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Exercising at high altitude could raise your risk of low blood sugar, leading to loss of consciousness or death, study warns

If a person's blood sugar falls dangerously low, they may have seizures, become unconscious, or die.

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Exercise, on the other hand, can trigger hypoglycemia (dangerously low blood sugar) in those with diabetes both during and after a workout.

In a new study published in the Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, researchers found that diabetics who engage in high-altitude activities like hiking or skiing may need to check their blood sugar more closely.

Exercise offers several benefits for diabetics and is regularly recommended by physicians. It has the potential to improve heart health, insulin sensitivity, and overall quality of life.

Exercising, on the other hand, can result in hypoglycemia (a dangerously low blood sugar level) in those with diabetes, both during and after the workout.

If a person’s blood sugar falls dangerously low, they may have seizures, become unconscious, or die.

“These findings suggest that exercise performed shortly after exposure to high altitude may increase the risk of exercise-mediated hypoglycemia,” says Cory Dugan from the University of Western Australia in Crawley, Australia.

“We ask that future guidelines consider these findings to increase the safety of people with type 1 diabetes when travelling from low to high altitude areas like the mountains without any acclimatization.”

During the study, the researchers tested the blood sugar levels of seven people with type 1 diabetes before, during, and after two indoor cycling sessions that were designed to simulate sea level and high-altitude circumstances.

Blood glucose levels were much lower after one hour of exercise at 4200 meters (about half the height of Mount Everest) and during recovery. These data imply that exercise at high altitude may raise the risk of hypoglycemia in people with type 1 diabetes.

Source: Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism

Image Credit: Getty

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