Saturday, January 30, 2010

Technological change frustrations

Somewhere way back up the way, I talked about how rapidly technological change was occurring in the medical field. No doubt about it. We have made amazing strides in so many areas, and in many cases, we have prolonged life to the point that we are encountering some totally new threats--Alzheimer's comes to mind--that our parents and grandparents didn't live long enough to experience.

Well, I have had occasion over the last few weeks to experience some health issues of my own and, despite some good doctors and some really amazing technology, I have encountered some frustrations with the pace of where we are.

First, I have been declared officially to be a type II diabetic. No surprise there, considering my diet, weight and lifestyle. But I have been truly amazed how many others have the same malady. It is not valid research, I know, but in my own experience, based on how many folks say, "Oh, me too!" when I tell them, diabetes is epidemic. And especially if you consider those who don't even know they have it.

As mentioned above, part of the deal is that, since we are living to be older, and since our pancreases tend to go to sleep as we age, it will only be more prevalent. The modern diet almost assures it. Yet I am shocked at how little research is available for a cure. Oh, you can be sure that there is an amazing array of drugs available to treat the symptoms. Thank goodness for that, at least, since this disease can have devastating effects on the body. But where is the cure?

And diet is a not only a major force in prevention, it is by far the most effective treatment against symptoms. Yet dietary information is archaic. Count carbs. Take your pills and count carbs and prick your finger often to see what your blood sugar is. That's the gist of the info I got from "diabetes school" recently, and the mantra from the American Diabetes Association.

Not to get too technical, but the fact is that carbs are not necessarily carbs. Different foods are treated very differently by our bodies, and that especially applies to carbohydrates. A strawberry may have the same carbs as a slice of white bread, but they behave much differently as they affect your blood sugar. This is because of the variations of the glycemic index of various quickly your body converts food to sugar in your blood.

Yet accurate tables of the glycemic index (and its sister, glycemic loading) of various foods are very limited and have a pronounced Australian accent. See, the only real research on this subject has come from Australia, and relies on very limited studies that are now almost a decade old. And because of the nature of the study, they were done on a relatively few people. See, they had to feed healthy people various foods and then measure the result several hours later by drawing blood and checking their blood sugar.

Where is all this amazing research and technology on this very basic subject? And about something that affects millions around the world?

One other thing: my symptoms also necessitated a look at the old ticker, including a stress test and an echocardiogram. The echo deal is a wonderful bit of technology but is many years old now. You have to wonder when they'll be able to do it in 3D. The stress test has come a long way, thanks to nuclear imaging, but is still really primitive.

Well, the stress test was inconclusive and the cardiologist recommended we take a closer look. There are two ways. One is the long-standing arteriogram, in which he sticks a wire into the femoral artery in your crotch and runs it up into the heart and releases dye to see if there are blockages. It is invasive and has its risks, but if he finds something, he can often fix it with a stent or balloon while he is in there. It's also expensive.

There is another deal, though. It is called a cardiac CT scan, is not invasive at all, shows everything the other test does, and is about a fourth the cost. Trouble is, Blue Cross will pay for the arteriorgram but not the CT scan. Has nothing to do with technology, but guess which procedure we did.

Feel my pain?

(The arteriogram showed only one minor narrowing in one artery, which is being treated with medicine. Not bad for a long-time fat boy who loves Southern cooking. And armed with what little glycemic knowledge I can garner, and with a fistful of pills twice a day, I've got the blood sugar close to being in control. And I've lost 35 pounds. I'm convinced losing 50 more will solve all these problems!)

Don Keith N4KC


sdg said...

One major problem with performing research into a cure for anything is that it may well be less profitable for a company that a "management" regime.

As a business decision, it is better to charge you something every week, than one lump sum, even if that lump is large.

This is one place that non-profit and government-funded research is likely the only solution; because their motives are general heath instead of long-term profit.

Anonymous said...

Hi Don!

I have to agree with the first poster. Where's the incentive for the drug manufacturers to actually come up with a "cure" when they can keep people coming back for more of whatever.

I certainly am glad you are a writer, and a powerful researcher on your own. And you know how the media works in the good ol' US of A.

What would you think if you took up the baton and wrote an investigative book on this very subject. I think that the medical and insurance fields need to be given a stealthy look-see from one of those submarines you have lying around in your back yard.

Good for you that you can drop those pesky pounds, my friend! And may I leave you with my own writing and lifeway mantra, which is somewhat like that of Gandhi's:

"BE what you wish to see!"

Claim your innate perfect health right here and now, Don. Don't become one of their mass market!

You can do this, my friend.

recumbent conspiracy theorist said...

Hi Don,

Sorry to hear about your medical issue.

Let me provide a little background before I start my rant. My wife is a respiratory therepist who has worked in a medium sized hospital for about 10 years now. So I have heard some stories. There are some real heros in the medical profession. I don't know how they can do it. It obviously shows that they are deeply compassionate and caring people.

However, The whole problem with the "helthcare industry" is just that, its an industry- it makes money or tries to anyway. The big problems are tort reform or lack of and the insurance companies and Big Pharma. Treat the symptom syndrome.

I am 39 years old. about 5 years ago I was diagnosed with High Cholesterol. I have been a competitive and recreational cyclist for most of my life but my diet was never anywhere near proper. Working with my doctor I began taking the statin drug Lipitor and with diet modification I keep my levels at the upper end of the safe zone. Heart disease runs in all the branches of my family tree. The big differnce is lifestyle and I'm banking on my active lifestyle letting me enjoy another 40 or 50 years. I keep a log of every bike ride I have done for the past five years- WX, route, milage, average speed etc. Also keep all my lab results and manage my own health and fitness profile in a three ring binder. This will be my eventual contribution to the medical world especially concerning the long term use of the statin drug. We have done a test in which I went off the drug for 6 months and my levels shot right back up where they originally were. Proving heredity is the reason. My liver just makes too much cholesterol.

The way I see it is we must each be very proactive in insuring our own health. And teach healthy lifestyle to our children. Its the only way out of this huge mess we are in now.

I want to recommend a great book called "Food for Fitness - Eat Right to Train Right" by Chris Carmichael. (Putnam)(Carmichael is the coach of Lance Armstrong) This is the best book on nutrition I have found yet. and I don't think you have to be any kind of athlete to use it. He does a great job of explaining all the hows and whys.

Also wanted to use this opportunity to let you know that I finally got my blog started. Please check it out.

I always wanted to write a book but I don't have the patience. Blog seems just right for me. Little pieces that come in fits and starts.

Well take care my friend and keep a positive outlook. Its never to late to start a fitness program and will really help manage your conditions.

Vry 73

Anonymous said...

Mike, thanks for stopping by and commenting. I think you said a mouthful when you talked about how we all need to take responsibility for our own health. As with other aspects of life, most people think there is an easy way, or that someone--the company, the government--will be there to take care of anything that could go wrong.

I know there is little wrong with me that losing another 40 or 50 pounds would not go a long way toward fixing. I'm working on it.

I'll check the book. Harvey Diamond's "Fit for Life" is another good one. His claims for dramatic weight loss cost him some credibility, but I think his theories about eating natural foods and food blending are right on.

Mike, writing a blog is cathartic, and not a bad substitute for doing books. You may actually have more readers and make about the same amount of money! :-)

Stop in again when you have time.


Don Keith N4KC