Thoughts

Reversing Type 2 Diabetes

At the Highland Games back in August 2015 the people doing the First Aid offered “health checks” to the volunteer helpers. I took up the offer as it was some time since I had seen a GP. They said there was nothing wrong with my lungs or heart however, they strongly recommended I saw a GP as quickly as possible owing to my blood pressure readings.

So, the following Monday that’s what I did and was really lucky to get a cancellation appointment. The GP confirmed my high blood pressure and put me on medication right away. I was then asked to come back for other tests and told to be seen before I went on holiday. So, the afternoon before going away I went back and was told, “you do realise you are diabetic?” No, of course I didn’t! So, type 2 I presumed as I forgot to ask and wasn’t put in insulin. Just another set of medication and advised briefly on diet – if it come out the ground it’s good, otherwise bad, no mention of fish. Changes to my lifestyle are recommended but would have to wait until I returned from holiday at end of August.

I have received advice on diet since then but, it’s a bit general. I’m trying to pay more attention to the nutrition information of food products, however, some companies don’t use the traffic light system to make it easier to read. I tend to avoid those companies products (Kelloggs, Bird’s Eye to name a few). It has been suggested that I look at diabetes.uk/scotland website for recipe ideas. However, most I’ve looked at suggest the meals are for 4 people. In fact, if you look closely at most recipes you can’t find many for a single person. It’s a bit like food shopping in general how many food items are aimed at single people? Despite there being a growing number of people living on their own, the grocers and supermarkets aren’t paying that much attention to this market yet.

At present my blood pressure has lowered, not enough, my weight hasn’t changed much but I am trying to eat more greens. It will be a slow process.

Can type 2 diabetes be reversed? That’s what I’m trying to find out – the hard way!

Since being diagnosed in August I’ve been trying to watch my diet. My GP wrote to me offering me the chance to participate in a trial (Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial (DiReCT). This trial aims to reverse my diagnosis by putting me on a weight loss programme for 12 weeks then teach me how to eat properly for 8 weeks. This weight loss programme is 800 calories per day (soups and shakes). I come off my medication during this period. I’m monitored by NHS Nutritionists throughout the full 20 weeks.

I started at beginning of December 2015 at about 95Kg. The actual dieting part is quite hard and I am trying to do my regular exercise however, it makes doing me regular walks a bit tough sometimes – running on empty – but, they’ve encouraged me to stick with this, even if it’s not briskly.

I’ve also been advised not to rush out and buy new clothes on the diet phase. As I live alone I’m not buying food for 12 weeks so, money saved will help with a new wardrobe when I’m at the end of this period. Even at the end of the 20 weeks I will still be supported in maintaining whatever weight I end up at.

In April 2016 I was re-tested by the trial, my weight was down to 79.8Kg, my HbA1c was down to 36, success, my type 2 diabetes was in remission. But the trial continues as I now have to start eating solid food again gradually. My walking was back to normal, no “running on empty” feelings. Eventually I as up to 1200 to 1400 calories a day. Not as easy as it sounds. I will still be checked up on every 4 weeks.

In October 2016 it was the turn of my GP Practice to call me back for annual check up. My HbA1c count was 37, still in remission. but keeping weight off is still an issue. In November 2016, I was signed up to a 2nd year of the trial. They want to establish the long term effects of losing weight, increasing exercise and changing health policy.

As of now - April 2017my weight has gone up to around 88Kg, it’s still quite difficult to eat properly. I am trying to concentrate on low calorie food items, replacing sweet stuff especially. I need to reverse some of the weight gain otherwise the diabetes may come back again. I may also have to consider increasing the pace I walk at or changing the type of exercise I do, be more active.

I would say reversing your diagnosis can be done. It requires effort and willingness to make changes to what you eat and how you live.

 

European Future

The European Union (EU) could have showed the world how peace and solidarity can be snatched from the jaws of centuries-long conflict and bigotry. It is built on common values: democracy, rule of law, freedom of speech and religion and a free press. Today however, a common bureaucracy and a common currency divide European peoples that were beginning to unite despite differences in language and culture.

