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 foods...how 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