Let’s face it, Ole Kris Kringle is probably a Type 2 Diabetic. At the very least he’s probably pre-diabetic. Let’s review the risk factors for developing Type 2 Diabetes that pertain to Old St. Nick.
Weight: This is the primary risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. Look at any picture of Santa and you’ll see that he’s not well known for his svelte physique.
Where said weight is distributed: Unfortunately the majority of the North Pole native’s girth lies in the most dangerous area, his abdomen.
Age: A quick Google search reveals that Santa is approximately 1,744 years old. This is also a problem as risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes increases after the age of 45.
Sedentary Lifestyle: Although Father Christmas seems to oversee a lot of workshop activities his main job 364 days of the year is checking a list…then checking it again. This desk bound job and inactivity catapults his Diabetic risk higher and higher.
In addition, if Santa does indeed suffer from Diabetes his risk for Diabetic retinopathy increases dramatically. In fact it has been estimated that up to 80% of patients who have been diagnosed for more than 10 years suffer from some degree of retinopathy. This damage is primarily to the blood vessels that run throughout the retina and supply the most fragile macular region responsible for the patient’s central vision. In other words, if Santa suffers from this, he’s at risk to be forced to bring an Elf to drive the sleigh.
Of course Santa needs to properly monitor his average blood sugar levels (A1C) with his Primary Care Physician. His physician will discuss the foods that will aid him in maintaining his blood sugar levels (perhaps carrots over cookies?). The role of the eye care professional though is not simply to monitor and identify if and when damage occurs. Our role must be to educate our patients regarding the fact that there are nutritional supplements that will promote healthy retinal health by supporting blood vessels aiding in the preservation of his vision.
Hopefully, the eye doctor practicing at the North Pole has an instrument that can measure Macular Pigment Optical Density (MPOD). Santa should be informed that MPOD measurements are typically lower in patients suffering from retinal health issues. The macula contains two particular carotenoids, Lutein and Zeaxanthin. Lutein has received the most media attention and supplementing with Lutein does indeed raise MPOD scores to healthier level. However, the whole picture reveals that Zeaxanthin accumulates in the center of the macula in a 2:1 ratio over Lutein. If Santa’s eye care provider recommends an eye health supplement with only Lutein or a supplement with a ratio that offers a higher ratio of Lutein to Zeaxantin, then is she really following a natural order of how the nutrients are found in the eye? In Santa speak, is she putting putting Dasher in the front of the reindeer lineup over Rudolph?
All Santa joking aside, it comes down to patient education. Our patients today are hungry for information. If we don’t give it to them they turn to much less informed and less reliable sources. We have the information and it falls to us to share the facts with our patients, whether they’re responsible for putting us on a “nice” list or not.
Dr. Susan Lake is a native of Nebraska and a graduate of the University of Nebraska. After completing her Doctorate of Optometry from Southern College in Memphis she traveled to Maryland where she completed an internship in pediatric vision. During this time she developed a true passion for pediatric vision care. When she and her husband began their practice in Warrensburg Missouri, she opened the Vision and Learning Center adjacent to their general Optometry practice so that she could further pursue this passion. She obtained her COVD Fellowship in pediatric vision care in 2010. As a frequent lecturer to parent groups, coaches, educators, nursing organizations, OT’s, OD’s and PT’s, she shares with these groups the importance of early recognition of vision problems and how important vision therapy is in resolving vision problems in children. In her spare time Dr. Lake contributes to her own blog at babyfocals.com and has participated in numerous marathons, sprint triathlons, and other athletic competitions. She also enjoys reading, boating, swimming, skiing and spending time with her three daughters and husband.