Thursday, 29 November 2012

Diabetes by numbers

This blog first appeared on the Diabetes UK website on 29th November 2012

When I got diagnosed, I remember the Specialist Nurse telling me that really, my lifestyle shouldn't be different to that of any other normal, healthy individual.  Walking out of the clinic, laden with insulin pens, needles, test strips and other paraphernalia I was sceptical to say the least but of course she was right.

A low fat, low salt, low sugar, high fibre diet with plenty of fruit and veg is probably what most of us should be eating most of the time.  I suppose the difference is that the consequences of not eating sensibly are a bit more severe for diabetics.

What I didn't grasp at the time (and perhaps only subconsciously realise now) is all the diabetes maths involved in managing my condition - it really can be an overload of numbers at times..  I've recently been dieting having put on a lot of weight and lot of my waking hours are spent devoted to all the figures I need to keep on top of things.

What do you see?  2 slices of toast?  190 calories?  31g of carbs?  3 units of insulin?

On a daily basis I'm remembering and adjusting numbers for:

  • Long acting insulin
  • Quick acting insulin
  • Carbohydrate content of food
  • Blood glucose levels
  • Calorie content of food
  • Exercise time
I'm also doing calculations in my head to make sure I can keep my blood glucose level throughout the day.  I think diabetes gives you a new way of looking at things and a new appreciation for how your body works.

It seems quite daunting at first - and it can be even now.  One unexpected hypo or BG level in the 20s has me going back over what I've been doing to try and understand where I've gone wrong.  I've noticed this a lot more recently as my exercise regime has made my blood glucose levels a lot more sensitive to insulin.

In the 11 years I've had diabetes a number of things have made life a lot easier, and not just advancements in medication and testing.  I use a phone app to track my daily diet which helps me monitor both my calorie and carb intake (and therefore my insulin doses).  Eating out is no longer something that worries me as I can usually find nutritional information for most restaurants online.

It's easy to forget that whilst there are so many fellow diabetics, the way in which everyone manages their condition is completely different.  It took me a long time to organise myself into a daily routine that allows me to stay on top of my condition without it becoming a full time job.  There's a lot of support out there fromplaces like the Diabetes UK Careline, GP, Specialist Nurses and from other people with diabetes themselves.  Finding the right routine for you is the key to making all the numbers a lot less stressful and just another part of your day.

Finally, I was recently offered a place on a two year clinical study comparing the effect of the DAFNE course on people with multiple daily injections (MDI) and insulin pumps.  I'll find out which group I'll be in (staying with MDI or getting a pump) nearer to Christmas.  Hopefully I'll have more to share on that next time.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Tika Taka Tock

I was at Hillsborough on Saturday to watch Wednesday take on Leicester.  We had a vague stab at it for the first 40 minutes or so (and again for 5 or 10 minutes in the second half) but I think you'd have to be moderately deluded to say that we deserved anything from the game.

Before I go on, there's a couple of points worth making.  Firstly, I don't usually blog about football as I don't like to live with an uneasy feeling that some of the more..."enthusiastic" (crack pot) fans will forgo all sense of social norms in an attempt to vilify me for having a different view to theirs.  I also tend not to blog about football because it's only a game.  I've mentioned before that for the time I'm in the stadium I'm as elated/frustrated (delete as applicable) as the next fan (though I'd like to think I'm not so bonkers as some).  But by the time I get home and explain to my wife and daughter that, no, we didn't win, I'm over it.  Wednesday might be in my blood, but it's not the be all and end all of my life.

So to Saturday.  I'd said to my Dad (who was spared the performance by a prior engagement this week) that I'd take a point before kick off (something I'm saying more and more).  Having thrown two new loan signings into the team I was hoping for a bit of a fresh look to the side.

I think that for most of the first half, we were "not terrible".  But I think we looked scared of passing the ball once we advanced beyond the centre circle.  Having switched to a 4-4-2 playing with actual strikers and actual wingers, I was hoping we'd get the ball out wide and put crosses in for strikers.  But we didn't.  We passed the ball across the defence and let the two central midfielders have a touch every now and then.  Going in one down at half time was a blow, but not unexpected.  Apart from a brief period in the second half, we didn't look at the races - disjointed rather than rubbish.

