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  • Writer's pictureRyan Allen

A personal reminder of the importance of proactive health management

Well, I certainly was not planning on writing this blog post this week. Sometimes, though, when it comes to our health, things happen rather suddenly.


As many of you know, we recently completed our 600-mile bike trip from the Bay Area all the way down to the U.S.-Mexico border south of San Diego, CA. In the process, we have raised almost $2,000 for the Zone 7 Scholarship Fund (and of course, we want to thank you all so much for your contributions).


Figure 1: Our final destination, the San Ysidro Port of Entry at the U.S.-Mexico border south of San Diego.


However, within one day of celebrating this incredible accomplishment and returning home, I received some strange laboratory test results from my primary care provider. My blood glucose (sugar) and hemoglobin A1C levels were concerningly high and suggestive of new onset diabetes, which I simply could not—and still cannot—believe. Hemoglobin A1C is a measure for estimating the average blood glucose of an individual over the past 3 months, so my test result did not appear to be merely impacted by the fact that I was not fasting. If I was just having a temporary glucose spike from a meal, a longer-term measure like A1C would not have been significantly impacted.


After an additional round of these tests, the values remained very high. Now able to pretty much rule out the possibility of any false lab results, I have been left to try and figure out what might be behind it. There are two default theories: either my body is no longer producing insulin, or I have become resistant to insulin. For the purposes of this post, just think of insulin as a hormone that induces glucose uptake into cells (out of the bloodstream). Lack of insulin generally implies type 1 diabetes, while insulin resistance is characteristic of type 2.


The problem with these two theories—or the reason why I’m still just so surprised—is that neither seems particularly likely. The former would be difficult to comprehend because I have never been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, nor have I been aware of any previous issues with hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). The latter is even tougher to imagine. Anyone who knows me knows that I am meticulous about this aspect of my health, consuming a very low-carb diet, fasting, and exercising frequently (we will certainly discuss the importance of these habits in mitigating diabetes risk in future posts). In fact, as recently as three months ago, I had been taking readings of my blood sugar on occasion just to see how I would respond to big carbohydrate-rich meals, long fasts, etc. These were always well within a healthy range, if not near the lower end of the spectrum. Though I did transition to a bit more of a carb-heavy diet in the months leading up to the bike trip, this should not have had such a serious impact on my A1C either.


So, at the time of writing, I am awaiting additional tests to tell me more about what is happening. Among these are C-peptide (a proxy for insulin levels) and islet cell antibody (evidence of the body attacking insulin-producing pancreatic cells, indicative of type 1 diabetes). These should give me an idea of whether or not I have in fact developed type 1 diabetes, or if the source of this problem remains elusive.


While this all has been fascinating to investigate from a scientific perspective, I cannot deny that it remains emotionally tough to cope with, and I’m continuing to hope for the best. Nevertheless, it’s imperative that we all recognize the power we have to manage our health despite what may be put in front of us. With this in mind, I will keep approaching this situation in a proactive manner and doing all that I can to control it with diet, exercise, sleep, etc., in addition to any medical interventions.





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