Category: Disease

Type 1 Tuesdays: Oh No! Not Him/Her Too!

We all have fond memories of our Moms – whether it be their hugs, voices, cooking or just their amazing support. What is your fondest memory of your Mom? On a similar note, what comes to mind when someone says that name Emma Watson? Many may know this young talented star as Hermoine Granger, the female heroine in JK Rowling’s blockbuster movie series, Harry Potter, or the new Belle in the live Beauty and the Beast Production.  However, did you know that her mother has Type 1 diabetes?  Watson is now speaking out about how her mother is her hero, specifically because she has T1D.  Will we see more of Ms. Watson in other T1D advocacy movements in years to come?

Another British actor with even more personal ties to T1D is Jeremy Irvine, who stars in the film Warhorse. He has been a T1D since he was six years old and is actively involved in the bionic pancreas project.  In a quote on the JDRF website he said, “Thanks to the huge developments being made in the treatment of type 1 diabetes, no child should have to feel diabetes needs to stop them following their aspirations.”  These celebrity spokespersons spread awareness and understanding about T1D, helping all of us who live with this disease.  They are out heroes along with our mothers, both playing a major role in helping us successfully live with this disease.  Who is your favorite star with T1D?  Mary Tyler Moore? Halle Barry? Crystal Bowersox? Brett Michaels? Nick Jonas? Any others?

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Photo Credit: Steven Mezer (In Photo: Amanda Mezer and Karen Mezer (Mom)).

Type One Tuesdays: Conferences, Bonding and Life Long Friends…Priceless!

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As Spring Break approaches and, hopefully, with the snow days behind us, we eagerly look forward to and begin to make plans for summer.  Do you have a favorite place to visit during the summer or a conference to attend?  Over the summer, there are many interesting and fun diabetes camps and conferences.  Two major national conferences that occur over the summer are Students With Diabetes (SWD)’s National Conference and Children With Diabetes (CWD) Friends for Life Conference.

Conferences provided invaluable information, networking opportunities and lifelong friends for people with Type 1 diabetes (T1D).  There are informative sessions that provide information on the latest technology, inspirational and encouraging presentations by successful T1Ds and social activities that provide time to meet and bond with fellow T1Ds.  The relationships made at the conferences provide a great resource for support on the other 364 days of the year when you are not with people who understand your disease.  I met one of my closest friends at the SWD conference several years ago.  Attendees at the conferences relate to each other in a way that is rarely experience in any other setting.  The commonalities between attendees and conference events create an atmosphere for bonding over just a few days.  Even if you don’t keep in touch regularly, some of these people will cross paths with you at other conferences or through other aspects of your life.  Recently, I reconnected with a person, who I had met at a Friends for Life Conference many years ago, when we both participated in a national group project.  It was so great to have a familiar person in the group!  Additionally, when you go back the next year, it is like a family or high school reunion, with the opportunity to also meet new attendees or create stronger bonds with people from previous years.  The experience is priceless.  Are you going to any conferences or camps this summer?  What is your favorite memory?  Don’t let your summer go by without a conference or two to make life-long friends!  Hurry and sign up before registration closes!

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Type One Tuesdays: Celebrity Advocacates – You Can Be One Too!

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Krysta Rodriguez, Broadway actress and film star, added another credential to her name last week.  She began writing a blog about her journey with breast cancer, which coincided with her admission that she has breast cancer.  She uses her website, Chemocouture, to use humor and a very blunt approach to share her very difficult journey with cancer.  Since her announcement, there has been an outpouring of support from celebrities and fans.  In her blog, she describes her cancer.

“Now as far as cancer goes, I have the Cadillac of tumors. It’s slow growing, highly treatable and not really interested in spreading. My doctor calls it an “old lady cancer.” I always knew I was ahead of my time! Picture a lump sitting in a BarcaLounger eating Cheetos and enjoying the warm, cozy studio apartment I’ve been providing for it on Left Breast Lane.  No one would want to leave that, am I right?  Well, sorry buddy.  I’m the landlord from hell and it’s eviction time.”

Krysta Rodriguez is a true inspiration for people dealing with cancer or any chronic illness.  She is using her fame to make a difference in health of others, which is amazing and admirable.  Celebrities, discussing their health problems, can bring attention to topics many people may not have the courage to talk about.  This can be beneficial for other people with the same disease, but also for others who are supporting loved ones or just dealing with difficult life experiences themselves. Celebrities can help inspire and educate people dealing with the disease to be their own advocates and speak out like the celebrities do.  Krysta Rodriguez is not the first to be a celebrity health advocate.  Some other notable celebrities who advocate for their diseases are Michael J. Fox (actor, Parkinson’s disease) and Nicole Johnson (1999 Miss America, Type 1 diabetes).  Each of us has the ability to do what these celebrities have done, by being our own advocate and embracing our disease(s).

