I’ve never talked about this before on the blog, but I wanted to mention that Ryan has Type I diabetes.
Diabetes is a condition in which the body does not produce or does not properly use insulin. Because of this, food cannot be processed correctly to form the energy you need to function. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. The role of insulin is to allow glucose (or sugar) from the food we eat, which has entered our bloodstream to enter our cells for use. When a person doesn’t have enough insulin (or it doesn’t work right), their blood sugar is abnormally high. Sustained periods of high blood sugar can be detrimental to your health, leading to serious health complications.
Type I and Type II diabetes cause high blood sugar in for different reasons, both connected to how the body utilizes insulin. In Type I diabetes, beta-cells found in the pancreas are destroyed, causing the pancreas to not produce enough (or any) insulin. Patients with type I diabetes require daily injections of insulin to maintain a regular blood glucose level. Type I diabetes accounts for 5-10% of all diabetes cases, and is sometimes linked to genetics. Although this type can develop in people of any age, it is often diagnosed in children.
In Type II diabetes, for some reason the insulin produced by the pancreas does not function properly. Often patients with type II diabetes are overweight, or physically inactive, and often older. However, today with the rise of childhood obesity, many children are also being diagnosed with this form. Type II diabetes can sometimes be controlled by an increase in physical activity, diet control, and/or daily oral medications. In some cases, insulin injections may also be required if diet or other medications don’t work. This type of diabetes accounts for 90-95% of all diabetes cases, and what most people think of when you hear about the disease.
Ryan was diagnosed with type I diabetes in December 2008 at the age of 23. He does not have any family history of the disease so it was a big shock! Ryan treats the disease with two types of daily insulin: one that brings his baseline levels to normal, and one to offset any carbohydrates eaten during meals. It is important for him to check his blood glucose levels a several times a day to make sure they are not too high or too low.
Our focus on exercise and healthy diet helps to keep his levels a little more stable, but sometimes it can also make it more difficult. During vigorous activity, his blood glucose level can drop quickly. Low blood glucose can also be dangerous. Because of this, it is especially important for him to carry carbohydrates to eat while training/exercising to keep his blood sugar at a normal level.
I hope to write a bit more here about how we deal with diabetes during our training and our daily lives.