So what can you do to change things?  I'm not entirely sure, and it's certainly not my job to figure it out, but a few things seem obvious:

1.   Use wide players properly.  Get the ball to the wingers and tell the strikers to get in the box.  It might not be Total Football, but it's using what we've got effectively

2.   Play in position.  Seeing strikers drop back to basically stand next to midfielders seems, to me at least, to be Not A  Very Good Idea.  Bothroyd was guilty of it a lot on Saturday

3.   Change things around a bit.  Loan signings coming in is good for competition but signing another when we already have 4 seems odd to me.  I don't take training sessions every day so I don't know how the players perform but I'm not sure blindly persisting with the same players that aren't scoring goals is a perfect solution.

4.   Make a bit of effort.  An elderly lady who'd been outside collecting for St Luke's Hospice ended up sitting next to me on Saturday.  She admitted to being a Spurs fan brought up on Bill Nicholson's team in the 60s, but, living in Sheffield she followed both clubs.  She remarked at one point that "they seem to be waiting for it [the ball] to come to them rather than go and get it".  And she was right.  Often you'd see a ball played into feet but a Leicester player would nip in front of our waiting player and intercept

5.   Keep the ball.  Admittedly we do this pretty well when we're not being pressurised.  I've no idea if there are stats to back this up, but I suspect our centre halves had as much of the ball as our centre midfielders at the weekend.  I'm not suggesting we try and imitate Barcelona but keeping hold of the ball in the final third must surely improve our chances of getting a goal or two (see also Point 2 above)

6.   Relax.  This is for fans more than anyone.  It is only a game, and whilst other promoted sides like Charlton and Huddersfield are acquitting themselves a lot more than we are, ask yourself if it really matters that much to you that you're prepared to wage a war from the comfort of our laptop about it.  It's pretty obvious that the team aren't doing as well as we'd all like (and we'd all hoped we would) but mercilessly laying into every player for 90 minutes isn't exactly a constructive way of supporting your side.  You may not be a big fan of Jay Bothroyd, or think Dave Jones has lost his marbles (and you're entirely within your rights to think that), but surely you support the shirt more than you "can't stand" certain individuals...

Watford tomorrow night will be tough and whilst I might be frustrated to see the same XI again (seriously, Rodri can't get a start anymore??), I'll be utterly delighted if Bothroyd scores a winner - I genuinely don't think I could say the same for everyone.  I read an article recently about Arsenal fans wanting "their" Arsenal back.  If you're the kind of fan that thinks that, then think about what that really means as a Wednesdayite....

As long as you're happy I suppose that's all that matters.  Up the Owls.


Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Grumpy Old Man

I think this has been around for a while.  Subconsciously I've known it for some time, but now it's time to admit it - I'm becoming a Grumpy Old Man.

I'll caveat that by saying I'm not a harbinger of doom and misery about everything because I'm really not.  But I'm noticing more and more that I have less and less patience for things, and my tolerance threshold feels like it's reached an all time low.

There's no one thing that I think has made this happen.  Things just annoy me more than they should.  I've been described as a "cynic" a number of times and I'm usually fairly happy to wear that label (though I occasionally suggest "realist" as an alternative).

I hope it's not age that's the driving factor because, at 31, I'd hate to think I'm going to keep on getting grumpier and angrier about things as I get older.  I even know that I'm getting worked up about nothing, but it does little to reduce the problem.

A lot of these things boil down to commuting, popular "culture" and the media.  Commuting is the worst offender of these three because it's something I can't really avoid.   I genuinely don't understand how difficult it is for other drivers to use the orange flashy lights on the side of their cars to let me know which why they're going.  And I don't see how difficult it is for pedestrians to look before they step out into a road.  To me that's common sense, but I start to wonder whether I'm in the minority or not.

I've taken steps to try and reduce the stress caused by being grumpy.  I tend not to watch much TV nor do I get a daily paper, so I remain well insulated from the fervour of whichever TV programme has "the nation divided". I'm by no means averse to anyone watching X-Factor, Strictly Come Dancing or anything like that - I'm not an advocate of slating people for it.  I just know it's not for me and I avoid it.  I'm pretty sure that's what most of pop culture refers to these days so I do OK there.

