Long-term type 1 diabetes patients reveal their survival secrets for Joslin study

Although type 1 diabetes management is still not easy, some people who were diagnosed with the disease decades ago believe that controlling the condition has become much more simple over the years due to medical advances and new treatment options.

Two women who participate in the Joslin Diabetes Center's "medalists" study recently told the Boston Globe about how they have dealt with type 1 diabetes over the years and why they think that they have been able to reach old age in good health.

The Joslin study involves 650 patients who have lived with type 1 diabetes for a half-century or longer. Researchers from the organization will evaluate these individuals for physiological and lifestyle factors that have allowed them to live longer than most type 1 diabetics are expected to, and potentially develop new diabetes medications based on the results, the newspaper reported.

Kathryn Ham, age 82, and Amy S. Schneider, who is 55, told the news provider that when they were diagnosed with the disease as children, their parents were told that the girls would only live another 15 to 20 years.

While Schneider attributed her success to "good doctoring, good parenting, good health and good luck," Ham explained that discipline has been her key to a long, healthy life.

Both women told the news source that they are physically active - Ham participates in aerobic classes and curling, whereas Schneider recently gave up belly dancing for ballroom style and enjoys working out at home with the Wii Fit.

The type 1 diabetics explained that when they were younger, their parents had to boil a combination of the girls' urine and a liquid called Benedict's solution and pour it into a test tube in order to check their blood glucose levels. A clear blue color signaled that their blood sugar was stable and cloudy orange or red meant that their levels were uncontrolled.

Diabetes management has come a long way since that time. Some experts believe that blood glucose testing is more accurate than using urine to measure these levels, which is why many people with type 1 diabetes now use portable meters to screen their blood.

However, there are several human errors that may lead to inaccurate blood glucose readings from a meter. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) says that some of these include a meter that is not clean, a device or testing strip that is not at room temperature or is expired, a meter that is not calibrated for a unique set of test strips or a blood sample that is too small.

The organization suggests that patients keep a log of the blood glucose test results so that they and their healthcare providers can determine whether or not a diabetes management plan is working, or if there are certain times of day when their blood sugar levels are usually unbalanced.

Anyone who is on insulin therapy, has a difficult time controlling their blood glucose levels and diabetics who are pregnant should use a meter to regularly test their blood sugar, the ADA recommends.