Saturday, March 30, 2013

Diabetes, Depression and Dogs

It is well known in the literature that diabetics have a high rate of depression.  I think part of it comes from finding out you have a chronic disease that you will have to deal with every day for the rest of your life.  Or perhaps decide to ignore until it gets so bad you can't ignore it. Part is the ignorance with which other people deal with diabetics. I have had people tell me well you only have yourself to blame. And others try to help but their lack of information makes it painful.  Saying oh, having one piece of cake won't kill you is in fact not true.  There is a calculation that takes place whenever I am presented with sugar. I have to ask myself:

  • What was my blood sugar this morning?
  • What was it when I last checked?
  • How many carbs did I eat for (insert meal here)?
  • What else have I eaten - have I had enough protein to offset it?
  • Do I need to go take some more insulin?
But the last question is the most important - is it worth it?  Now a $20 chocolate mousse at a French restaurant may be worth it.  Or it may not depending on whether I'd rather have something later on.  And sometimes you figure I've had very few carbs, I'm hungry and my sugar is getting low - let's go for it.  But there is a ton of thinking and tradeoffs involved.  And I don't say it to anyone because honestly - who'd want to listen?  Yes, it can be depressing.

And some days you just think - I just don't feel like being a diabetic today.  But when you go and eat what you want you can end up sick to your stomach, nauseous, etc, etc - again - depressing.

So what do dogs have to do with it?  Well, a lot. 

First off, a dog needs to be taken care of no matter what mood you are in. And taking 2-3 walks a day, getting out in the fresh air, and burning off calories and carbs does elevate your mood.

Sunlight is a great counter to depression - it is why many people in the great white north buy special lights so they can overcome that winter depression.

But most important - dogs help you create a new "social" network that gives you actual human contact.  Diabetes and depression can make you feel isolated but I am finding that  Bizz has expanded my network tremendously in the last week.  We have our friends at obedience class, we have the people that I chat with at the dog park - yes you are talking about your dog and their's but you are bonding over the shared issue of not liking big dogs jumping on your little one and where the other cool dog parks are in the area.  And there are the people I have met in my neighborhood. Just this week I have met three other women - all walking their dogs and have ended up exchanging emails and phone numbers so we can set up walking dates.

My favorite story is what happened the other night. Bizz and i headed out on our walk. I've taken to listening to music in one ear as we walk. I have a set of walking playlists on my iphone that help keep me energized while Bizz bounces along.  Not sure if he enjoys my singing but he doesn't howl. Anyway, my phone rang and it was my friend Marina. Her car had broken down not too far away so Bizz and i walked over.  As we stood chatting a woman came along with her dog - Lily.  Bizz and Lily are close in size and once Marina was squared away with the tow truck Lily's mom and i headed off to her house so the dogs could have a leashless play date. The two dogs romped for over and hour together - and had a ball. They raced, jumped, groomed each other - it was adorbable. And Lily's mom and I got to just sit and chat about the world at large. It was lovely. And yes, we are getting together again soon to set up our next play date.

Overcoming the feeling of isolation you can get with diabetes is huge and Bizz has made it so I am feeling much more connected in my neighborhood. 

Here is Bizz walking with one of his new buddy's and him napping after his 3 mile hike today.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Stress, Dogs and Diabetes

Over and over we read that stress is part of what is killing Americans.  Stress causes us to lose sleep, eat more, gain weight, and increase our blood pressure. All of these things have been shown to lead to diabetes, stroke, heart attack and death. 

For the few years my endo (endocrinologist - the primary care physician for your diabetes) had been begging me to get my stress down.  It was literally driving up my blood sugars.  We could track which days of the week were more stressful for me by watching what happened to my blood sugar readings.  Once I found that correlation I did my best to add in exercise or reduce my carbs on those days but to no avail - once I was stressed my blood sugar could easily jump 100 points.

I went on insulin after a bad case of food poisoning and my doctor kept me on it so I could force my sugars to go down.  Not a good situation for me to be in since insulin can lead to weight gain. 

