You may or may not know that I have Type 1 Diabetes, but today marks (celebrates?) 21 years since I was diagnosed. And ironically, considering how innovation-filled my professional life is, my life as a diabetic has been relatively low tech until just recently.
Last month, I featured a company in my newsletter called InsideTracker that helps you understand and track your blood work readings to optimize your heath. What started as a dietary discovery ended up producing another important find; my average glucose readings were way too high. It was time to take a serious look at my diabetes.
Over the last 21 years, maybe I’ve gotten a little complacent with the disease, and just learned to live with it. I’ve never had bad control, but I lost the goal-oriented approach that I’d take with any client project. So, I started managing my diabetes like I manage my clients, and the results have been incredible. Here’s how.
1. Hire a Pro
When a business owner hires me to help, they’ve taken the first step toward realizing they want to improve their company. Similarly, my wife encouraged me to reach out and find a great endocrinologist, a specialist that could offer more guidance than a regular doctor, and help me to see some results and make some change.
2. Set an ARMD Goal
When I work with a company, we establish some “ARMD” goals: Actionable, Realistic, Measurable, and Dated. My goal was to improve my a1c reading (the average glucose measurement) to under 7.0 within 3 months.
3. Constantly Measure and Report
Before I even visited my doctor, I requested some information about a Continuous Glucose Monitor. As a diabetic, I have to check my blood sugar using a little device roughly 6 times per day. Since childhood, I’ve probably pricked my finger 50,000 times, but those instantaneous readings are only the tip of the iceberg. Between the readings there is a lot of data, such as how your body responds to certain foods or injections, and the trends you experience throughout the day.
I picked up a Dexcom G4, mostly because I found out they have an Apple Watch app, and if I was going to do this, I was going to do it to the max. The system has a sensor that I inject weekly, which wirelessly transmits glucose readings every 5 minutes, all day. That’s 288 readings a day, up from my normal 6.
With my clients, we call a reading like this a KPI, or key performance indicator. My target a1c reading of 7.0 ties directly to an average glucose reading of 154, so it’s a number I am constantly watching now.
4. Create a Culture of Accountability
The hardest part of achieving any goal is actually making changes to your habits, and keeping consistent as it gets tough. The book “The One Thing” says that it takes 66 days to create a new habit, so I’m just getting started down that path. But, one thing that helps for sure is to create a culture of accountability by telling others about your goal (like writing a blog post).
My continuous glucose monitor also has bluetooth, which (no surprise) means it syncs with an app on my phone. With a few clicks I was able to invite my wife, meaning she can fire up her phone from anywhere in the world and see my live glucose readings. There’s nothing like getting an angry text message to coax me back into target range.
5. Embrace Technology
Like I mentioned before, every other aspect of my life is filled with tech (see my post on Home Automation). Part of my resistance has been my frustration of how far behind consumer technology medical device technology seems to be. All the smart people are busy making apps and writing ads, and although medical research continues to advance, the devices, design, and experience presented to consumers seems to be an afterthought.
So, it took 30,000 or so injections before I opened up to the possibility of incorporating more medical tech into my routine. The CGM is the first step, but I’m looking at closing the loop with an insulin pump that can deliver precise doses against my live glucose readings throughout the day.
Most companies I’ve worked with would agree, there is always some new technology that can make a difference in your operation, so embrace the change.
With that, I’m off to celebrate one of my least favorite anniversaries. I turn 30 next week, but I’m hopeful that maybe my diabetes never will (FDA Approves Second Round of Trials for Type 1 Diabetes Vaccine).