Are you tracking the right blood markers for your sugars?

Medical science research is perhaps at its fastest rate ever in history. Literally every day we come across really path breaking studies that are being carried out all over the world.

A few months ago, I wrote about this self-experiment that me and my wife performed on ourselves to measure the blood sugars. Today, I saw a study – yet to be published in the clinical journals – that confirms such self experimentation model.

I believe most of us are well-aware of all the complications that Diabetes can lead to. The disease is characterized by high blood glucose in the blood stream. Almost all the doctors today, use a method of measuring the blood glucose values averaged over a period of approximately 3 months. This test is called the HbA1C or Hemoglobin A1C. Basically, the test measures how much your red blood cells have been “glycated” or how much glucose they have attracted throughout their life span. This test is also used to determine how much of blood sugar related complications you will be facing later in life.

But then again, as with everything there is a flip side to this as well. Now a life-span of a red blood cell for a healthy individual is roughly about 3 months. Which is why the test says that the reading is an average of blood glucose values over last 3 months. However, an interesting fact to note is that the life-span of the red blood cells can vary vastly between a non-healthy individual and a healthy, athletic individual. So what that means is, without completely understanding your background, you are being measured at an average – an average that can be way different than what you actually are.

Secondly, coming to this study that I referred above, it seems that research now suggests that the real markers of blood sugar related complications might not really be HbA1C. There are several microvascular complications related to blood sugar, such as, nephropathy (kidney diseases), neuropathy (brain diseases) and retinopathy (eye diseases). Today, most of the times, the HbA1c values are used to determine such a risk. However, this study finds that the averaged out values might not really be the right way to gauge this risk. For instance, if you have frequent spikes in blood glucose and then a good normal range rest of the times, it is quite possible that the HbA1C numbers are well within the ranges. However, those frequent blood glucose spikes setup a chain reaction of oxidation that kicks off the cycle for blood sugar related complications. In other words, you might be a completely healthy individual on the panel of medical tests. However, internally, due to frequent spikes, you might’ve already started a cascade of complications.

So what does this really mean? How do we understand the current state and improve it? The study that I mentioned above is a novel study. It is a basis for setting up newer tests and standards to really understand management of blood glucose. But while science keeps doing what it can to improve the measurements, there is something that we can do today. Enter Self-Quantification. I blogged about this a few months ago. Basically, it involves keeping a journal to track your diet, activity, sleep and the impact of all of these on your blood glucose levels. Perhaps one of the most basis self-quantification techniques, but it will be highly useful to understand your risk for microvascular complications related to blood sugar. As the study suggests, the testing methods today do not accurately diagnose this risk and this is definitely something that you do not want to miss. In my very close family and friends, I have seen huge implications on quality of life due to such microvascular complications. A month of testing and slight bit of discomfort will at least give you enough information to start planning and modifying your own diet and lifestyle.

I was surprised to see how my body reacts to certain foods and exercises. Try it out for yourself and see what you discover.

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