Diabetes: Coach Bowden’s Off-the-Field Opponent

He’s the all-time winningest coach in major college football, leading the Florida State Seminoles to victory for 30 years now. What you may not know is that Coach Bobby Bowden has a personal battle off the sidelines.Diabetes: Coach Bowden’s Off-the-Field Opponent

By Triston V. Sanders

After his annual physical a few years ago, the 77-year-old Bowden was presented with a different type of challenge. The diagnosis of diabetes came as a surprise.

“In my case, I didn’t know I had it,” he said. “I had no symptoms.”

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the disease. If left untreated or improperly managed, it can result in a variety of complications, including heart disease, kidney disease, eye disease and nerve damage. If you already have been diagnosed, experts can’t stress enough the need for proper management.

“If somebody today follows their doctor’s instructions, checks their blood glucose regularly and follows the proper diet, they should be able to stabilize their blood sugar.” said Craig McCormick, a clinical dietician at Capital Regional Medical Center.

Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life. The cause of diabetes continues to be a mystery, although both genetics and environmental factors such as obesity and lack of exercise appear to play roles.

Type 1 diabetes affects about 10 percent of diabetic patients. People who suffer from Type 1 can’t produce insulin, as opposed to being insulin-resistant. Type 1 typically is diagnosed in children and young adults, and is more likely to be hereditary than Type 2.

Genetics also play a factor in Type 2 diabetes, which until recently was called adult-onset diabetes. But Type 2 also is influenced by lifestyle factors such as weight and exercise levels.

Bowden admits that monitoring what he eats can be difficult, but it is crucial to living successfully with the disease.

“I just have to watch my diet, you know, and I am careless about it a lot because I love sweets,” he said. “When I eat dinner at night, if I haven’t had something sweet, it doesn’t seem like I’ve had dinner.”

There are 20.8 million children and adults in the United States, or 7 percent of the population, who have diabetes. While an estimated 14.6 million have been diagnosed with diabetes, 6.2 million people – nearly one-third – are unaware that they have the disease.

Looked at another way, FSU’s Doak Campbell Stadium could be filled 300 times with the number of people in the United States who have diabetes. While Coach Bowden is among them, he said he never has let the disease keep him sidelined. He credits his wife, Ann, and his religious faith with keeping him strong and in good health.

“I think you can read factually that anxiety really contributes to so many diseases,” Bowden said. “If you’re in doubt about your life and if you’re in doubt about your soul and if you’re in doubt about what you believe, there can be a lot of anxiety. I don’t have those doubts. And it probably keeps me in a pretty good frame of mind.”

With such a positive mindset, Bowden said that diabetes will not be an opponent he lets stand in his way, on or off the field, anytime soon. Because millions of Americans suffer from diabetes and don’t even know it, he knows how important it is to receive regular checkups and to maintain as healthy of a lifestyle as possible – no matter what your age.

“With diabetes 2, you can control it with exercise and by eating the right foods,” Bowden said. “If I do what I am supposed to do and exercise and eat correctly, I have no problem with it.”

He points out the importance of going to see one’s doctor for regular checkups.

“All of us, when we get to a certain age, need to go to a doctor and get a good examination,” Bowden said. “It’s important to find out if you have diabetes, because if you do and you find it in the early stages, you can control it.”

For more information, visit diabetes.org or call 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383).


Warning Signs 

Type 1 Diabetes:
• Frequent urination
• Unusual thirst
• Extreme hunger
• Unusual weight loss
• Extreme fatigue
• Irritability

Type 2 Diabetes*:
• Any of the Type 1 symptoms
• Frequent infections
• Blurred vision
• Cuts or bruises that are slow to heal
• Tingling/numbness in the hands or feet
• Recurring skin, gum or bladder infections

* Often, people with Type 2 diabetes have no symptoms.

Source: American Diabetes Association

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