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Aaron Vinik Part 7, Endocrinology of Aging

In part 7 of this Exclusive Interview, Dr. Aaron Vinik talks with Diabetes in Control Publisher Steve Freed during the AACE 2017 convention in Austin, Texas about the endocrinology of aging and quality of life for people living longer with diabetes.

Aaron Vinik, MD, PhD, FCP, MACP is the Director of Research and Professor of Medicine, Pathology and Neurobiology at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Virginia. His research and recent discovery of a gene, INGAP, could prove to be a cure for diabetes.

Transcript of this video segment:

Steve Freed: That’s interesting that as time goes on and we progress and we get new biomarkers that’s going to make us live longer. Hopefully, if you have diabetes and you can live longer and have a better quality of life, that’s what it’s all about. And the end result is reducing cost to medical care to everybody on this planet.

Dr. Vinik: All right so this is a very important point and it’s one of the things I’m working on with AACE, which we haven’t touched on this time but we can touch on it next time you interview me. That I’m talking now about the aging endocrinologist and the endocrinology of aging so we’ve come full cycle with thinking about this and a lot of people are interested in how long you live and the longevity. I mean we know that 50 years ago or a hundred years ago the average person lived no longer than about 30 years. Now the average is about 78-85, that’s what’s happening. Now what do we want? Do you want to live longer? Or do you want to have a greater length of healthy living? That’s what we need, we want many more years of life, but healthy life. Life that allows us to go and do the things that we really like to do. You know not be confined to a bed at a ward in the hospital or an unfortunate living as an impotent. That’s not what we want.

Steve Freed: So that includes wind surfing?

Dr. Vinik: I think I’ve probably broken most people’s records at my age, I am still wind surfing. I have one more ambition and my ambition is to kiteboard as soon as…you know I’ve got a new knee, I’ve got a titanium knee and this titanium knee is going to be tried out on a kiteboard. I want to see if it works. Did I tell you, when I had my lesson 2 years ago in the Florida Keys, this person came to teach my son and me and… actually 3 generations, my grandson, my son and me. We went out for our kiteboarding lesson and I said to this nice young man that was going to teach us how to kiteboard, I said, “Tell me how old is the oldest person you’ve ever taught to do kiteboarding?” So he looked me in the eye and said, “Man that guy was so old, he was ancient, he was really very old.” So I said, “So, how old?” He said, “He was 60, you know that?” So I said, “Kid, you’re gonna break your record. You’re gonna get me up in the air with that board, you’re going to break your record.”

Steve Freed: So are you still taking lessons?

Dr. Vinik: I’m going back to do the lessons this year, kiteboarding.

Steve Freed: One of my favorite questions with you and one of the last questions is that I always ask you, what do you think is the most exciting thing coming out of ADA this year? I’ve asked that to a number of people and they all came up with the same answer.

Dr. Vinik: What was that?

Steve Freed: That was the CANVAS. Yet all that’s going to prove is that maybe it’s a class-action as far as the heart disease goes. you know so I don’t know if that’s that exciting. We’re all assuming, at least most of us, that it’s a class-action, that it’s not individualized for just the one drug. Is that what you consider one of the most exciting things?

Dr. Vinik: No.

Steve Freed: That’s why I asked you the question.

Dr. Vinik: For me, one of the most exciting things I’ve seen right now is we’re going to go to a another whole level of understanding. I’ve listened to- because I’ve been putting together a compendium of healthy living and when you’re living a healthy life and you can do everything and you can do whatever you like, you just asked me about what would I like to do. I mean I don’t want to not be able to go on the dance floor and do the tango and I don’t want to not be able to windsurf. Those are the important things in my life. There are a lot of things I’m prepared to give up but those are important things in my life. So now, what is happening in this wonderful world of ours? We used to think that we had bones to support us, now we’ve learned that bones are endocrine organs. Bones not only support us, they have a whole dynamic of interacting with your adipose tissue, with your myocardium and with your brain, they’re talking to all these things. The second thing that is happening because of this, is we think as we are older, you get the cognitive impairment, you can’t think straight. Now we’ve found ways of balancing out the cognitive approach by not over treating the diabetes, not lowering the blood sugar too much, not creating these severe hypoglycemic events, not being that glucocentric, so people can think straight and not make the mistakes. That’s a different place to be. And I think that’s what’s happening now. What you’re hearing me say is that we’ve got to do a whole lot more for our aging population. You know, something interesting that as we look right now about 1 in 5, maybe 1 in 4 people with diabetes now are over the age of 65. Did you know that every study that is done to see the impact of glycemic control excludes people over the age of 65, so we don’t have enough controlled information on it. So don’t you think we should be doing that? ‘Cause those are the people. I think that it is, to me the most important thing that’s happening now is that the explosion in diabetes is occurring in the kids with type 2 diabetes and we have to attend to those and we have not done a whole lot about that. The second explosion is the older people who’ve been neglected and put away in nursing homes and foster care institutions and that type of thing. We’ve got to get them to come out of their shells. There’s a lot of life behind there. My mother-in-law died when she was 94. I looked after her for 54 years with her diabetes. Sharp as hell, smart as hell. We were very careful about the way we took care of her, but her body just fell apart. But look at what we could do and that is the most important thing for me.

To view other segments in this video series:

Part 1: INGAP Research

Part 2: Heart Failure and Diabetes

Part 3: Reversing Heart Disease

Part 4: Cycloset

Part 5: Wonder Drug: SGLT-2 Inhibitor and GLP-1 Agonist

Part 6: Early Signs of Heart Disease