When NASCAR driver Ryan Reed races, it’s not just for personal glory: it’s for everyone with diabetes who has been discouraged from pursuing their dreams.
Reed was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes later than many athletes (aged 17), something which he describes as both “harder […] [and] a little bit easier,” than if he had been diagnosed at a younger age.
As an athlete, such a late diagnosis didn’t help. He had already settled into a routine, and type 1 diabetes necessitated significant changes.
But Reed never gave up, and his career has gone from strength to strength despite his diabetes. Along the way, he’s become a leading advocate for diabetes awareness , and he is sponsored by both Lilly Diabetes and Race Diabetes. He sums up his message to young people with diabetes as:
“Don’t let diabetes take away from your dreams. Don’t let diabetes emotionally defeat you. It’s amazing the technology we have nowadays to help manage your diabetes. If you want to, go out and chase your dreams, and don’t let diabetes stop you from doing that.”
Controlling blood sugar while racing
Ryan Reed has a very particular set-up in his car while racing:
“There’s a few things that I think are unique to men, having diabetes. One of them is a Continuous Glucose Monitor , made by Dexcom. That’s probably my biggest tool inside the race car.
“I mount that on the dash. The, if I have a low blood sugar there’s a drink inside my car that’s high in glucose. And if I have high blood sugar there’s a guy who can give me an insulin injection at the pit stop.”
The only other racing driver with a similar set-up is Charlie Kimball This, perhaps, isn’t surprising: both drivers share the same endocrinologist, Anne Peters. Reed got in touch with Peters after contacting all the high-profile diabetic athletes he could.
Reed is effusive in his praise for Peters. Her approach has allowed him not only to control his blood glucose levels , but to flourish as an athlete at the same time:
“I think that, for men, one of the coolest things about working with Anne was that she not only wanted me to perform like an athlete, but she wanted me to train like an athlete and manage my diabetes around that.
“She wanted me to go out there and be able to train 100 per cent. I feel like I eat how I eat, I don’t sacrifice carbs and have low energy from my diabetes during a race, and that’s really cool.”
A diabetes role model
Since his diagnosis, Reed has become an increasingly prominent advocate for diabetes awareness. He wants young people with type 1 to know that it doesn’t hold them back. But, at the same time, it’s not easy; he describes the time after his diagnosis as “a challenging month for me; an emotionally challenging month of my life.”
The four years since his diagnosis have bee, he says, “crazy.” In a good way, for the most part:
“I have a lot of people in my life, whether it’s through racing or being at an event or a diabetes camp or whatever. You know, I have kids and their parents who I still talk to today, who I see quite often. It’s crazy what ties you together. I’ve built some amazing relationships through having diabetes.”
Read the full interview with Ryan Reed