Today, Europeans are feeling let down by EU institutions everywhere. From Helsinki to Lisbon, from Dublin to Crete, from Leipzig to Aberdeen. At the heart of this lies a highly political, top-down, opaque decision-making process that is presented as ‘apolitical’, ‘technical’, ‘procedural’ and ‘neutral’. Its purpose appears to prevent Europeans from exercising democratic control over their money, communities, working conditions and environment. Decisions are made in secret.

Europe’s pitiful reaction to its banking and debt crises, to the refugee crisis, to the need for a coherent foreign, migration and anti-terrorism policy, are all examples of what happens when solidarity loses its meaning.

Then look at what has happened in the UK - a vote to leave that no-one understands. That doesn't mean the UK should just ignore the EU, it can't, it has to live with it, cope with it in some way.

Some Brexit arguments are based on falsehoods in that the UK can continue with the single market without the freedom of movement as it's just a "free trade agreement". Free trade however, means removing tariffs so that companies can trade without paying different levels of tax on the goods they buy and sell. But the single market is much more ambitious. It is about harmonising all the standards and regulations that apply to goods and services across Europe, so that companies can trade with each other on a truly level playing field.

The UK at some point in the future, may wish to reverse it's decision and re-join. But that will require it to sign up to the Euro and Shengen. But before it does so, perhaps it should say it will only re-join if the EU has become more democratic in the interim. If it doesn't, several countries may have already followed the UK's lead and left, if they've been allowed to. Countries that are members of the Euro may not be allowed a say, may not be granted a referendum unless something serious happens.

There are some ways in which the EU could become more democratic and accountable. Bring about full transparency in decision-making (e.g. live-streaming meetings of the European Council, Ecofin and Eurogroup meetings, full disclosure of trade negotiation documents which will actually make it easier for Members of the European Parliament (MEP) to read them, publication of European Central Bank minutes etc.). It also requires a full-fledged European democracy, featuring a sovereign Parliament that respects national self-determination and sharing or pooling power with national Parliaments, regional assemblies and municipal councils. Elections of MEPs should no longer be done on "national party lines" but by people standing under European Political Party manifestos. This will stop these elections being seen as a "progress report" on the current national government and give the European Parliament (EP) a higher profile.

The EP also requires to reduce it's costs. It has a secretariat that meets in Luxembourg, committee meetings in Brussels and plenary meetings in Strasbourg and Brussels that require wholesale movement of people and materials 12 times per year. Strasbourg is the "official" seat of the Parliament but most EU institutions are based in Brussels. This is "fixed" by Treaty and France would veto any change to move to Brussels. So perhaps make it permanent in Strasbourg.

Question is, will anyone be making these arguments?

Federal United Kingdom

Recent events have suggested the time has come for the United Kingdom to embrace a more Federal structure of political engagement. The old structures are crumbling. The UK - the most successful multi-national state in modern history is at risk of breaking up.

A new federal structure that is fit for purpose is as important as the arrangements for leaving the European Union. If this can’t be worked out then, it’s likely Scotland will secede from the UK and seek its own way in the world.

The recent EU Referendum has exposed the UK’s divisions. A federal arrangement bringing decision making closer to the people is required to heal these divisions. It requires the existing union to be replaced with fully devolved government in the 4 nations of the UK with each having sovereignty over its affairs. Westminster would be reduced with powers over common defence and security matters “pooled” as it were. The 4 nations would have “devolution max”. England would have its own parliament or devolution to cities and regions if that’s what the English want. Disillusionment with politicians, the sense of disconnectedness and abandonment must be sorted. Creating a new structure would help address this.

However, on its own it’s not enough. Along with this structure is a requirement to change the voting system away from first past the post and replace it with a more proportional system of elections. My preference is for STV PR with multi member constituencies. I’d go further and say the party lists for each constituency should be “open” not “closed”. If you electing 5/6 people to a constituency each party should put up 5/6 people and let the voters decide which individuals are elected. at present at most STV PR elections for example in Scotland local government each party only puts up 1 candidate in wards it expects to get people elected from not the 3 or 4 that are available. Open lists give the electorate the choice not the party.

The House of Lords should either be abolished as part of this restructure or, perhaps, made more democratic and function as a senate of the “regions”.

A number of the world’s multi-national states (Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Sudan) have broke apart. Preventing the disintegration of the UK is a significant challenge.