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Driving down diabetes on the NASCAR circuit

Ryan Reed, diabetes advocate
Ryan Reed, diabetes advocate
Ryan Reed

Bakersfield California native Ryan Reed has a racing career that began 16 years ago. That fact does not single him out from many other drivers; however, he differs from the others in that he began his racing career at age 4—he is now 20—and suffers from type 1 diabetes. His car also is a departure from those of his fellow racers: the predominant ads on his chariot have a diabetic theme. The interior of his Mustang racer also is unique. In addition to a tach and a host of instruments to monitor the health of his engine, mounted on the dash is a gauge to continuously monitor his blood glucose.

I interviewed Ryan to gain insight into how he has melded control of his diabetes with a promising racing career. I was deeply impressed with his story and plan to follow him as he progresses in his vocation. Diabetes has a genetic component, and so does Ryan’s interest in racing—his dad is also is a throttle jockey. Ryan’s career began at the tender age of four when he began kart racing and attained the Kid’s Kart Track Championship at that age. His racing career continued at a steady pace until he hit an obstacle akin to a multi-car pile-up. He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 17. Along with the devastating diagnosis, he was told that his racing career was now out of gas.

Quitting racing was unacceptable; thus, Ryan sought out a doctor that could help him continue. He hooked up with Anne Peters, MD, of USC’s Clinical Diabetes Program in California, who assured him that with hard work he could still race. The key to managing diabetes is to maintain strict glucose control—and Ryan has done just that. He is under the care of a nutritionist so that he has complete information regarding the caloric content of his food. I assumed that he would be using a glucose pump; however, he explained that the device would malfunction in the cockpit of his Mustang where temperatures can reach 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Instead, he relies on a Dexcom glucose monitor full-time both within and without the cockpit of his racer. When he races, an aide is present in the stands who can administer an insulin dose—to date, Ryan has not needed one.

The diabetes-related material plastered on Ryan’s Mustang represent the tip of the iceberg. Ryan is on a mission to educate the public about the disease. He is the ambassador and spokesperson for Drive to Stop Diabetes, a diabetes awareness initiative with the American Diabetes Association and Lilly Diabetes. He joined forces with the American Diabetes Association and created Drive to Stop Diabetes, with awareness and educational events at select NNS races as well as several off-track health and wellness initiatives throughout 2014. Ryan is set to run the full 2014 NNS schedule for Roush Fenway Racing in the No. 16 American Diabetes Association Drive to Stop Diabetes presented by Lilly Diabetes Ford Mustang.

For more information about the Drive to Stop Diabetes, click on this link. For more information about Lilly Diabetes, the program’s National Presenting Sponsor, click on this link.

Facts about diabetes

Prevalence

  • Nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes.
  • Another 79 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Recent estimates project that as many as one in three American adults in the U.S. will have diabetes in 2050 unless we take steps to Stop Diabetes.
  • Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, and was previously known as juvenile diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin.
  • Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. Millions of Americans have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and many more are unaware they are at high risk.

The Toll on Health

  • Two out of three people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults.
  • The rate of amputation for people with diabetes is 10 times higher than for people without diabetes.
  • About 60-70% of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nerve damage that could result in pain in the feet or hands, slowed digestion, sexual dysfunction and other nerve problems.

Cost of Diabetes

  • The American Diabetes Association estimates that the total national cost of diagnosed diabetes in the United States is $245 billion.
  • Direct medical costs reach $176 billion and the average medical expenditure among people with diabetes is 2.3 times higher than those without the disease.
  • Indirect costs amount to $69 billion (disability, work loss, premature mortality).
  • One in 10 healthcare dollars is spent treating diabetes and its complications.
  • One in five healthcare dollars is spent caring for people with diabetes.