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I am by no means Krysta Rodriguez, but I hope to have a positive impact on the Type 1 diabetes community.  I have chosen to focus make my career and my life on helping others through my experiences with T1D.  If I learn something new and helpful, I want to share it with others.  Even difficult or challenging experiences provide opportunities to help others by sharing how I dealt with the issue and to let them know that I got through it.  Do you embrace any diseases you have? Do you incorporate them into other aspects of your life? Are you your own advocate? Do you think more people should be like Krystra Rodriguez, Michael J Fox and Nicole Johnson and speak out about their health problems?

Photo Credit: Steven Mezer (Photo 1: Krystra Rodriguez and Amanda Mezer; Photo 2: Nicole Johnson and Amanda Mezer).

 

Wellness Wednesdays: How to Weather the Winter

As a wicked ice storm has kept me cooped up inside for the past two days, I’ve been thinking how the many barriers that get in the way of making healthier choices somehow seem to multiply during the cold, dark winter months.  Exercise? It’s freezing outside. Healthy diet? Most fruits and vegetables are out of season. For the many of us who already struggle to make better decisions, these extra hurdles can sometimes prove to be just too much.  Here’s how to keep the winter weather from ruining your health.

Less sunlight. Fewer hours of daylight during winter months means you are more at risk for vitamin D deficiency, which can make you more susceptible to viruses by weakening your immune defenses. Vitamin D is produced in the skin when you are exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, i.e. sunlight. However, the winter sun is too weak to stimulate vitamin D production, especially in northern latitudes. Few foods are naturally high in vitamin D – eggs and some fish provide some, but the majority of dietary vitamin D comes from fortified foods like milk and orange juice. Just be sure to read the label – not all products are fortified. Start your day off right with a couple of hard-boiled eggs and a glass of orange juice – you’ll get a third of your daily vitamin D before you even leave the house.

Cold temperatures. When my fiance gets cold (which is always), the first thing she does is reach for a blanket. Resist the urge to hunker down – get up and move instead. Your working muscles produce internal heat that helps you fend off the chills, along with all the other benefits that exercise brings. You don’t need an expensive treadmill or fancy equipment to be physically active inside – with a bit of imagination, some dumbbells and a staircase are all you need to get a full-body workout.

Tasteless produce. Most fruits and vegetables are out of season during the coldest parts of the year, which means that the ‘fresh’ stuff you see in the produce isle has likely traveled thousands of miles since being picked three weeks ago to get to your store. Buy frozen produce instead – you’ll get a lot more for your money, nutrient-wise. The fruits and vegetables in these products were frozen immediately after harvest, conveniently preserving all the nutritional benefits of fresh produce. Throw a mixture of frozen berries and kale into your smoothie for an added vitamin boost!

 

Photo credit: http://www.ucar.edu/communications/quarterly/spring03/winter.html

Type 1 Tuesdays: Friends, Laughter and Entertainment — Oh My!

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 As  you may have heard the proverb, “laughter is the best medicine,” and you may also know the benefits of spending time with family and friends.  However, have you thought of combining these two behaviors?  Laughter actually results in chemical changes in your body which has a positive influence on blood flow, immune response, blood sugar levels (diabetes alert!), relaxation and sleep.  Did you know that 10-15 minutes of laughter actually burns 50 calories?  Are you trying to lose holiday pounds?  Could laughter be the solution to your diet woes?  In addition, the health benefits of social support from family and friends include having a sense of belonging, increased sense of self-worth and feelings of security.  Therefore, spending time laughing and having fun with family and friends can double the positive impact on your health status while improving your mood as well.

This past weekend, I went to Tampa, Florida for Valentine’s Day weekend, where the Straz Center for the Performing Arts Center is producing the musical “First Date.”  It is a 96 minute show full of laughter that was especially enjoyable since it was also a great opportunity to share the evening with family and friends.  We laughed throughout the show and even after as we discussed the funniest parts of the show.  At the end of the evening, there was a sense of well-being and contentment.    Laughter and socialization truly are the best medicine, particularly for those of us with chronic illnesses.  Do you think you can add a bit of laughter and socialization into your routine?  I assure you that you will be glad you did!

