I need to be more active. My Diabetes control has been pretty non-existent this year. Thankfully, my new Fitbit gives me an easy way to measure my (lack of) progress, and I’ve started making better use of short gaps in my daily schedule to get outside more often.
I had an hour gap between shifts this morning, so I took our dog out for a walk in our area. The nice thing about walking with her is that she tends to move at a pretty fast pace (once she gets past the anxiety of being in a new space). It’s mostly her way of trying to return home as quickly as she can, wherever that is.
The upside of that is that we tend to have a pretty brisk walk so I can get my heart rate up a bit. Today we only walked for about 15 minutes or so. Next time, we’ll head out further, I think.
I’d like to do at least half an hour at a time, at a fast walk. I’m also contemplating buying a pair of decent running shoes and getting back into running. The challenge is that Winter is setting in. The prospect of running in the cold rain doesn’t thrill me.
This is how the article begins, it will give you an idea of what to expect:
Articles about the remote work lifestyle have tended to focus on drinking piña coladas on the beach, traveling the world, and otherwise enjoying a life that inspires envy in your social media following.
This is not one of those articles.
As an Automattician, I work completely remotely, although I’ve chosen to work from home. I think I’m pretty well suited to remote work. I much prefer working remotely to being in an office environment. There are downsides, sure, but the benefits far outweigh the challenges, at least for me.
I just watched a short documentary, titled “Waterlog”, about writer Joe Minihane’s journey towards a better understanding of his anxiety, and a healthier perspective on his life through “wild swimming“:
It’s inspiring to read about people like Joe Minihane, and Wil Wheaton who have the courage to speak openly about their challenges. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by anxiety and depression, and pretty tough to find your way out of it when it happens.
Stories like these offer more hope that it can get better.
Steve Cutts‘ video titled “Happiness” is disturbingly accurate portrayal of so many aspects of our daily lives. When I watch this video, I can’t help but wonder why we buy into all these promises of happiness, and chase them so relentlessly?
Cutts’ work seems to capture so much of the futility of so much of what we do to achieve happiness in our lives. There is a better way to live our lives. Realising that and shifting our perspective isn’t as easy as it seems, though.
It turns out that this is also very much a cultural issue with the expectation being that people who are not morning people are somehow slackers. I didn’t think about it in those terms, probably because I tend to function better in the mornings (at least, once I’ve taken my meds).
On a related note, it also turns out that so-called “coffee naps” are great ways to recharge during the day. I tend to nap for around 20 minutes and will do that if I have an opportunity because it works well for me.
Apparently, a cup of coffee right before a 20 minute nap could be just the thing you need to recharge and return to a much more productive state. According to Vox:
It’s counterintuitive, but scientists agree that drinking coffee before napping will give you a stronger boost of energy than either coffee or napping alone. To understand a coffee nap, you have to understand how caffeine affects you. After it’s absorbed through your small intestine and passes into your bloodstream, it crosses into your brain. There, it fits into receptors that are normally filled by a similarly shaped molecule called adenosine. Adenosine is a byproduct of brain activity, and when it accumulates at high enough levels, it plugs into these receptors and makes you feel tired. But with the caffeine blocking the receptors, it’s unable to do so. Here’s the trick of the coffee nap: sleeping naturally clears adenosine from the brain. So if you nap for those 20 minutes, you’ll reduce your levels of adenosine just in time for the caffeine to kick in. The caffeine will have less adenosine to compete with, and will thereby be even more effective in making you alert.
So, if you’re ever accused of being lazy or slacking off because you’re not a morning person or because you just want to have a quick nap and recharge, there is a body of science backing you up!
I haven’t written about my journey with Diabetes for a while and I thought I’d share some updates because my Diabetes has changed. I am now an insulin-dependent Diabetic but that is ok. Well, it is now but it wasn’t when I made the transition.
The reason why I want to share this post is because I really struggled to find other people’s stories about their experiences with Diabetes which I could relate to. Perhaps my experiences will be helpful to someone else who is going through something similar.
It is scary when your body changes and your Diabetes progresses/deteriorates. It is especially so when you can’t peg it to a particular cause. It helps to know that other people have been through (and are going through) what you are dealing with.
So, as you may know, I was diagnosed as a Type 2 Diabetic a few years ago. It was a shock, initially, but I realised that it was actually a blessing. Before I was diagnosed I was way overweight and not doing much about it.
Two of the ways I started to take control of my condition were to eat healthier and to exercise more often. I shed about 20kgs of fat in my first year or so and I’ve managed to stabilise at a much healthier weight.
My levels were pretty stable until about December 2015 when something went wrong and my Diabetes deteriorated/progressed (I’m never really sure whether to describe it as a deterioration or a progression – Diabetes is a progressive condition, it will become more advanced over time).