Once I left my stressful job behind things began to improve. I saw a drop in my blood sugars and A1C results but I was till dealing with residual stress and a disrupted sleep pattern which was being supported by my love of my ipad and all things Angry Birds.  Just one more game is not good when you realize it is 1 am.  The best speaker and writer on sleep in recent years has been Arianna Huffington who writes about how electronics are constant connectivity are killing sleep.  She spoke on this at a Women of Vision event and I was lucky enough to be her handler and get some private time with her.  She talked so much about sleep in her talk that I did stop doing email in bed though I relapsed when the ipad became my tv, game station, computer and kindle at night.

Well in less than two weeks all that has changed.  And I credit Bizz for my stress reduction (and an occasional increase when he decides to remove my bed spread so he can curl up on the cuddly blanket underneath).  So how has Bizz changed me and how can a dog lower your stress level?

1.  Exercise - Bizz is a walker.  We now do 3-5 miles a day together - we did 1.5 miles this morning, will do another mile early afternoon and another 1.5 this evening.  And he loves it.   All that walking relaxes me as well - my sister, Lynne, said it well when she said that walking a dog is almost like meditation.  And while sometimes I just talk to Bizz, I can also put on a headset and talk on the phone while we walk and it's hard to get stressed on a call when you are also exercising.  AJ Jacobs, one of my favorite writers, wrote the book Drop Dead Healthy and talked about how he built a treadmill desk.  Definitely a great book and an inspiration on how humans need more walking.

2.  Getting out in the sunshine.  I must admit - I have not been the best about going outside - while I'm not allergic to Bizz I am to all the trees that are blooming.  But Vitamin D, which the body can produce naturally from being in the sun, is sorely lacking in many of us and the deficiency can lead to a host of illnesses.  I stopped taking Vitamin D on Monday because I now get sunshine every day on our walks.  Does getting out in nature and the sunshine reduce stress?  I can't be sure but I find myself enchanted by the diversity of flowers on our walks and come home with a mind at peace and full of beauty.

3.  Sleep - lack of sleep has been shown to tie directly to weight gain and diabetes.  Well I may have lacked it before but Bizz has me on a schedule.  We get up every morning between 6-7 to hit the back yard so he can pee.  Then we come in and get a few minutes of cuddling in.  Then breakfast, dress and off on our first walk.  Our last walk ends between 8 and 9 unless we had a huge walk like at the Bay - then we just do a short one.  We then have an hour of cuddle time on the couch and I'm in bed by 10, lights out by 10:30.  For the first time I'm getting 8 hours a night. I used to be one of those people who's brain couldn't turn off - now i conk out within 15 minutes.  And the next day we do the whole cycle again.  I used to be a 5 hour a night person, now I'm at 8 easily.

4. Cuddling - Bizzy is very cuddly - he loves physical contact.  So each night we spend an hour just relaxing with me stroking his back.  It soothes him and helps him sleep and it really soothes me.  I had cats as a child and loved to pat them. But Bizz is like fluffy cotton - soft and smooth - and he is a pleasure to pat. 

Daily Update:  So I did 2.5 miles with Bizz yesterday. I had eye doctors appointments so Marina covered me for the noon walk.  So Bizz got at least 3.5 miles in yesterday. 


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Bizzy and Jerri Go To School

Yesterday was yet another crazy day.  Bizzy and I managed to do 3 miles worth of walking.  On our morning walk we met a woman who has three maltese dogs and she immediately recognized Bizzy's heritage.  She gave me some very helpful advice on coat care, weeds to avoid with stickers and even better - offered to do a play date with her dogs.  She also told me that Maltese are an ancient breed (going back to the ancient Greeks) and were known for their hunting skills.  It totally explains his interest in chasing all birds.

When we got home Bizzy ran around a bit then asked to go into the yard. I put him out, went in and put away his harness and leash and when I came out he was gone. There was a hole in the front gate that I was unaware of.  I panicked and started yelling his name.  He didn't come back Isabel came out and we split up to search the neighborhood. He had shown a lot of interest in a cat a block away on our walk and I headed in that direction. I kept calling and suddenly - there he was.  He came running right at me and jumped in my arms.  I was so relieved - I hadn't known how much I'd grown to love him until I thought I'd lost him.  Little nut job.  Isabel and I were incredibly relieved. 