HPV Vaccination: It’s Not Just for Girls

While vaccines have been around for many years and are able to help prevent many diseases, there remains a lot of controversy over whether children should be vaccinated for many reasons, including the potential adverse side effects from the vaccine.  Parents have raised concerns about the HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) vaccine including: (1) the child is not sexually active, so there is not a need to vaccinated; (2) safety concerns related to side effects and (3) they claim that the vaccine is not needed or necessary.  In addition, many times this vaccine is not recommended by the child’s medical provider, so the parent does not know about the vaccine.

Regardless of the reason for not getting the vaccine, that decision has major ramifications. Currently, there are 30 types of HPV that are sexually transmitted and over 100 types that are t skin-to-skin.  Dr. Joan Cates, a Senior Lecturer at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, has participated in several studies, some currently in the process, on the issue of HPV vaccination, specifically with young boys.  In 2011, the recommendation came out that young boys should receive the vaccination that historically had only been recommended for girls.  HPV can lead to a variety of cancers, not just cervical cancer in females. The “Protect Him” campaign focused on increasing the 13 year male vaccination rate.  In this campaign, two major factors appeared to be important in influencing parents.  First, parents reacted positively to information involving their son’s risk and the use of the word “protection” against disease.   The measures that were evaluated in this study included: immunization registry data, awareness, attitudes, beliefs, provider recommendation, vaccination intentions and initiation.  It was found from the study that those in the intervention group were 34% more likely to be vaccinated.  In Dr. Cates’ newest HPV awareness study, responses pre- and post-intervention were remarkably similar regarding awareness.  Dr. Cates is currently in the process of creating a video game study that would introduce adolescents to the HPV vaccine and provide them with important information. As someone with a chronic disease, Type 1 diabetes, it makes sense to be able to be protected from as many harmful diseases as possible.  Many of the diseases that we have vaccines for are potentially deadly, if contracted.  Who would not want to minimize his or her risk from these harmful and deadly diseases?

 

Photo Credit: Amanda Mezer

Let’s Be Precise: What is Precision Medicine?

If you watched the State of the Union a few weeks ago, you may have heard chatter about the new “Precision Medicine Initiative” introduced by President Obama. But what really is “precision medicine”?

A White House fact sheet uses words like “bold,” “revolutionize,” and “accelerate” to describe the proposed initiative, which would launch with a $215 million chunk of the 2016 Budget. This sum would be allocated to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a voluntary national research cohort, to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to scale up efforts in genomics and cancer treatment, to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to employ additional expertise in the development of more efficient databases, and to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) to improve the privacy and security of databases and electronic health records.

While this initiative seems exciting and innovative, some say this concept isn’t new; in fact, it’s been used to treat cystic fibrosis and it is sometimes referred to as “personalized medicine” (others try to distinguish between “precision” and “personalized,” which may cause more confusion).

Any way you name it, there seem to be a few vague goals we’ve heard before (i.e. “cure cancer”) and unsurprisingly limited conversation about the insufficient funding focused on prevention and better understanding of growing health disparities. While there’s certainly no drawback to funding more NIH research, crowdsourcing disease cohorts, and supporting efforts to understand the basis of disease, one has to wonder if concentrating resources on treating rare diseases will help ease the growing costs of healthcare, or if there should be more endeavors to integrate healthy behaviors and smart lifestyle choices into American culture. When will public health and prevention get its time in the limelight?

 

Image credit: Alex Kamo via Flickr

Type 1 Tuesdays: Gastroparesis – A New Year’s Resolution or Result of Health Problems?

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Many of you may have set New Year’s Resolutions, such as “losing weight” or “eating healthier,” however, my New Year’s Resolution was forced upon me a few days after the New Year and after several weeks of illness.  As alluded to in one of my previous posts, I was diagnosed with gastroparesis, or delayed gastric emptying, this January, which is a condition wherein your stomach does not efficiently digest food.  This condition is a common complication of type 1 diabetes.

The primary treatment for this disorder is a diet of easy to digest foods and frequent small meals.  As my doctor advised, liquids are better than solids.  As you may already be thinking, many healthy foods we should eat everyday are hard to digest, such as fruits and vegetables.  So, this “diet” restricts consumption of those healthy foods and requires more low fat, high carbohydrate foods, such as potatoes and smoothies.  The “diet” also requires small meals throughout the day, instead of the normal three larger meals.  This “diet,” as with most things, has some positives and negatives.

Some of the positives are that you can save money on food.  One “normal” meal, whether home-cooked or from a restaurant, can now last 4-5 days.   Additionally, it can help with weight loss, which I have experienced first hand this past month.