When it all changed
We’re (me and my doctor) aren’t sure what caused the change but my blood glucose levels started to rise dramatically in mid to late December. The main factor that comes to mind is that I was pretty sick. I developed a chest infection that was about a day away from pneumonia (before I saw my doctor and started medication). Getting sick always pushes up my blood glucose levels so I initially ignored the spike when I saw it in my routine self-tests.
That was my first mistake.
Tip: Do your tests regularly, even if you know something is distorting the results.
When my high levels persisted and I still felt sick, I started testing less frequently. I just attributed the high levels to my illness.
This is called “compounding” my first mistake.
Tip: Keep testing regularly so you have consistent data for later.
Then, after I recovered and my high levels persisted, I decided that my tester must be faulty and procrastinated dealing with it for a couple weeks. In the meantime, my levels continued climbing while I focused more on improving my diet.
This was my second mistake.
Tip: Focusing on your diet is great but don’t procrastinate seeking help if you notice a problem. Go talk to your doctor, even if you feel like your habits created the problem.
Although the shock forced me back into a more disciplined diet, it took me far too long to go to my doctor and confess my neglect and seek help. To my credit, I even took a notepad and made notes, determined to fix My Problem and Return to Controlled Diabetes.
My doctor referred me to a specialist (again) and told me to go have blood tests done and my feet examined. Why my feet? Well, one of the warning signs of poor control is peripheral neuropathy – loss of sensation in your extremities, like your toes. That leads to toes and other parts of your body being deprived of blood and falling off. It isn’t the fun part of Diabetes (there aren’t many).
My HbA1c blood test series confirmed my fears. My blood glucose levels had risen dramatically. My spot blood glucose test put me at 258mg/dl – the upper end of the normal range is 140mg/dl. My HbA1c put me at 8.4%. My levels should be under 6.0% or so. The HbA1c is one of the key metrics for Diabetes control which I clearly lacked.
My doctor decided it was time to change my medication. I was previously on a dose of Metformin, twice a day. It was a slightly increased dose but otherwise roughly the same medication I had been on since I was first diagnosed. The change was to switch me over to a pill called Januet which combines 50mg of insulin with the Metformin, twice a day.
When my doctor mentioned adding insulin it scared me. I don’t like needles at all and the prospect of injecting myself wasn’t a happy one. Fortunately, there was a pill option for me!
For some reason my condition progressed/deteriorated to the point where I now needed insulin to control my Diabetes. Initially the Januet was a sort of test run. The idea was to monitor my levels and see if they came back down to a normal range on the new medication. If they did, the new medication would become part of my new treatment regime.
Taking steps to regain control
That was a reality check for me and it reminded me of the importance of doing my self-tests regularly, even if I don’t like what I see. The point is to be aware of the problems because that awareness is your first step towards addressing them.
Managing Diabetes isn’t just about the medication although that can be critical. I noticed that my blood glucose levels rose on the days when I ran out of my Januet and returned to just Metformin. I am insulin-dependent and that means that, given my current lifestyle, I need the insulin to stabilise my blood glucose levels. Period.
Something else that makes a noticeable difference is exercise. My mother visited us in April and we did a lot of walking during one of the weeks she was here. On an average weekday I walk around 5 to 6 kilometres. When we were on holiday with her and touring locally, we walked 8 to 11 kilometres. I noticed that all that walking helped bring my levels down, usually to below 120.
Another big realisation was how much of an impact stress can have on my blood glucose levels. It can cause a huge bump in my levels.
Diabetes isn’t a disease although living with it can be challenging. It is easy to pick up bad habits and eat the food you know you shouldn’t. I also noticed that my body has less of a tolerance for carbohydrates and eating more than a little pasta and bread can really push my levels up. We have switched to wholewheat breads and pastas but even those seem to be problematic so I tend to avoid them.
My morning routine has changed a little since I wrote about it just over two months ago. I now start work at 7am instead of 6:30am and that means that I miss the bus I used to take to the train station. The positive side of that is that I have to walk to the station. That, of course, means more exercise every week day.
Unfortunately I spend most of my working day sitting and that isn’t good for me (or anyone). I put my back out in the holidays and sitting every day probably delayed my recovery by about a week too. I try make a point of getting up and going for a walk out the office for a bit every day. I don’t always do remember to do that, though.
Get out of the office more often
I do make a point of leaving the office for lunch, though. I understand why many companies offer their employees food. They want to keep employees close to their workstations so they can eat and get back to work. I don’t think that is particularly healthy and, if anything, I need to leave the office for lunch just to give my mind a break and get some outside air. It helps a lot with work stress too.
This morning I tested myself: 121. I’ve managed to stabilise my levels in the last two months or so and just need to remain vigilant and disciplined to maintain that. I plan on living a long time and I am constantly reminded of the importance of taking better care of myself as I grow older.
