Diabetes & Altitude

So, adventures with skiing at altitude continue…

The first time I did this mountain I got moderate altitude sickness and basically just wet the bed…metaphorically. It was the worst.

This time was much better. I started high altitude medications when I left to drive cross country. Blood sugars stayed remarkably controlled, but I believe that is because I still had mild altitude sickness and was skiing like a toddler. (Better than last time, when I was skiing more at the level of a crying infant.) I don’t think there was tremendous impact on my sugars from exercise.

Got high blood sugar from high carb diet (and not enough insulin for Mexican food) the night before skiing, which I’m sure dehydrated me and didn’t help. But, the 2nd day was much better than the first, although I was not yet adapted.

It was strange because I would feel really weak and dizzy and cranky from not getting enough O2. Naturally, I assumed it was BG. But, my CGM read 110, so I knew it was altitude.

I’m gonna try and work my way up to skiing like a small child, instead of a toddler next time. Would anybody expect any strange BG effects as I increase energy output? The low blood sugar that I got felt particularly severe. I’m kinda nervous about what happens when I feel like I have low BG all the time because of the altitude and then add actual low BG on top of that.

I think I’m getting close to being able to ski with a more normal energy output. Need several extra days of skiing at a slightly lower altitude. Probably shouldn’t be sleeping as high as I am. Experience is everything, it seems.

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Definitely sounds like it’s affecting the subjective sensation of the lows, or at least your ability to interpret them accurately. I guess as you acclimatize the distinction vs altitude sickness would be clearer since the latter would recede. But it may be something that affects the low symptoms as you experience them anyway. All kinds of things seem to affect what low signals your body sends and when, and what they feel like (or don’t). We were just discussing that on another thread.

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I live at 8,000 ft, just outside Telluride, CO, and frequently spend time up to 14,000 ft in the surrounding mountains, so this is pretty much the story of my life. Unfortunately, yes, altitude sickness feels a lot like hypoglycemia. There’s not much to be done about it other than check your glucose often and wait for your body to adjust.

First, drink water like you’ve never drank before before. It’s the most important thing for getting over the altitude sickness. If you’re really hurting, don’t be afraid to hit up an O2 bar It honestly does work, even if you do look ridiculous. Also, if you drink alcohol, you should avoid it until you adjust to the altitude… And even then, drink more moderately than usual because it will kick your butt twice as hard.

You may not have noticed yet, since you were having diet-induced high BG, but you’ll probably need to reduce your basal insulin significantly. At higher altitude, hearts race. If I’m not sleeping, my heart rate is always over 100 beats per minute, and sky rockets from there with actual exercise. It’s akin to being in fat burn mode around the clock. That burns up a lot of energy! As a kid, I always had a problem with going into seizures while vacationing. I never made the connection to altitude and hypoglycemia until I moved to Colorado five years ago, though.

You really have to be careful with adjusting your insulin, though, and plan your day ahead. Small variations in altitude can make a BIG difference. I have location based alarms set up on my phone to remind me to stop my basal insulin at certain points along my usual driving route, because simply driving over a mountain pass with a 1,400 ft increase will plummet my blood glucose. And around here, that’s a pretty typical ski slope range.

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Really? There’s no warnings about bg and altitude whatsoever - although they do recommend high carb (maybe thats why). On the upside, I found that my altitude sickness pills were also an anti-seizure drug, which made me feel much more comfortable about my epilepsy. You have given me some good things to think about. I would like to be able to ski normally in Taos (which tops out at 12,000).

I was expecting to have to drop the basals, just to account for high intensity exercise over a sustained period. It was highly unusual that I didnt do that. I think that I didnt really acclimate well enough to ever expend that kind of energy - I would just run out of breath and stop.

P.S. I didnt drive at all - still testing the waters. Thanks for the warnings!

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