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Diabetes type II in plain english

DiabetesThe human body in its structure and function is a marvel of engineering. It’s dexterity and adaptability are more or less unrivaled throughout the annals of time. In order for the human body to keep running smoothly, there are a number of vital signs that must be maintained and tightly regulated from moment to moment. A good example of one of these vital signs is your body temperature. Believe it or not, there are processes within your body that constantly work to ensure that its temperature remains between 97.8oF (36.5oC) and 99oF (37.2oC) regardless of how high or low the ambient temperature around you is. Among the other vital signs that must be tightly regulated to ensure that you and I keep functioning properly is the amount of sugar we each have in our bloodstream and that my friends is a major theme of this article.

As mentioned in a previous article related to this topic, glucose (commonly known as sugar) is released into your bloodstream each time you eat. This is a good thing because glucose is a rich source of fuel for the cells that make up our bodies. That being said, glucose molecules have to find a way to get into the interior of our cells in order to actually serve as fuel. A hormone called insulin plays a critically important role in granting glucose molecules access to a cell’s interior. Having read that last sentence, you might be wondering if you have to take insulin after every meal. The answer to that question is a resounding yes and nature in her infinite wisdom, automated that process for a lot of us. So even though you don’t have to think about it, your body secretes insulin after each meal to help with the absorption of sugar/glucose provided your blood sugar system is in good shape. Thank goodness for mother nature because a lot of us would probably forget to take insulin after each meal and suffer the consequences (degenerating eyesight, kidney malfunction, etc). Speaking of which, how does the body automatically produce insulin when needed? Continue reading Diabetes type II in plain english

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Are our senses designed to fool us?

The senses
The senses

We humans depend heavily on our physical senses (sight, hearing, touch, etc) in order to get by in this physical world. Without the power afforded to us by our physical senses, we’d all probably be involved in too many accidents which result in serious life threatening injuries on far too regular a basis. Can you imagine life without the ability to see or hear anything? In ancient times, a person with neither the ability to see nor hear would have made easy lunch for the neighborhood sabertooth tiger or wolf. In modern times, a person who can neither see nor hear would in all likelihood be killed or seriously injured by some sort of moving vehicle if they ever ventured outside the home without another person to help them. Now that last point might be reduced in severity as we move into the future where most of our moving vehicles will get fitted with proximity sensors and automatic brakes, but for now, that is the reality. Continue reading Are our senses designed to fool us?

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The silliness of racial bigotry

Dr Martin Luther King
Dr Martin Luther King

Most of us humans are social creatures who tend to form groups and cliques with others who share similar interests. Perhaps this tendency is wired into our DNA at birth, or perhaps it is due to the fact that most of us are born into families populated with people who look like we do. As we grow up in our respective families, we subconsciously absorb our parents’ values (good and bad) because at that stage of our lives, most of us are still too young to independently make up our own minds. In the first few years of our lives, many of us grow up seeing everyone in our biological family as part of “us”, and everyone outside the biological family as “them”. As such, we can be drawn into an “us-them” mindset from near the very beginning. Perhaps this subtle mental shift in the way we perceive the world becomes even more pronounced when we make the transition to the more socially diverse setting of early school. All of a sudden, there are all sorts of people who neither think the way we were raised to think, nor share the same values that we do. When we are confronted with this reality, most of us usually react in one of two ways. Some of us become intrigued by the fact that there are actually people who aren’t like us and become eager to learn from them. For others, the ingrained fear of the unknown kicks in, prompting a bit of defensiveness. Continue reading The silliness of racial bigotry

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Type I Diabetes in plain english

My first memory of diabetes was at about the age of ten while attending a wedding with my family in my native Nigeria. The grown ups at the time were busy enjoying the wedding festivities while me and my cousins spent the entire day running all over the place engaged in a bunch of games, the names of which I can no longer remember. Our intense play sessions got broken up by the adults a bunch of times that day but the play interruption that I can still clearly remember was when we stopped to eat lunch. Like the rest of the children, I got ushered to one of the many tables in the “crockpot” restaurant at the Sheraton in Lagos and started work on the plate of Jollof rice, chicken, and fried plantains placed in front of me by one of the servers. As I attacked my rice dish, I noticed out of the corner of my eye as my aunt Stella pulled out a syringe from her purse. I was puzzled as to why she had a syringe in her purse in the first place… even doubly confusing was why she would need to bring it to a wedding. I sat there completely bemused as she nonchalantly injected herself, completely emptying the contents of the syringe into her bloodstream before she began her meal. In my youthful innocence, I blurted out “Why did you bring that to a wedding Aunt Stella”. She looked over in my direction and said in her usual elegant voice “Agwu agwu (one of my nicknames)… it‘s because I need it for my diabetes”. My super short 10 year old attention span at the time got the better of me before I could follow up with clarifying questions. I wouldn’t really understand what Aunt Stella was doing and why she was doing it until almost two decades later when I developed an interest in the biochemistry of the human body. Continue reading Type I Diabetes in plain english