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March 12, 2008


Question from New Jersey, USA:

The drug company, Eli Lilly, gives out awards each year for diabetics who have lived with the disease for 50 years without complications. One such person is a 79 year old endocrinologist and medical researcher who was diagnosed while in medical school. This doctor sounds as if he takes extremely good care of himself. On the other hand, the ADA says that having diabetes takes 15 years off of one’s life. Can you give me an idea of whether having diabetes for 50 years without complications is an unusual occurrence…an exception rather than the rule? I realize there are always exceptions to every rule and really wanted to get an idea of how common, or uncommon, it is to live with diabetes for 50 years and have no complications. Do you think that with modern advances, such as the insulin pump, that we will be seeing more and more success stories?

Also, does contracting diabetes at an older age (teen years versus early childhood) affect prognosis in terms of getting complications?


From: DTeam Staff

There actually are more and more people living healthier and long lives without complications than ever before. Some of this has to do with obvious improvements in diabetes care: newer and better insulins, insulin pumps, home blood glucose monitoring, A1c measurements and attention to other things that impact complications: cholesterol, blood pressure, exercise, weight etc. Some has to do with just the luck of getting good genes that let one live longer. Some has to do with making good decisions and taking care of oneself – even with a day-to-day managing disease such as diabetes and its vagaries. Sadly, most people don’t figure out how to accomplish this and achieve such goals so that diabetes complications remain far too frequent.

The best news is that applying the principles of diabetes management, blood pressure management, lipid and weight management, exercise and food balancing all matter and when one can push the A1c levels near to goal, there are fewer complications no matter what the genetics. The goal is not perfection, but using these tools to learn and respond, doing frequent blood sugar checks to make this happen and figuring out how not to be angry or sad or overwhelmed – but continue the quest.