Monday, October 29, 2007


Odds & Ends, Blood Test Results - Taking the good with the not so good

Odds & Ends

If you would have told me a year ago, "Hey, Dave, a year from now, you'll be taking 5 prescription medications a day, you'll hardly ever put a drop of alcohol to your lips and you will no longer be smoking," I would have laughed in your face. Some fortuneteller you are.

I recently had a discussion with my sister-in-law about one of those mysterious liquid supplements that are meant to cure you of all sorts of ailments. I didn't pay much attention to what it was because I don't believe a cure-all exists anywhere in any form. We read about some never heard of fruit that Amazon natives have been using for hundreds of centuries. We hear it cures cancer, diabetes, hypertension, liver and kidney diseases and bad breath, to mention just a few. Then, and on the other side of the spectrum, we'll learn about all kinds of supplements, each designed to perform a certain function to enhance your life and health. Ginkgo biloba for the mind, for instance. My best advice to you is to not believe everything. For one thing, since the FDA (or any other country's equivalent) doesn't necessarily regulate natural cures, i.e., herbal supplements, how do you know what it will do if you don't let your doctor know first? Every person's body is different. No one pill will work for everyone. Some people have allergies, others don't. Blood types vary. Men and women are different. Men don't suffer from iron deficiencies, for example. Supplements don't always mix well. I've often read to not take St. John's wort with ginkgo biloba. Did you know that? The list of reasons can go on and on and it is impossible to take supplements that promise an eternal life, free of maladies. Besides, my prescription blood pressure medication is derived from snake venom. South American variety. I have a printout that tells me of possible interactions.

"I take Peruvian Ma La Qua Potion every day and I haven't been sick in 48 years." - Ellen B., Baltimore, MD

Do you know Ellen B. or anyone who does? I didn't think so. She doesn't exist, but her fictional testimonial does.

I average anywhere from 80 - 130 visitors a day now on this website. Am I bragging? No. A good chunk of those hits are from people searching for information on diabetes. One such search is on "coconut cures for diabetes" and one of the very first things a doctor told me after being diagnosed with type 2 was to avoid all coconut like it's the plague. I know for a fact that I ate a Thai soup for dinner one night before I was officially diagnosed, but testing my glucose levels twice a day, and my sugar skyrocketed. The culprit? Coconut milk in the soup base.

Blood Test Results

Every diabetic must undergo blood work every three months for the rest of their lives to show how glucose levels are and how your kidneys and liver are functioning. The doctor will prescribe and adjust your medications accordingly. A short time ago, I went in for tests and had a follow-up visit a week later.

"No really bad news to report," my doctor told me soon after he entered the room.

"Good. Then I can leave?"

"No, there are a few things we need to discuss."

The fasting level of my glucose on the morning of my test was 140. That's high. My overall level for that 3 month period was 5.6, up from the previous test of 5.5. Not bad at all (Previous test results and ranges can be found here). He proceeded to double my Glucotrol/Glipizide medication, but, at least, I'm not on Metformin yet. Glucotrol stimulates insulin production in the pancreas. Metformin slows glucose production in the liver. As long as my pancreas is functioning modestly, I'm in better shape overall.

"You know I take cinnamon capsules everyday, right?"

"Cinnamon shows a lot of promise in diabetics," he responded. I used to take 3,000mg a day, but have since dropped it to 1,000. I give some credit to cinnamon for that 5.6 number.

My cholesterol went up. Originally, I was put on 40mg of Lovastatin. That brought those numbers way down, but at the same time, greatly reduced my good cholesterol, too. He put me on a combination prescription of 500mg Niacin/20mg Lovastatin. This time, my overall cholesterol was 181, triglycerides were 184, LDL was 101 and my good cholesterol (HDL) jumped from 29 to 43. He doubled my medication to 1,000/40. Niacin helps bring good cholesterol up and it did, but 20mg of the statin wasn't enough to keep the bad down. One of the unpredictable consequences of diabetes is that medications are constantly adjusted and when you think you've gotten it under control - POW - something else pops up.

"Your urine was very yellow and thick."


My blood test said TURBID. That means cloudy. My specific gravity was low. He wasn't too concerned, but these might be signs of excreting red blood cells, which leads me to his next discussion.

"I'm a little concerned about your platelet count. It's been testing low, but not too low to warrant further testing at this time. I wouldn't worry about it yet." YET? When a doctor brings up something that concerns him, you tend to get a little bit nervous. "If it remains low or drops, we'll have to set you up with a (bone marrow) biopsy. In the meantime, we'll keep a close watch on that number from now on." My red cell count was low, but he didn't mention it.

"Oh, great news! I noticed that on my previous tests, especially since my brother-in-law went through AML (leukemia) and his platelet counts were really bad."

"Well, you don't have leukemia because your other numbers are within range."

"Are there any supplements I can take to increase my platelets?"

"No, but there are prescription medications available. Like I said, don't worry about it yet."

OK, I won't worry, but it will be on my mind. "Does it have anything to do with the diabetes?"

"No. Are you ready for your prostate examination? Remember, we discussed it last time?" Oh, yeah, how could I forget?

It ain't fun getting old. Does anyone know where I can order that Peruvian Ma La Qua Potion?

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