him at his home in Seattle. “My chest muscles get a good workout, because I don’t slam my poles. I place them, and then I push.” [Read more →]

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Posted in: Exercise For Diabetes

Choosing Exercise or Antioxidants

May 13th, 2009 · 8 Comments

Based on what I’ve read recently, some of which I have reported here, I’ve grown more and more wary of the wisdom of taking supplements. Few of the them seem to help.

And now comes a new study indicating that the two most common supplements can actually work against us. Those supplements are vitamins C and E.

It seems that we have a choice of exercising or taking large doses of those supplements. We know that exercise has lots of good effects like increasing our sensitivity to insulin, which is of great importance to all of us with diabetes.
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Posted in: Diabetes Medication, Exercise For Diabetes

Efficient Exercise for Glucose Control

April 22nd, 2009 · 7 Comments

Just a few minutes of exercise can have a big effect on the action of insulin that keeps our glucose levels in balance. The trick is to go all out.

While we have known for years that aerobic exercise like walking improves the health of our hearts and helps prevent or control diabetes, it can take a lot of time. Until now, however, we didn’t know if quick bursts of exercise would help.

Recent research now shows that it does. Scientists in Scotland reported their findings in BioMed Central Endocrine Disorders. Just 15 minutes of high-intensity interval training in a two-week period had a “remarkable” effect on the insulin action of the sedentary young men in the study, the researchers wrote.
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Posted in: Exercise For Diabetes

Positive Motivation

February 4th, 2009 · 4 Comments

You need to help me a lot with this one.

All of you who read my articles here are motivated to control your diabetes. Almost all of you have a positive motivation. I doubt if many of you have a primarily negative motivation based on fear of the consequences of uncontrolled diabetes. Negative motivations just don’t keep us doing what we need to do for long.

What are your positive motivations? What do you tell people you know who have diabetes to encourage them to tame it?
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Posted in: Diabetes Basics

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