Thursday, April 11, 2013

Day 11: Gadets! The Accu-Chek® 360 Android App Reviewed

Most people regard me as a diet failure because of my current weight. But the truth is I was really good at dieting. I like projects and going on a diet was always a project for me. Most of my diets did not end because I went on a binge or fell off the wagon. They ended because I was told by a medical person that if I continued starving myself, taking drugs and/or over-exercising, I was heading for the hospital. Low potassium, trouble with kidney functions and severe viral infections were the usual catalysts. Of course, once eating "regular" again, I quickly gained. I know now that most likely I had subclinical hypothyroidism and without thyroid treatment, I was messing up my metabolism even more. For those who think I am disabled because I am fat, please understand that my health problems began when I lost 130 pounds (half my body weight), not when I gained weight. In my early adult life, I was athletic and health even while fat.

I tell you all this to give you the background on why I really like my new Android app the Accu-Chek® 360. Because of my background of disordered eating, I am leary of doing any kind of "dieting." Having blood sugar difficulties in my 50s first put me in a tailspin emotionally.

I have worked hard to know my body in this area. I eat when I am hungry and finish when I am full (something others call "intuitive eating," I just call it "natural"). If treating my metabolic disorders meant "going on a special diet" then I was trapped. It didn't make sense to me that the behavior that got my body into this mess would get me out of it. I sought other answers.

Through a combination of medications, exercise and medical monitoring, I do have both blood sugar and thyroid under control (as well as cholesterol and blood pressure). I continue to eat when I am hungry and finish when I am full. I found that I did better if I waited a little longer to determine how hungry I am and what I wanted to eat. Usually, the answer is clearer and has less impact on blood sugar when I do. I also know that exercise is key. I stretch every morning and I lift weights. I hope soon to add some aerobics to this, probably deep water aerobics because of the nerve damage in my left foot. What has held me back is a place to work out with a warm pool.

But when I found this app for my tablet, a lot of stuff has come together. Mostly, I think I find it emotionally satisfying because it is a project and it has a measurable-do-it-yourself-style of defining success.

Basically the app allows me to record blood sugar, exercise, medications and supplements, health status, stress levels, pain levels, blood pressure and pulse rate. If you are into carbs counting, there is a place to do that as well. I just record whether my meals were small, medium or large. Also, I do not weigh myself, but there is a space for recording your weight. I record my pulse there and just ignore the "pounds" designation.

I do not take insulin, but insulin records can also be kept, so I would assume this little gadget would be extremely valuable information for those who have to adjust insulin depending upon food and exercise. It has a place for "pair testing" to allow you to further track insulin effects.

If you take a lot of pills (mostly supplements) on a daily basis, this is an especially good gadget. It remembers previous entries and so all I have to do to keep a medicine/supplement record is check boxes. Since I can have some memory problems when I am in pain, having a record of whether and when I last took medicine is important. This aids in that extremely well.

There is also a way to send the results over a specific period via email. I have not used this feature yet, but I would assume if one is working with a medical professional this would be a nice way to provide data for them so they can assess your situation more fully.

The thing I enjoy most about this is that I can look back over time and see the effects of stress, sleeplessness and exercise on my health, especially my blood pressure. BTW, as long as we are talking about gadgets, I use a wrist cuff to measure my blood pressure. I bought a Kroger brand for $35. Arm cuffs hurt me to the point of crying and were extremely dependent upon who was doing the measuring, which made my blood pressure look much worse than it was. By monitoring my own blood pressure, I have been able to convince doctors to stop giving me high doses of medication that were making me so dizzy, I could only take before bed. I suspect I had low blood pressure for a few years based upon over-medication. I now take the cuff with me to doctor and thus avoid the arm cuff. I learned my blood pressure and pulse are higher at the doctor's office than when I am measuring at home (look up "white-coat syndrome"). There are problems with a wrist cuff under reporting, so I aim for about 10 points (bottom number 70) below "normal" just to be sure.

What I've learned from using this app is that my pulse and blood pressure are greatly influence by my sleep patterns and my stress levels. When I am getting enough sleep and not overworking, the numbers are much lower. High stress weaks drive the readings up, especially at night. Meditation helps.

So my project oriented, detailed-loving, objective-data-loving self is happy that I have ways to measure my progress in improving my health that do not rely upon weight or BMI.

Finally, I have no idea if this app is better than any other of the glucose monitoring apps out there, but I've used this one for about 3 months and it has made a difference in my health. I highly recommend it or finding something similar to it, especially if you love projects and control.