It’s a work-in-progress
I am due to do another set of blood tests in the next week or so, along with my long overdue feet examination. Being Diabetic is very much a work-in-progress but, on balance, it has been a positive thing for me and my family. I am in better condition than I was in the years before my diagnosis and that is just going to be increasingly important in the years and decades to come.
As I wrote in the beginning of this post, I wanted to share my experiences in case there are other Diabetics who are going through something similar. There is a lot of information about Diabetes on the Web but I haven’t seen many stories from Diabetics who face challenges I can relate to. Perhaps my experiences will help someone who is going through something similar and isn’t too sure what to make of it all. It can be scary when your body changes like this.
Did you know that being angry makes you look older? Well, it might. I’m just guessing based on a facial recognition experiment I did recently which I thought was a little alarming. Being angry certainly seemed to make me look older.
Disclaimer: this is not scientific at all and doesn’t have any form of proof that would even resemble valid proof of a scientific theory. Think of this as the cats gif equivalent of bad pseudo-science. In other words, it’s possibly mildly interesting, slightly entertaining waffle. Well, except, maybe, for the research I point to below my story.
My fairly unscientific test to show that being angry makes you look older
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. I did a little facial recognition and analysis experiment a few days ago after Heidi Patmore suggested it.
In this photo, which my wife took of me in Jerusalem during a family vacation recently, I have what I like to think of as my neutral expression. I usually have it in photos when I’m waiting to see if the photographer has taken a photo yet.
I submitted this photo for analysis and this was the outcome:
Besides the interpretation of my emotional state, look at the “Characteristics” section in the bottom right. The analysis of my age is between 35 and 45. It is fairly accurate. I am currently 40.
Photo 2: My smiling-while-on-vacation look
This is my version of a smile and it still frustrates my wife because she wants to see teeth in smiles. Nevertheless, this is a smile.
In this analysis, my apparent age (according to the software, of course) is 25 to 35. This is, of course, great. It isn’t the first time people have commented on how young I can look in photos where I am smiling.
That doesn’t mean that this is clear, scientific proof that smiling makes you look younger. It just means it seems to make me look younger.
Photo 3: My seemingly-neutral-but-actually-annoyed look
I took a different selfie for the purposes of the test. Yes, it is against a different background, from a different angle and shot with a worse camera but bear with me.
The analysis interprets this one as a predominantly neutral photo with hints of anger and disgust. I was actually pretty annoyed at the time I took the photo so I certainly felt angrier than I appeared.
What struck me about this photo is that the analysis puts my age at between 50 and 60. You could probably take off 10 years to account for the differences between the photos in terms of setting, camera quality and angle. This would still mean, pretty unscientifically, that being angry may (possibly, results may vary, refer to Disclaimer above) make you look older.
Even if being angry doesn’t actually make you look older, smiling really does seem to make you look younger so that is good too, right?
There might be some actual, scientific proof too
Just for kicks, I Googled this idea that being angry could make you look older. The first result I found was an article titled “Anger makes you age more quickly” on Daily Mail Online. I don’t know if the Daily Mail Online is well regarded, premium news publication but it includes references to an actual scientific study that are useful:
More worryingly, the findings – presented in the journal Thorax, a specialist publication of the British Medical Journal – showed that people who constantly feel anger are more likely to age quicker.
Hostility and anger have long been associated with a whole host of long term health problems.
The constant flood of stress chemicals and metabolic changes in the body that accompany feelings of anger can lead to high blood pressure, headaches, digestion problems and skin problems such as eczema.
They can also lead to more serious conditions such as asthma, depression and heart disease and can cause heart attacks and strokes.
A 2013 study titled “High Anger Expression Exacerbates the Relationship Between Age and Metabolic Syndrome” revealed the following:
Among older adults, anger expression predicted higher prevalence of metabolic syndrome. Older adults reporting showing lower anger expression had metabolic syndrome rates comparable to younger adults. Results highlight that failing to show the frequently observed decline in anger expression with age may have pernicious health concomitants.
I’ll put it another way. Older people tend to be less angry and have more emotional well-being (with the benefit of having a comparable risk of metabolic syndrome as younger adults). Older people who remain angry (presumably as a general state of being) are more at risk from a health perspective.
So? Does being angry make you look older?
There are probably other studies and, as I pointed out earlier, this post of mine is hardly a scientific study. Isn’t it worth thinking about, though? Perhaps taking steps to reduce your anger levels is a good idea. You may live a longer, healthier life. At the very least, you’ll appear younger in photos when you smile!
Does being angry make you look older? My totally uncontrolled, unscientific experiment certainly seems to indicate that being angry makes me look older. It turns out there just may be actual scientific evidence to support this too.