Why do my BG’s run high when I hike in higher altitudes?
When you exercise in elevations at sea level, chances are you have a good idea of how your blood sugar will respond.
Exercising in high altitudes such as hiking generally, reduces your oxygen intake and stresses your body. Stress releases cortisol, the stress hormone, causing blood sugars to go up. The change in altitude may increase your blood sugar which in turn may change your insulin or medication requirements. Additionally, research demonstrates that carbohydrate metabolism may be comprised at higher altitudes causing insulin resistance. Ask your healthcare professional how you should change your medication dosing when hiking in high altitudes.
If you get dehydrated from hiking you will experience similar symptoms to hypoglycemia; shortness of breath, nausea, and rapid heart beats.
Blood Glucose Meters, CGM’s & Insulin Pump’s
Medical devices can vary in their accuracy at higher elevations. If one device is less accurate, it will be confusing to isolate which one is impacting your blood sugar. Calibrate all your devices to confirm their accuracy before you start your trip. This will add another layer of security to assure your blood sugar readings are within the proper range for your devices.
I would also recommend testing your blood sugar before, during and after your hike to give you a baseline on how higher elevations impact your blood sugars, making your return trip less stressful and more predictable.
We are so lucky to live in a time where we have easy access to medical devices. If you have high blood pressure have a discussion with your healthcare professional about high altitudes and precautions you may need to take. Definitely take up an arm or wrist blood pressure device to test so you have a baseline as to how your blood pressure resounds to high altitudes.
If possible, bring up extra diabetes supplies just in case you have accuracy issues with one medical device.
If you would like tips on managing your blood sugars- join my diabetes masterclass.
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Nadia’s feedback on your question is in no way intended to initiate or replace your healthcare professional’s therapy or advice. Please check in with your medical team to discuss your diabetes management concerns.
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Nadia Al-Samarrie is a diabetes patient advocate. She helps people living with diabetes make informed decision to prevent the devastating effects of diabetes complications.
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