Almost 19 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes, and another seven million have it but don't know it. The metabolic disease can lead to heart disease, stroke, blindness, and other medical problems, and is often severe enough to shave years off the lifespan. But trim, white-haired Bob Krause, who turned 90 last week, is still going strong. The San Diego resident is believed to be the oldest diabetic ever.
What's his secret? "I'm a stubborn old man," he told the Associated Press. "I refuse to give up."
Krause says he's lived a long life because he treats his body like a car, eating only enough food to fuel the machine. "To keep your diabetes under control, you only eat the food you need to
before you have activities to perform," he said. "I eat to keep me
alive instead of eating all the time, or for pleasure."
And the former college professor tests his blood up to a dozen times a day, bringing updated charts of his condition to every doctor visit.
Before insulin became available in 1926, a diabetes diagnosis was a death sentence. Children with diabetes often died within a few years - even if their parents put them on near-starvation diets to buy them time.
Bob's younger brother was one diabetic to die young. "I watched Jackie die by starving to death," he said. "Before
insulin, diabetics would just die because eating doesn't make any
difference: anything that you ate couldn't be converted and you
literally starved to death because your body couldn't absorb anything."
"Bob has outlived the life expectation of a normal healthy person born in 1921," said his doctor, Patricia Wu. "He knows that he has to deal with this, and he sees this as a part of his life. He doesn't let this get him down."
When Krause first started taking insulin, diabetics had to boil glass syringes, sharpening their long needles when they were blunted by repeated use. To test his blood, Krause had to boil his urine in a test tube and gauge the color change after he dropped a tablet into it.
Since 1978, Krause has relied on his insulin pump to administer dosages into his stomach. He also gets a more precise reading of his blood sugar levels by pricking his finger for a test strip that is read by a machine. Krause praises the advent of blood testing as one of the most life-changing moments in diabetes medicine.
To celebrate his remarkable longevity, Krause was given a party - and a medal from the Joslin Diabetes Center. In attendance were his wife of 56 years, along with family and friends.
Krause's son, Tom, praised his father. "My dad, he is just a machine in how well he cares and manages his diabetes, with his willpower and how long he's been doing it," he said.