Friday, April 20, 2018

The Importance of Tracking Your Symptoms

Why track your symptoms?  

Well, have you ever visited a doctor and they asked: “How often have you been having this symptom or that?  How bad has it been?  Is there anything that makes it better or worse?”

If you’re like most people, it’s really difficult to remember all of this and more so if you’re not feeling well.  And, as you try to remember back more than a few days, it can get very fuzzy, very quickly.  Sadly, practically no one keeps a log of their symptoms except, perhaps, for diabetics who track their BGL and hypertensive patients who track their blood pressure.

But without accurate information, it’s hard for your doctor to make a good diagnosis and propose the right treatment.  For example, how is a doctor supposed to treat a headache which can have, literally, hundreds of causes?

When I was much younger, I had very bad headaches but I knew that they were not migraines.  I asked my doctor what could be causing this.  He said: "It could be stress...It could be a brain tumor.  Let's run some tests." (I know that sounds harsh.  I happen to like dark humor like that and appreciated his candor.)

Now imagine I came into his office with a log of my headaches for the past 2-3 months.  The doctor probably wouldn't have to run as many tests and could possibly diagnosis it right there and then.  And with a proper diagnosis, I would have received the correct treatment.  

The alternative is also true.  Without clear data, the doctor could have made an inaccurate diagnosis and given me a treatment that not only could have been ineffective, it could have actually been harmful.

So, here's what you should log:
  • Date
  • Time of Day
  • Symptom type (e.g., pain, dizziness, blurriness, breathing problems, etc.)
  • Location of the symptom (e.g., back of the head, chest, left kidney, neck, etc.)
  • Intensity (on a scale of 1-10)
  • What makes it worse
  • What makes it better

That's it.   You don't need to create charts, graphs, or have a lot of complicated information.  The idea is to keep it simple so that it's easy to log your symptoms and easy to read by those with whom you share the info.

That leads to the last, and perhaps, the most important aspect of a symptom log.  It must be easily shareable.  You will want to share it with your healthcare providers, family or other caretakers.  And the simplest way to do so is via email, text or printing.  Having a digital log (e.g., spreadsheet, word doc, etc.) is obviously the best format to enable easy sharing. 

There are many apps on the market that do this.  Most are very complicated and hard to use.  I believe that my app, My Symptom Tracker, is the simplest and easiest way to track your symptoms and share the info.  I invite you to check it out:

Click here:  My Symptom Tracker

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Diabetes 2 Is Like Having A Job

I have diabetes type 2.  To say it's been a struggle is an understatement.  I love bread, pasta, cereal...basically carbs.  Last fall I had a rude awakening and my A1c jumped to very high and dangerous levels after stable for quite some time.

After having the "scary talk" with my new doctor and being put on a new medicine cocktail (but no insulin), I re-committed myself to diet and exercise.  In three months, I dropped ~8 pounds and lowered my A1c to 6.5.  Quite an accomplishment.  She was amazed and I was very proud.

And then 2018 hit.  Stress eating returned. Lots of stress in January and February.  Then my wife and both struggled with illnesses throughout March.  I was forced to take a steroid for a week.  I ate like crap and couldn't exercise (bronchitis).  Late night snacking, too.  I put on a few pounds.

So, I saw my doctor yesterday and I got the results that I expected.  My A1c had jumped dramatically and I gained back some weight.  Then I got the lecture.  "Diabetes2 is a progressive have to get back to eating better...exercise more..."  Blah, blah, blah.  Heard it for years.

But then she said something that really hit home:  "Diabetes 2 is like having a job."

You can't go to work on a Monday and do your job well.  Then on the next day, tell your boss that since you did so well the previous day, you are not going to work today.  You need to do your job EVERY DAY or else you'll lose your job.

Diabetes 2 is just like this.  It's a job that you have to do each and every day.  Eating well and exercising yesterday doesn't excuse one from the obligation to do the right thing today.

So, I am now I have to start thinking as if Diabetes 2 is my permanent job.  The big difference is that instead of just losing my job if fail to work consistently, I could lose a foot if I don't do my Diabetes job.

That's pretty good motivation!

P.s. - Last night was day 1 without late night snacking!