Wisely or not, I get most of my news from the good BBC website and most of my sports news from a few websites (and Sky Sports News in a morning).  In all honesty I'm not sure any of that is a good idea.  I can remember off hand articles on the BBC about the Prime Minister's cat and what the word Supercalifragalisticexpialidocious really means.  As I write this, the fourth most read news story on the BBC today is "Readers' stories of being single"  Add that to the endless reading of statson Sky Sports News and the reporting of any footballer's tweet as news, it just gets me down.

Like I said, I avoid a lot of this stuff now if possible.  There's no point subjecting myself to the requirement to fill endless hours and pages with "news" for the sake of it.

In all likelihood, I'm not on my own with this despair, but I probably react too much to it (internally at least).  I'm not sure I feel any better for writing it down, but I do hope that if there's anyone out there who feels like me, just know that you're not alone!

I've started working on the first of two music blogs for the end of the year so we'll have something good to talk about next time.


P.S. To be clear, this isn't really a dig at pop culture, people that watch reality TV, the BBC, Sky Sports or anyone.  I'm not daft enough to think that such things are produced when there's no demand.  I'm just trying to highlight that these things aren't necessarily all for me and that it's harder than you think to escape them.  It is a dig at pedestrians who don't look before they cross a road...

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Probama - but why?

Hello again

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably found it hard to escape the US Presidential Election this week.

I've followed the proceedings over the last few months and was very happy to see Obama get another four years - a sentiment shared by a lot of people I know.  But not everyone.

Over the last week or so I've seen some comments suggesting that the amount of UK media coverage we gave to the US election was "ridiculous" and we "should focus on our country".  That got me thinking as to why so many people had caught Election Fever.

To be honest I'm not sure I know.  I'm not an overtly political person myself (and this really isn't going to be a politics lecture of any kind so don't worry) so I'm not going to try and justify the fervour with a discussion of policy.  The few reasons I came up with are:
  • Glamour.  There's no doubt that the US election process is more glamourous than its UK equivalent (the introduction of the "debates" to the last UK election is a nod to that I think) and the rallies, celebrity endorsements and victory speeches are TV moments that capture your attention.  I set off late for work yesterday morning as I was watched Romney's concession and then Obama's entrance to Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours.
  • Charisma.  Without delving into specifics, it's probably not unfair to say that Barack Obama has a tad more charisma then Messrs Cameron, Milliband and Clegg. 
  • Escapism.  Being able to forget about what's going on closer to home (cf. economy, EU, unemployment, evil banks, tax dodgers etc) and watch a soap-opera of sorts.
  • It matters.  What happens in America affects us all to some degree and things matter more when you have a stake in the outcome
  • The West Wing. OK, this might just be me, but having watched the complete series of The West Wing a number of times (something I'd urge you all to do) has developed my interest in how these things work as well as given me a (glamourised) appreciation of what goes into the process
  • Technology.  There are a number of stories from both 2008 and 2012 about how the Obama team in particular have used technology and past election data to target voters and increase turnout.  The application of those methods is interesting (for some people at least)
  • Gambling.  I had a few quid on Obama getting a second term.  As one UK bookie used to say, "It matters more when you've got money on it"
  • Good vs Evil.  There's nothing like a good old-fashioned Hollywood battle of good vs evil and to some degree this is what the US election is to a lot of people (again, I'll skirt the policy and politics here).  Watching the momentum build to the result is, amongst other things, compelling viewing.  It could probably only be improved by chucking a couple of light sabres into the mix.
All of the above isn't to say that I think you should have an interest in such things.  I do understand, and appreciate, the arguments against getting too involved in another country's electoral process - something probably exacerbated if you're disillusioned with the state of your country.  I also think that spending over £1bn on campaigning is a bit abhorrent but it seems to be the price of success in the modern world.

Whatever your thoughts on the whole thing, it's done now for another 4 years.  Whether good did triumph over evil is for you to decide (if you want to).

In non-vote counting news, I'll be putting together the first of two posts about my favourite music of 2012 in the next few weeks.  If you want to see last year's, here's the link to the Top 20 of 2011 - The Shortlist (which itself contains the link to the 2011 Longlist).  This is a personal highlight of the year for me - going back over 50 or so EPs and albums from the year and making a playlist is very satisfying.

Also keep an eye out for my next DiabetesUK blog which should be done in a week or so.

Thanks for reading - hopefully it wasn't too much of a politics seminar for you.  See you next time