So last night we had our second obedience class. He seemed a bit cranky - some other dog bullied him and it stressed Bizz out. However we made our third mile of walking in our practice sessions of walking on leash around the store. He did really well at that.  For anyone who adopts an adult dog - definitely go to class. It teaches you about dog care and how to interact appropriately with your dog. And it gives you the opportunity to learn why certain behaviors are important.  We have 4 classes to go and of course I will post updates.

Morning blood sugar was great and 3 miles yesterday helped keep everything in control.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Our Big Walk

Yesterday was my blood sugar was great all day - partly because Bizzy and I walked our 10,000 steps. 10,000 steps has become a very common health metric.  My friend Kathy, who lives in Rochester, NY, does a city wide health challenge every year and the 10K steps plus 5 cups of fruits and veggies are how you get points on a daily basis. 

So our first 1100 steps were in Los Gatos, where we went to get my bangs trimmed. From there we picked up Ellen and had a quick lunch (thank god for outside tables) then on to the Baylands. On San Antonio in Palo Alto there is a park where you can hike along the Baylands.  We saw so many birds - Geese, grebes, ducks and enormous pelicans throughout the walk.  Bizz was like a dog on a mission.  We did 8000 steps in about an hour and a half - which translates to 4 miles.  And he was pulling on his leash the whole time. 

My research on Maltese tell me that they are herd/hunting dogs in the ancient world and Bizz definitely has that instinct.

In any event he was go go go right up until we got home.  Then he crashed big time.  He was so tired.  4 miles is a big deal when you are less than 2 feet tall. He napped for hours, we had an early night and he slept straight through.  What I love is that he likes to stay near me so when I would move he would sleepily get up, follow me then sit down and just blink.  He was a sleepy guy.

So for the diabetics - the doctors don't lie - the more exercise you get the better your sugars will be. And having a little dog to pull you along works in two ways - he keeps you going but also he keeps your pride going as well.

We did our last 900 steps last night on a very short walk - he so didn't want to go - but he did his business and then we were both out. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Strolling Down the Avenue

I keep hearing the song Me and My Shadow over and over in my head.  I think it is because i now have a constant shadow whenever Bizzy is around. He follows me around the house and of course anywhere we go on his leash.  In fact he was sound asleep on his bed in the family room and now he's followed me into my office and is now on his office bed.  In any case - I can see why people love dogs - they are devoted little guys.

Yesterday I took Bizz out in Campbell downtown. We took a walk up a side street so he could do his business on grass, flowers, etc then we walked straight down Campbell Ave.  And I learned a lot. 

1.  Dog lovers are everywhere and dog lovers really love Bizz.  We were outside a toy store when a woman carried out her screaming toddler.  Bizz had to investigate and I explained he was very sweet and he did give the little girl kisses and helped her calm down.  Her mom told me that Campbell does dog walk evenings where all the stores give out dog treats and let dogs in.  Definitely keeping those in mind.

2.  People love his story.  I know I am a story teller but I like to tell his story because it makes people stop and think about what is happening to animals in other places.  Being rescued from a kill shelter and being so amazingly good natured just resonates.

3.  Real dog people will come over and just start chatting and they all love to pat Bizz.  People have always commented on my ability to start conversations with strangers - oddly a lot of the time in airports.  Well with Bizz that ability is intensified about 1000%.   I can see that with him along networking is going to be amplified.

4.  Bizzy is good with everyone - he really is non aggressive with people and other dogs.  Our issue seems to be an intense desire to chase birds (though if he caught one he'd be horrified I'm sure) and a real barking issue with cats. 

We met with Taysa for an hour and she laughed since he draped himself over my lap and slept while we talked.  She adored him immediately and of course Bizz loved the attention.

