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Don't Let Diabetes Stop You: Tips for Diabetic Athletes

If you have diabetes, you may be afraid to exercise because of the possible health risks. However, as long as you follow the proper guidelines, diabetes does not have to stop you from participating in sports. Actually, many famous athletes are diabetic.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes means your body either cannot produce or properly use insulin, resulting in high blood glucose (sugar) levels.

Physical exercise is important if you have diabetes because it lowers your blood sugar, helps the body better use insulin, and ultimately makes you feel better. But, there are some concerns to be aware of for athletes with diabetes, mainly your blood sugar levels dropping too low and developing hypoglycemia.

Knowing your body

One of the most important things is to be aware of the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia and be prepared. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Shakiness
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Weakness/fatigue
  • Blurred/impaired vision
  • Confusion
  • Tingling or numbness in the lips or tongue
  • Seizures

Make sure that your coaches and teammates know you are diabetic and tell them about the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia so that they can help you if it should occur.

Tips for Athletes

Here are some more helpful tips for athletes with diabetes to ensure you perform at your best:

  • Monitor your blood sugar levels closely before, during and after exercising.
  • If your blood sugar level is less than 100 mg/dl before you start your activity, have a snack first.
  • Do not exercise if your blood sugar level is 300 mg/dl or above.
  • If your blood sugar level is 240 mg/dl or above check your urine for ketones. Do not exercise if there are ketones in your urine.
  • Make sure to have some sort of carbohydrate snack with you.
  • Snack during the activity if it lasts longer than one hour.
  • Talk to your doctor about adjusting your insulin dosage for exercise (if you are on insulin).
  • Eat after the activity to prevent hypoglycemia which can occur up to 48 hours after.

Most importantly, talk to your doctor, especially if you have had problems with your blood sugar levels dropping during or after exercise. Your doctor can help you come up with a plan of action that is best for you and your body.

Sources: American Diabetes Association , Cleveland Clinic

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