In fall 2013, Michael Pritchard suddenly began feeling exhausted just a few hours into his workday at Biltmore Forest Country Club, where he is Director of Tennis. It was a startling change for the trim, physically active Pritchard, a former high school All-American who had battled his way to the NCAA finals as a college tennis player at the University of Mississippi.
Pritchard, then 40, quickly made an appointment with his family doctor, who referred him to L. Elizabeth Bernstein, MD, an endocrinologist at Asheville Endocrinology Consultants and Medical Director of The Diabetes Center at Mission Hospital.
The shocking diagnosis: diabetes — but not Type 2 diabetes, the kind seen most often in overweight, inactive adults. Testing showed that Pritchard had latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA) — the name for Type 1 diabetes when it occurs in adults instead of the typical age group: children and adolescents. “There are no good statistics on the percentage of adult diabetes patients with LADA,” Dr. Bernstein said, “but it’s the primary suspect in someone like Pritchard who is thin and active and whose diabetes has come on suddenly. Often patients with LADA also have lost weight and may have a family history of autoimmune disease,” she said.
Dr. Bernstein assured Pritchard that his active job as a tennis director was actually a plus in dealing with the disease, managed through exercise, diet, medication and insulin injections. She referred him to Mission Health’s Diabetes Center, where Pritchard learned from certified diabetes educators about meal planning and the interaction of carbohydrates, exercise and blood sugar — critical knowledge for Type 1 diabetes patients. “I can’t say enough good things about how they took me through the steps,” he said.
Nearly three years after his diagnosis, Pritchard doesn’t miss a beat on the job or in activities with his wife and two active boys, Paxton and Bridges. He follows a stringent daily exercise regimen, eats a low-carb diet, checks his blood sugar frequently and gives himself insulin injections as needed.
Tips from Michael:
- Don’t let diabetes stop you from being active. “If you want to run a marathon, garden or play tennis, it’s not going to stop you if you control your blood sugar.”
- Develop and follow an exercise regimen. “When you exercise, your blood sugar goes down. That’s your body saying thank you.”
- Count carbohydrates. If you have diabetes, you must know the amount of carbs in a meal to properly adjust your insulin. “Without knowing the amount of carbs, it is more of a guessing game.”
- Keep a food journal, while monitoring your blood sugar regularly. “Doing this gave me a good reading on how different foods affect my blood sugar.”
- Be forgiving of yourself if your blood sugar is occasionally high. “You can’t control what your body is doing all of the time.”