If you aren’t familiar with the connection yet, consider yourself lucky. A number of my friends, both in real life and online, have developed type 2 diabetes. I don’t have any conclusive statistics (I doubt anyone has actually done a study), but I suspect that the percentage of diabetics, among avid table-top gamers, is higher than average.
Our society as a whole is on a downward spiral. People don’t exercise enough, make poor nutritional choices, and “super size” their meals. That’s not to say that everyone fits this mold, but the number of people that do are on the rise. Gamers, in my opinion, are doing so faster than others.
Why do I think so? As I said, I don’t have any studies to point at. I’m just going by my own personal experience and observations. As a group, we are more sedentary than our brethren and during our social gatherings the consumption of junk food is rampant.
What We Did Wrong
Let me tell you about a typical session from back when I started playing D&D. We would meet at a friend’s house at noon on Saturday and play non-stop till dawn the following morning. We always used minis so we sat in folding chairs (which restricted circulation) around a long table. Everyone had a bottle of pop in front of them at all times (or home-made Sangria – a combination of red wine, cool-aid, and sugar). We went through numerous bags of chips and pretzels, bowls of M&Ms, mini peanut butter cups, and various other candies. It seems like on game night we just grazed perpetually on salty, sugary treats. At some point we would usually cook up a few Tortino’s pizzas. Those were certainly the healthiest things we ever ate. Those of us who smoked at least stepped out for some fresh air from time to time </sarcasm> (I’m so glad I gave up that filthy habit).
Being teenagers, we didn’t notice the damage we were doing to ourselves at the time. There is no question though that this type of abuse had its effect. Not only did we do this to ourselves regularly, but many ate like this (although to a lesser extent) outside game days as well. Being gamers, we sat around gaming for hours (or days) at a time, and tended towards reading and watching TV over any sort of physical activities.
As we got older, we added slightly healthier choices. Usually we would take a break at some point to make sub sandwiches and maybe even add a pickle (an honest to goodness vegetable!). Sometimes, we would even have enchiladas or lasagna. But even if you accept that these are healthier foods, it didn’t stop us from continually grazing on all the crap we always had when we were younger.
What Is Diabetes?
Now (with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and sedentary lifestyles), we are all at much greater risk for diabetes. But so what? Most people don’t understand what diabetes is and therefore aren’t really concerned about it. If you ask a random person on the street, they’ll probably tell you that diabetes means that you have to cut back on sugar. Some may be vaguely aware that some diabetics have to take insulin. That’s just a drug. Everyone takes drugs for one thing or another, so that’s no big deal.
What most people don’t know is that diabetes will kill you. It also causes organs to fail, causes blindness, and is the leading cause of foot amputations. Some can manage their diabetes for a time with diet and exercise (not casual exercise but actually maintaining a healthy weight). Most require insulin, which (like nearly all drugs) has various harmful side-effects, the most annoying of which is that it actually promotes weight gain!
Researchers have been attempting for years to come up with oral and inhaled delivery systems. They have yet to find one that works. Instead, insulin is delivered through a subcutaneous injection. The typical procedure entails going to the fridge (before every meal or snack!), retrieving the bottle, preparing a syringe (with a large scary needle), measuring a dose (based on the amount of carbs (sugar) you intend to ingest), and sticking a needle into yourself (typically in the abdomen or thigh). In addition to numerous injections a day, you need to constantly monitor your blood sugar (by pricking your finger and testing your blood).
If you think that insulin sounds almost as scary as the disease itself, you are not alone. I postponed starting insulin far longer than I should have. In addition to being put off by the standard delivery system, I’m frequently on heavy pain medication and don’t trust that I could safely gauge and measure out the appropriate dose (let alone inject it safely) while drugged up.
Fortunately, there are now pens you can get prefilled with slow-release insulin. They aren’t appropriate for everyone but happily my doctor approved it for me and insurance covered it. I use a Lantis SoloStar. Each pen contains 3 mL (100 units per mL). I turn a dial to select the number of units I want (you start at 10 and over time increase this till you find the necessary dosage), attach a very small needle (~4 mm), jab it into my abdomen and press the end till the selected dosage is administered. The injection is barely noticeable and only needs to be done once a day. Since it is slow acting, blood sugar monitoring isn’t as necessary. Also, the insulin pens do not require refrigeration (once opened) which makes them far more convenient.
Why Put This On Your Blog?
Diabetes is rampant and all indications are that it will continue to get worse. Because of the prevalence of junk food at face-to-face D&D games, I believe those in our hobby are at greater risk. Other old guys are probably set in their ways (or already have diabetes) so this won’t have any impact on them. But if just one younger player takes this message to heart, than it was worth while posting this.
Also, I wanted to let people know about the Lantis SoloStar pens. If you are taking insulin, you should talk to your doctor right away and see if they will work for you. I can’t imagine going through the hassle of traditional injections.