Tracking Glucose As A Person Without Diabetes
heart rate / cardiovascular | metabolism
Justin Lawler tracked his glucose over four months using a continuous glucose monitor. He compiled a total of 21,000 glucose measurements, along with many other biometrics, to gain insight into what affects his metabolism.
Continuous Glucose Monitor | Emfit | Fitbit | Freestyle Libre
Tracking Glucose as a Person Without Diabetes
My name’s Justin from Dublin. I’m one of the co-organizers at the Dublin Quantified Self meetup group. And the project I was working on was basically, what can I as a non-diabetic learn from tracking glucose levels for four months.
So, I started this project running up to Quantified Self Amsterdam conference last year for one of the breakout sessions there. And after two weeks I was kind of seeing all these patterns, and the data was getting really interesting and seeing the correlations with what I was doing in my life and everything like that, so that’s what kept me continuing tracking.
So, this is one of the glucose monitors here. It’s close up here and you can see a little needle there that goes under the skin, so it lasts about two weeks. These are the stats that I was basically using, so four months tracking, there was 14 sensors, there was 21,000 data points. And I was also measuring resting heart rate with Fitbit. I was measuring weight as well and heart rate variability with the EmFit devise.
So, this is the heatmap with the glucose over the four months. You can see there’s lots of hotspots. You can see during the night it goes much lower. You can see patterns as it goes down the four months as well, where in various aspects of my life, patterns were happening in my life.
So, over the course of the four months the hottest spot in the entire four months was basically this spot here, and it went up to about 310. And that particular time, I’ll just kind of zoom in on that particular day. So, there I was giving a talk at Quantified Self Amsterdam. So, stress for me but I think it’s probably very individual. But stress for me has a very big impact on my glucose levels.
I think the science behind it is you know, we need glucose if you’re running away from a tiger, so that’s why it releases a lot of glucose.
So, here is another pattern here. So, I started a new job in September, so this new job stress and also, I’m sitting down a lot more, and maybe my diet has changed. I’m going out for lunch with work colleagues and it wouldn’t be my normal diet.
So you can see there’s a very clear kind of pattern where before and after I started the new job. So this is like a fairly big what’s it called, telling for me. Maybe stress is something that I need to investigate and manage better if I want to improve my own health.
There’s other patterns as well. So, here’s a pattern where I was very actively trying to reduce my glucose levels, to exercise, to better diet, to maybe stress management, through better sleep maybe as well. So I was like tracking I was like seeing all these patterns in the data. I could see like what types of food were really pushing it up. I could see, I’m just going to drill in here.
So, this is glucose and exercise here, so you can see where I have a meal, you can see the glucose going up. You can see when I’m going a walk. Even a simple walk really kind of shaves up the spike of the glucose levels, and another meal and it goes up again and I was seeing that pretty much every single day whenever I was tracking my glucose.
Here’s another pattern here. So here I was experimenting with some fasting. I had some 24-hour fasts, and here it went really, really low overnight, so it was down to about 70, which is kind of verging hypoglycemic. Again, it’s probably very individual. Probably some people react very well to fasting and probably others maybe not so much.
But for me, you know, I would wake up in the morning, and I would be kind of feeling very shaky a bit, and it would feel like I had a terrible night’s sleep. So, these are the real kind of findings that maybe I need to be much more careful while doing fasting.
Fasting glucose levels over the course of the four months, so there were huge variants in the fasting glucose levels just taken between 5 AM and 6 AM before I got out of bed or had any breakfast or anything like that.
So, you can see over the four months and there was a fairly big spike when I was just around Amsterdam last year, when I was on holidays as well it kind of went up quite a bit. You know, eating probably a lot more food in my diet and a lot more high carb foods.
You can see a big dip where I was kind of actively monitoring my stress, my diet, my exercise, my glucose levels and then you can see it goes up again, so when I started the new job.
So these levels are actually almost like they are into pre diabetes, like almost touching on diabetic. They do drop down after a while. But it just kind of shows what maybe a big lifestyle changes like starting a new job can do to your glucose levels, well for me anyway.
I found other interesting patterns as well. So resting heart rate was probably a good proxy for stress, so you can certainly see some correlations there. The actual correlation coefficient isn’t great but there’s definitely some correlations going on.
I also was tracking my weight and I did notice that the resting heart rate and weight is actually very strongly correlated. So I think weight correlates to stress as well, you know, with comfort eating and things like this and I thought that was kind of just was very interesting.
So, what did I learn?
So, there’s huge variants in fasting glucose. I don’t think this is something we – we kind of naturally assume we have one fasting glucose value and that’s it. Like, you go to the doctor once a year maybe to get the fasting glucose tested. But for me, there were huge variants of the course of the four months. And I think just like through actively tracking, through actively measuring, I think getting little nudges about okay, here I’ll go for a walk. Or maybe here, I don’t have this particular food and I have some other kind of food, we can really kind of actively manage to lower our glucose levels.
I think the reaction to glucose is very personal. Probably you know, these graphs like maybe 10 years ago in my life it would be very different or for anyone else in this room would be very, very different.
And there’s an awful lot of data there and I hope to dig a lot more into that data maybe over the coming months, you know with better analytics.
That’s me, thank you very much.