Monday, December 29, 2008

Diabetes: New Information

As a Denverite, I watched the Broncos - Chargers game on Sunday with all the hopes of a loyal fan. We do not need to dwell on the nasty outcome for our home team. I was struck, however, with the back story on Jay Cutler during the third quarter. Jay Cutler discovered earlier this year that he has Type I diabetes. Recurring symptoms finally led to the series of tests that gave him the verdict. Local papers covered the story at the time, underscoring that with his team of health professionals and rigorous schedule, he has every opportunity to tame the disease and continue to thrive as an athlete. Being an athlete, in fact, most likely helped him ward off the worst of the disease these many years. The sportscasters spoke about Cutler as a great role model for young people who have this disease. Developing discipline and focus is a challenge anyway as a teen and a young adult; it is essential when facing a life long condition like diabetes.

I know a family where one of the young boys has Type I diabetes. Diagnosed at the age of 7, he now, at 12, has integrated testing and eating routines into his every day life. His mom says, though, that at various junctions - like the one he is at now as he becomes a teenager -he runs into difficulty. As his hormonal levels change, and as his interests and abilities develop, he wrestles with the constraints his physical condition demands. So far, so good, says his mother, but he is getting old enough now to be "in charge" of his everyday without mom's watchful eyes. She believes he understands just how serious this disease is, and has a lot of faith in him. She still slips in helpful foods, for example, when he has his buddies over for a night of video games.

Today's news features a story about Type I diabetes, too. In a study outlined in the recent journal, Pediatrics, that followed 11 teenagers who had bariatrics surgery, evidence of remission of the disease occurred in all but one. Yes, the diabetes disappeared. Similar tests of teenagers with drug and diet therapies have not yielded these noteworthy results. While research continues on the overall impact of weight loss surgery, there are findings nearly every day that support many of its benefits.

I learned just the other day of a young man, age 21, with Type I diabetes. His sister-in-law came in looking for a cane for him. His denial of his condition has led to some severe outcomes. He has developed neuropathy in his legs and feet, resulting in swelling so serious he needs help walking. The family fears he may lose a limb at some point. He resists using mobility equipment of any type, and falls all the time. This family member was on the hunt for a "cool" cane, one that would have some of the panache of walking sticks of days gone by. We found a few -- one with a gold plated skull, or another with an 8-ball knob. The silver-plated eagle caught sister-in-law's eye. I asked a few questions about his stability. Canes with decorative tops often are not weight tested. The shapes of these decorative knobs makes support questionable. They, in fact, are like walking sticks of yesteryear, many of which were simply decorative and part of a costume of the times. We looked at interesting alternatives, including hiking sticks, a useful alternative to canes that have gotten a lot of attention more recently. We have written previous in this blog about walking sticks and how to choose one that is right for you.

Losing weight is a critical aspect of controlling diabetes. For those who face health complications, exacerbated by excess weight, the struggle to regain control is mighty. In my discussions with folks who have had weight loss surgery, many of whom struggle with diabetes, too, they discuss the feelings of hope and renewal they experienced almost immediately. Getting used to a different body and introducing new disciplines and structures in their lives takes time, they told me. Finding a network of supporters, including those who have had the surgery, provides nurturing and a sustaining environment. A local weight loss surgery group meets at Capabilities twice a month. See Events for details and contact information if you are interested in learning more about this group.

Adding fitness routines to their daily lives has also helped enormously. We have partnered with the local Adventure Fitness Training group to host seminars and exercise classes. The great folks at this organization have developed a special following of those who have had bariatric surgery. Their space is comfortable and the trainers, some of whom have traveled their own journeys with weight loss, bring high levels of understanding and respect to their clients. To learn more about them and the classes they offer, see

Watch for the next blog in this series on diabetes for more discussion about products you can use while combatting this disease.

1 comment:

judy_in_longmont said...

I enjoyed your article about diabetes and look for to the next one. However, in the opening paragraph you note that Jay Cutler was diagnosed with Type II diabetes in May of 2008. I believe he was diagnosed with Type I diabetes, which is more serious and much more difficult to control on a daily basis. While those with Type II diabetes (like myself) can control glucose levels--to some degree--with diet, exercise, and meds, those with Type I must be far more diligent in testing and adjusting their levels throughout the day.

Thanks, again, for addressing this important health issue.