Friday, May 16, 2014

Diabetes Life Hacks

Today's Diabetes Blog Week topic is Life Hacks, everything about the tips and tricks that help people with diabetes in the day-to-day management of their condition. We restrict the advice to non-medical ones.

In Finland, the Quantified Self and Biohacking movements are working closely together. Biohacking includes all the modifications you can make to your habits and behavior, nutrition and exercise, mental models and ways of thinking. Quantified Self, with the mantra "Knowledge Through Numbers" helps validate the results, taking a more scientific approach. With many kinds of measurements you can see whether a change you made really had an impact or are you just telling yourself it had.

I have some simple metrics I follow. For instance, I create a mental note whenever I floss. When I realize it's been a week since the last time, I know I'm also not paying enough attention to the treatment of my diabetes, and it's time to let go of some of the pressuring factors and concentrate more on diabetes. Diabetes treatment must always have that priority. Otherwise I'll just get into a state where I'm no good doing anything else.

My biggest challenge with diabetes has been with understanding the effects different types of exercise have on my glucose levels. I've started to understand some of the biological mechanisms, but still need to track myself in order to apply that knowledge to my own treatment. For almost a year now, I've carried a pedometer in my pocket. Actually several ones nowadays. I've got two applications in my phone, Moves and Wellmo. Both of them track my every step, just by running on the background, without requiring any interaction or manual logging. That's great, and I've learned that it really makes a difference if I take 200 or 20 000 steps per day.

The best hack with increasing my step count was to install a tracker also to my wife's phone. The week that followed was the first time ever I recorded 10 000 steps every single day.

Moves works great as a diary too. Sometimes when analyzing the data from my continuous glucose monitoring sessions I have hard time remembering what was it that I did a week ago that may have caused a certain change in my glucose levels. In addition to my steps, Moves keeps a log of where I've been, and a glimpse on a certain day always helps me remember what I was doing. Moves is also quite clever in automatically separating between walking, running, and cycling. Again, fully automatically, just running on the background.

Wellmo is a more comprehensive wellness solution. It allows me to track changes in my weight, my blood pressure, alcohol consumption, and a lot of other metrics. If I'd be a true gadget freek, I'd get the weight scale and blood pressure meter from Withings, so they'd be transfered to Wellmo's service automatically. As I only track my weight once a week and blood pressure even less often, it's not a big thing for me to enter those measurements manually. And Wellmo does a good job in reminding to enter those values. I also manually enter all exercise and sport I do.

All this logging is very different from tracking blood glucose results. I never manage to enter my glucose values to a logbook, as there's often so much other things going on at the same time: I need to measure, think of what that measurement means, is it higher or lower than I expected and if so, what could  have caused that, guess the carbohydrates in the meal and the glycemic index, taking into account a couple of previous times I've had a similar meal and remembering how well I estimated then, enter the carb estimate to the bolus calculator, think about other affecting factors (stress, exercise I've done and perhaps will do after the meal), check the amount of insulin the bolus calculator proposes and estimate it's sanity, etc. Taking out a logbook and entering the values there as well, does not really fit into the scenario, with my limited capacity.

So that's what I'm currently hacking together with Sensotrend. Getting the data from where it already exists. Blood glucose values and carb estimates from my meter, insulin values from my insulin pump, basic activity from pedometer apps, exercise from apps designed to track exercise, and so on. To make tracking all  that information so much easier.

Again, this is a part of a series of posts part of the Diabetes Blog Week.

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