Im 28, but if I ever considered diabetes and my risk of developing the disease, I only thought about Type 2 diabetes, because it runs in my family. I never really worried about it because, in my mind, Type 2 diabetes was only diagnosed in older people who are overweight, have poor diets and do not exercise.
As a high school athlete participating in three sports, with careful attention paid to a healthy diet, I never thought diabetes was something I had to worry about. Today I understand just how wrong I was.
Just like the majority of college students, I could not wait for my 21st birthday. And like many other college students, I consumed far too much alcohol on a regular basis, turning it into a three- to five-night-per-week habit for a couple of years. I began experiencing pains just below my sternum that I always attributed to bad gas until they finally became so severe that I had to go to the hospital. There I found out that these pains were not gas but rather the symptoms of chronic pancreatitis caused by drinking too much alcohol too often. After this diagnosis, I may have cut back on the frequency of my drinking some, but mostly, despite many warnings from my doctor, I continued to drink large amounts of alcohol and party like a rock star whenever I could.
About one year later, right before my 24th birthday, I was admitted to the hospital again, this time with a blood glucose level of more than 1,000. The excessive alcohol, which had become such an important part of my lifestyle, had destroyed the pancreatic cells responsible for insulin secretion.
The lesson that I learned is the message that I want this story to convey. Drink Responsibly is not just a slogan; alcohol can be dangerous, even deadly, in many different ways. But causing diabetes? Yep. This type of diabetes is called secondary, but the treatment is the same as for Type 1 diabetes lifelong insulin injections.
Did my diagnosis ruin my life? Absolutely not. However, I will be using insulin for the remainder of my life, which means I will have to be connected to my insulin pump forever.
There are many diseases that can directly be attributed to a persons lifestyle, but insulin requiring diabetes at a young age is not a disease that people usually put into this category. I am here to tell you that it certainly is in this category and I encourage everyone, especially young people, to think about how your lifestyle now can affect you in the future in ways that cannot always be undone.
John H. Miller is a member of the Penn State Class of 2012 and student in the department of human development and family studies. He is a lifelong community member of State College.