Fear of Hypoglycemia a Barrier to Exercise for Type 1s

How many of you out there have ever developed a “hypo” (short for “hypoglycemia,” and otherwise known as blood glucose less than 65 mg/dl or 3.6 mmol/L)? Usually accompanied by classic symptoms like shakiness, an elevated heart rate, mental confusion, and sudden fatigue, a bad low can still sneak up on you sometimes, especially when you’re sleeping. A bad hypo event is a medical emergency, often requiring someone else to treat you or to call the paramedics if you have lost consciousness. The potential for having that happen—especially at night or when you’re alone—is enough to make many people avoid doing new or unusual activities.

If you’ve ever chosen not to do something because you were afraid of getting low, you’re not alone. A study published in Diabetes Care in November 2008 reported that 60 percent of adults with type 1 diabetes (out of a sample of 100) avoid physical activity altogether due to fear of exercise-induced hypos and loss of consciousness—despite all the health benefits they’re missing out on by being inactive. A key to preventing lows is to understand how insulin works, and only 52 percent of those surveyed had that knowledge. This study is just another example of why learning all you can about diabetes is so important in allowing you to lose the fear and live your life to the fullest despite having diabetes.

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