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50 Secrets of the Longest Living People with Diabe

50 Secrets of the Longest Living People with Diabetes

April 17, 2009

Review By: Doris J. Dickson

Type 1 Mentor


Sheri R Colberg, PhD (Dr. Sheri) is an exercise physiologist and associate professor of exercise science specializing in diabetes and exercise at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. In addition, she conducts extensive clinical research on diabetes and exercise.

Steven V. Edelman, MD (Dr. Steve) is an endocrinologist specializing in diabetes care and a professor at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine. He directs several programs at UCSD and at the Veterans Association Medical Center in San Diego. He is also the founder and director of Taking Control of Your Diabetes (TCOYD) a non-profit organization that hosts conferences and health fairs throughout the country.

Both Dr. Sheri and Dr. Steve, as they are referred to in the book, were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as children. Dr. Sheri was diagnosed at age four, and Dr. Steve at age 15. Both, having faced what they call “the ghosts of diabetes past, present, and future,” wrote this book in hopes of conveying the message that “you can take control of your diabetes, even if you already have complications. It is never too late to feel in control, both mentally and physically.”

The pair was inspired to write the book by the Cleveland brothers of Syracuse, New York, who (at the time of publication) had more than 157 years of experience living with diabetes between them. The doctors discovered the brothers after the New York Times wrote a feature story on them in 2006.

In addition to the Cleveland brothers, the doctors interviewed more than 50 people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The book subjects ranged in age from 34 to 93 and had between 19 and 83 years of experience living with and managing diabetes. Compiled, these interviews resulted in a list of secrets, advice and suggestions that the authors believe can be easily incorporated into any diabetic lifestyle in order to optimize blood sugar and delay, prevent, or even reverse complications.

As indicated by the title, the book contains a total of 50 secrets which are divided into eight categories: Emotional, Knowledge, Control, Dietary, Exercise, Medication and Technology, Support and Other Life secrets.

In addition to the secrets there are several mini biographies in the book, including those of the twins Bob and Gerald Cleveland. The first mini biography introduces Gladys Dull who was the longest-living person with diabetes as of 2007. Dull, a resident of Walla Walla, Washington began taking the newly available Lilly insulin in November 1924, when she was diagnosed with diabetes at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Dull has outlived all four of her non-diabetic siblings and she attributes her longevity to being active and sticking to her diet for which she gives credit to her mother. 

Not to be left out of the old-timers list is Dr. Richard Bernstein of Mamaroneck, New York, a 63-year diabetes survivor. Dr. Bernstein, a controversial and staunch advocate of tight blood sugar control, much like Elliott Joslin, gave up a career in engineering to go to medical school in 1977. His goal at that time was to get people to listen to his findings about optimal blood sugar control. Today, he continues that quest with a goal of enabling all people with diabetes to have no more spikes in blood glucose than a non-diabetic person.

A sampling of the secrets includes such philosophical ideas as “Refuse to Be a Victim” and “Reach for the Stars” as well as the technological concepts of “Explore the Latest Technology” and “Test Continuously.” The dietary secrets include counting carbs and carry a toothbrush – an interesting and hygienic concept. Two of the most practical secrets under the category of Other Life Secrets, are “Always Listen to Your Body” and “Expect Your Body to Change.” 

There are at least a few helpful tidbits for diabetics of every age, type and duration. The book even evokes a smile or two. Even younger children may be motivated by the stories of the old-timers managing their diabetes.

Because experienced, healthy diabetics wrote the book, there is a sense of credibility that other books may not be able to convey. Let’s be real; most of us believe something that comes out of the mouth of a diabetic long before we believe a traditional, book-trained, medical practitioner who has no idea what it is like to have low blood sugar. So, thank you old-timers for sharing all your anecdotal knowledge and reminding us we can all kick some diabetic butt!

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