Some negatives are that the “diet” is inconsistent with our American culture and with recommendations for a healthy diet as recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  Americans typically eat 3 large meals each day that include high fat foods and the USDA recommends a diet high in salads, fruits and vegetables.  I had heard in the past that small, more frequent meals are better for you, particularly for those with type 1 diabetes.  However, when I tried to impose this on myself, when it was not medically necessary, it was hard to abide by and stick to.  When eating a small portion, it takes much less time than other people at a meal and meals have become social events as well as a time for nourishment.  The foods required for this diet are the opposite of normal nutritional recommendations for any person, and particularly for “diabetic friendly” diets.

It has been a struggle to change my eating habits regarding the timing of meals and the consumption of fruits and vegetables.  However, I am seeing that if people would eat smaller portions and watch fat intake, this could definitely be beneficial – even though this is contrary to the culture we are surrounded by.  Are we literally feeding the obesity epidemic by our cultural standards for food consumption?  How should we develop and implement the changes necessary to create a healthier culture?

 

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Is Excessive Salt Restriction Really Necessary?

Salt serves an important function in our food, and in our bodies. As a preservative, it helps to limit the spoilage of food by preventing microbial growth. It is also essential for the proper functioning of the human nervous system.

The American Heart Association currently recommends consuming less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day, considerably less than the 2,300 mg included in the latest rendition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. For the average person, this can be very difficult to achieve, with even ‘healthy’ foods like whole wheat bread containing upwards of 200 mg of sodium per serving, and average consumption in the range of 3,400 mg per day. Although more and more products are being offered in low- and no-salt added formulations, keeping total daily intakes under 1,500 mg basically requires preparing most food from scratch, emphasizing fresh fruits and vegetables that are naturally low in sodium and high in potassium. There is no question about the beneficial qualities of a whole-foods, plant-based diet, but are guidelines pushing for excessive sodium restriction really necessary?

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported no significant differences in the risk for developing heart disease over 10 years between individuals who consumed 1,500 mg of sodium per day and those who consumed 2,300 mg per day. This adds to the growing body of literature suggesting that moderate salt consumption is appropriate for most people, with salt restriction necessary only for those with specific health conditions, such as kidney disease, that require lower intakes.

We should certainly continue to encourage people to reduce the amount of salt in their diet. However, many find a 1,500 mg sodium diet to be hard to swallow. If you are looking to make healthy changes to your diet, don’t feel like you need to sacrifice taste – you won’t likely stick to the changes for very long. Instead, balance moderate salt intake with more potassium, a prevalent mineral found in fresh fruits and vegetables. Aim for a 2:1 ratio, consuming twice as much potassium as sodium. People can enjoy the benefits of a healthy diet without giving up all of the foods they enjoy. You can have your salt, and eat it too.

 

Photo credit: http://www.gilchristdermatology.com/sodium-and-your-skin#.VMjZny6WnVI

 

iPhone: Is it also a Medical Alert Bracelet?

Did you get a new iPhone over the holidays, already have an iPhone or are considering getting one?  Whether you are a new or old Apple user, there is a great feature that could apply to you! Have you noticed the “emergency” button on the screen where you enter your 4 number passcode?  This is a cool feature, especially for those who have health problems, such as Type 1 diabetes.  In this area, you can enter your name, medical conditions, allergies, and an emergency contact information.

What does this mean to you?  If you are unconscious or having a medical emergency wherein you cannot communicate, your phone could literally save your life.

This feature is fairly easy to set up.  To set up your information, follow these easy steps:

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  • Step 1: Go to the “Health application” on your phone.

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  • Step 2: There should be a button on the bottom that says “Medical ID” and looks like a *. If you click on that logo, you come to a page where you can enter the information you wish to fill out.

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  • Step 3: Enter the information you want entered. Make sure the “Show When Locked” is selected!

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  • Step 4: Click “Done” when you are finished putting in your information.

Follow these easy steps to retrieve your “Medical ID” information:

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  • Step 1: Now, when you are on the locked screen, if you select “Emergency,” a logo on the bottom will appear that says “Medical ID” below the keypad.

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  • Step 2: If you click on “Medical ID,” the information you entered will be present on the screen.

In the past, people with medical conditions wore “medical alert” bracelets, which were institutional looking bracelets (sometimes made cuter with beads and other decor) or, more recently, they actually got medical alert tattoos (on one’s arm or wrist).  Are cell phones the future of medical identification?  Would you consider using this feature on an iPhone to allow people to have vital emergency information about you?

 

Photo Credit: Main Image by: Kimberly Hislop. All other photos by: Amanda Mezer