Want to live a long life with diabetes? Be positive and dance!


In the fall 2008 Countdown magazine, {the quarterly magazine of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation} I found the article, “Research for Life.” The article is about whether people who’ve had type 1 diabetes for many years still have any insulin producing beta-cell function. If they do the hope is it can be a means for regenerating their insulin-producing capacity and curing themselves of diabetes.

I’ve been familiar with this line of research for some time but something in particular in this article caught my eye. That is that researchers discovered among the type 1s who had participated in the Medalist Program at Joslin Diabetes Center, (type 1s who’ve had diabetes for 25, 50 and even 75 years and received an honorary medal), the presence of complications did not correlate with typical risk factors for complications such as — how long you’ve had diabetes, your insulin production or even A1c levels. About 40% of the medalists did not have any serious complications, even after 60 and 70 years living with diabetes and they had less than ideal A1cs and no presence of any insulin production — amazing! What scientists think these patients do have in common is some kind of endogenous protective factor, and they are trying to discern exactly what it is.

The medalists’ longevity did, however, seem related to two things. One, exercise- typically 30-40 minutes of moderately vigorous activity almost daily. Many were actually active ballroom dancers. And, they seemed to have a high level of HDL, the good cholesterol. 2) Positivity. I found it particularly interesting that they also shared being unusually friendly. In the words of the key researcher, Dr. King, in a roomful of patients he can identify the medalists purely on personality. A psychological study seems to back him up: Medalists were found to rate high on a positivity index.

So, I think the key lesson is make sure you get your exercise and when your partner steps on your dancing shoes, smile and keep on dancing!

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