Never ending data

I’m discovering that being a diabetic is a mammoth exercise in data collection.

This evening I am going to eat dinner. Sounds easy? Well it’s not! In order to eat dinner without sending my blood sugar levels off the charts, I need to take enough insulin to allow my body to absorb the carbohydrate I’m about to put into it.

So this evening (with the help of the carbs and cals app on my phone), I have discovered that the amount of carbohydrate in the following foods is: 70g per 100g of noodles; 5g per 100g of carrot; 7.5g per nectarine; 1g per avocado. So I work out that my dinner will have 100g of carbohydrate. (I am now committed, and can’t just help myself to another slice of bread or two after taking my insulin.)

I then have to work out how much insulin to inject. This, I am discovering, is complicated. It depends on what my current blood sugar reading is, what I would like my reading to be by my next meal, how many carbs I’m eating and what exercise I’ve done or am likely to do. Dr Powrie has told me to take 0.75 units of insulin for every 10g of carbs I eat. But I think I only need to take 0.6 units, so that’s what I’m doing.

How do I know that? I’ve been recording carb consumption, insulin consumption, exercise and blood sugar levels (luckily I have an app for that too). And I’m making an educated guess at how much insulin I need to take based on those variables.

I am measuring my blood sugar level obsessively. I want to know what it is when I wake up, before and after exercise, before meals, two hours after meals, and when I go to bed. And maybe even in between. I find myself constantly looking forward to my next blood sugar test. What will the reading be? Can I guess? I also really look forward to my trips to the hospital to see Dr Powrie – they are opportunities to learn more about the condition and more about how it is affecting my body.

My new app can send data files to excel, so I’m trying to manipulate them to learn more about how my blood sugar levels change. I have a hair-brained scheme that after I have collected enough data, I can perform a statistical method called “multivariate regression analysis” which will allow me to predict my required carbohydrate consumption to maintain safe blood sugar levels whilst running or climbing.

By coincidence, this weekend in the Times I read about a bunch of geeks called “self quantifiers” who measure all kinds of things about themselves like sleep patterns, steps taken, heart rate, calorie consumption and a whole load of other things. They use a whole host of gadgets which usually speak to their smart phone, and then they use, or often create, apps to analyse all the data. This all started in San Francisco (of course) but there is a London group who meet in Google’s office near Old Street. Maybe I can learn something from them that will help me manage my diabetes. I’ve joined and plan to attend their (our!) next meeting.

I’m sure I will be blogging more about how exercise affects blood sugar therefore carbohydrate intake and insulin doses as I discover more about it.

Data Diagnosis