H.W.D. (aka Hiking While Diabetic)

I have a small collection of medical problems: bipolar, rosacea, edometriosis, obesity.  None of these really worry me on the trail.  Exercise is a good thing for them all, except maybe rosacea.  So I might be a bit rosy cheeked 🙂

But the one medical condition I have that does worry me a bit is diabetes.

I am a Type 2 diabetic.  That means I’m insulin resistant, not insulin deficient.  I control my diabetes with oral medication and diet.  While my A1c does stay in the high six range, it has been steady for a couple years.  I don’t even check my blood sugar unless I’m feeling the effects.

My last eye exam was perfect. (yes, I wear glasses so I’m blind as a bat, but my eyes show no signs of diabetic damage.) My cardiologist says I’m in the high 90th percentile, so my heart is healthy.  Basically, the only problems I have in my daily life are going a bit brain dead when my sugar drops too low (rare) and having fuzzy vision when it goes too high (not as rare, but not often.) I also don’t heal as fast as I used to.

I’ve been hiking before, but only short term.  Nothing overnight, even.

The Diabetes Council says hiking is a great exercise for people with diabetes, type 1 or type 2.  Most of the concerns that they express are for type 1 folks, those with little to no insulin production in their bodies.  These folks have a harder time regulating blood glucose levels and need insulin on a regular basis to keep everything in check.

Even though I know I’m in good shape with my diabetes, I worry about the food I will eat and the amount of exercise.  Will I have lows on days when we hike too far? Will I go high from the carbs we eat to keep our bodies going?

I’ve been debating if I should even pack my monitor, but writing this out has convinced me that not only should I pack it, I should be sure TiAna knows how to use it, or what signs to look for if I’m struggling.  See, there’s the dangerous part.  When my sugar is too low, I really do go brain dead.  Everything is fuzzy and my mind doesn’t work well.  So if I miss the signs that I’m headed downhill, I could be in real trouble unless she knows what to look for.  I *usually* catch it and eat something to bring it back up, but sometimes I miss the signs.

It isn’t really hard to tell that I’m low.  I run out of energy, I’m hungry… but I can’t tell you what I want to eat, honestly, I can’t talk much at all.  Talking is higher level cognition and that shuts down first when your body is trying to conserve sugar.  Did you realize your brain ran on sugar?  It does.

The answer is just as easy.  Candy bar, hard candy, full calorie soda, orange juice, fruit, glucose pills.. all of these will bring my sugar back up high enough that I can function again and then feed myself something with more sustainable sugar.

I’m glad I wrote this today.  Now I’m sure I need to pack my supplies and educate TiAna.  Maybe I even need to get a medic alert necklace or something, just in case.


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