So our daily total - we did two walks for 6000 steps. My blood sugar this morning was 150 - not perfect but pretty good considering I tried taking only half of my evening dose of long acting insulin.  As sugars come down less insulin is required so things are going well.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Bizzy and the Long Walk

Bizzy and I took an incredible walk last night - took my phone so I could chat with my friend and off we went.  Over 50 minutes and we ended up following my street way down. In less than a week I'm already walking much farther than I would have thought possible.  And most hilarious - while we started out with him pulling me along, by the end he was trotting at my heels, came in and immediately collapsed.  We went to sleep around 11:30 and we were both out until 8 am.

Blood sugar was 150 - a bit higher than I'd like but I'd had a big dinner the night before with carbs.  Before Bizzy we would have been looking at 220 in the am due to the carbs.

Today - we're off to the beach.  More pics to follow from that.  He won't be let off the leash since the seals are having their babies and we'll be near the bird sanctuary.  He'll still get a long walk and have a great time.  Here he is resting up for his busy day.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Well I need to say this - dogs are a lot of work.  Bizz is now very much my constant companion -  since I work at home we are together practically 24/7 though I do leave him home when I go to meetings or today when I went out to lunch.  But I will say this - he is increasing my exercise dramatically. 

And my blood sugar is doing great.  Yesterday my morning reading was 124 - which is amazing for me.  Today it was a bit higher in the morning but that's because I ate a few pretzels before bed because I was so hungry.  We did 2 half hour walks and one long 40 minute walk yesterday.  That's 1 hr and 40 minutes of walking in a single day - my doctor will lose her mind.

Today started off a bit better - Bizz is getting better about letting me sleep a bit later and we headed out at 8:50 for a walk.  We ran into a very large dog (Bailey) and his owner Ruby and walked together for a bit. They played together in a small children's park off leash though I made sure he did his morning business before we went in.  He romped which is great to see though he is getting a bit edgier around big dogs - I think they scare him.  I had to take a call so we kept going - I was amazed when I looked up and we were a mile away from the house so turned around.  So an hour walk this morning and we're now chilling a bit before I head out.  The nice part is I know he will be rested for our adventures this afternoon.

I cannot say enough about how having a dog increases your exercise and how much more connected I feel to the other people in my neighborhood.

Oh, and the book group I went to last night was in a coffee shop so I asked when I got my drink if I was allowed to bring him in when I order there (they do have outside tables). The counterman said if he is a quiet dog they would not only let me bring him in to order but also to sit quietly inside. Something to try out.  But I will keep this in mind as we find dog friendly places to go.

I'd love to know who's reading my blog so feel free to leave me comments or ask questions.  Here is a new photo of Bizz for my dog loving readers.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Blog Day 1 - Walking with Bizz

The first thing I can say is that after 5 days with Bizz my walking has definitely increased. Before he came into my life on Saturday I was basically a sedentary lump.  I wore a pedometer for a week and except for weekend walks with friends if I hit 1000 steps in a day that was a good day.  And my sugars in the morning ranged from 175 into the 200's (normal is 80-100 fasting, prediabetic is 100-125).  So I was screwed.  Well this morning my blood sugar was 125.  And here is why - after being out to dinner last night with friends I came home and even though it was rainy and cold Bizz and I took a walk - about 2000 steps.  He had been walked yesterday morning quite extensively and we'd been outside many times to do his bizziness.

 So this morning I got up, tested and saw the 125, we had breakfast - kibble and a spoon full of Greek yogurt for him and high fiber cereal and greek yogurt for me. Then we went out and walked 2000 steps then came home so I could get to work.  He's been in and out a few times so at noon I am at 2288 steps.  I have to run out for a meeting so someone is coming to spend the afternoon working here and taking Bizz for his afternoon walk.  I'll be back later and we'll do the dog park, some shopping, dinner then another walk.  I'll report in tomorrow on blood sugar and steps for today. 

Key Learning:  You must walk a dog.  Hence you must get exercise. And a dog will not leave you alone to play if you are around so he is reducing my tv time - except our 1 hour evening cuddle before his walk - and I have to go to bed early since he is up at 7 am come rain or shine.