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US study finds hypoglycemia makes people with type 1 diabetes fearful of exercise

Many people with type 1 diabetes have problems keeping their blood glucose levels under control when exercising, according to a new US study.
Exercise is extremely beneficial for people with type 1 diabetes because it can help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. But hypoglycemia always needs to be carefully managed before, during and after exercise.
In this new study, a research team led by Dr Jordan Pinsker at the William Sansum Diabetes Centre, California, asked adults with type 1 diabetes to complete an online survey which focused on diabetes self-management and exercise.
The 502 adults who completed the survey were recruited from the Type 1 Diabetes Exchange’s online patient community, Glu.
Prior to filling in the survey, Pinsker’s team wanted to investigate if it was possible to reduce the risk of early- and late-onset hypoglycemia following exercise .
They explored this possibility by making considered changes in carbohydrate intake and insulin use. Patients’ exercise preparations and insulin management techniques were examined before and after physical activity, and the researchers analysed how management changes could affect their routines.
The study revealed that 79 per cent of participants increased their carbohydrate intake before exercise; 69 per cent increased carb intake after exercise. Furthermore, 53 per cent decreased their bolus insulin before exercise, while 46 per cent decreased it after exercise.
Even after making changes to their management regimen, 70 per cent of people reported having low blood sugar after exercise. This, according to Pinsker’s team, needs to be addressed.
Participants found it hard to control their blood sugar levels during exercise and felt worried that exercising would lead to them experiencing hypoglycemia. This was the case among users of both insulin pump therapy and continuous glucose monitoring (CGM).
“These findings highlight the need for exercise-management strategies tailored to individuals’ overall diabetes management are needed for people to better manage their condition and avoid hypos,” said the study authors.
The findings appear in the Canadian Journal of Diabetes.
For more information on managing your blood sugar levels during exercise, check out our Diabetes and Sport section.

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