By Chris Fields
Recently at the grocery store, I ran into a close friend I hadn’t spoken to in a while, who told me he’d been diagnosed with prediabetes. At our healthcare center, diabetes and other related chronic conditions are our specialty, so I was all ears. Here is where I want to speak Christianese and say the Lord directed me to that grocery store for this encounter, but that wouldn’t be the truth. I was at the store because they have the best butter chocolate chip cookies. I was giving in to my fleshly desires. But I did get a few revelations while reflecting on our conversation.
In our practice, our target patient population was mostly people with or at risk of Type 2 diabetes, mainly because it can be treated, managed and prevented, mostly with behavior modifications (diet, exercise, healthy coping) and pharmacotherapy if necessary. Type 1 is more complex, but there have been major scientific advancements in understanding its complexities.
The main difference in a diabetes type diagnosis is how a person visibly presents with symptoms at the time of diagnosis. Type 2 presents as a visibly overweight or obese person, particularly in the abdominal region. It’s slowly progressive, so it’s normally detected during midlife or later. Depending on race and family history, it can occur earlier, but the common theme is being overweight or obese.
Type 1 used to present itself as a younger person mostly, and it was named juvenile diabetes. Rarely would this type be diagnosed in someone older. Very little could be done to prevent it because it normally occurs in people with a particular genotype. This genotype had to receive some type of trauma, normally a viral infection, to bring other agents and antibodies that would then destroy the body’s ability to produce insulin. It was hard to visibly detect even the possibility of Type 1’s development without extensive testing.
Let’s get back to my friend. The way he presented to me at the grocery store is the same way he presented to his doctor: African American and mid-life, 42 to be exact. Without extensive testing, one would think he was trending toward Type 2 diabetes. However, he’s not overweight, nor does he have a family history of diabetes. He used to be my workout partner for a long time, and I would like to think I taught him the right way to work out. He’s particular about what he eats, in a good way. This would rule out most risk factors of Type 2 diabetes.
His doctor told him to eat right and exercise … Doc, he already does that. What’s more, my friend has unexplained weight loss. I suggested he get a second opinion, a nice way of saying find a new doctor.
Science (man’s discovery of God’s creation) has advanced tremendously in understanding Type 1 diabetes, to the point where it can be easily detected earlier and possibly prevented. Having a regular diabetes screening is the best way to know your risk. I could go on, but I have to stop here. If you would like more information, visit healmississippi.com. We would love to interact with you!
Chris Fields is executive director of H.E.A.L. Mississippi, a nonprofit whose mission is to reduce the impact of diabetes and other cardiometabolic disease in Mississippi. Our vision is to establish a high-quality, easily accessible standard of care for diabetes and cardiometabolic diseases. God created us to be whole and healthy, and He’s made provisions for us to walk in His divine plan related to our health and healing.