The two types of diabetes and how they affect athletes

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects thirty million Americans, but it goes unnoticed by many. More people are aware of Type 2, because it’s starting to become more common in young people, but it’s important to acknowledge the impact of Type 1 diabetes as well.  

Insulin is a hormone produced from our pancreas, and it’s in charge of providing glucose from the blood to enter our cells. The glucose gives the cells energy to function, and not having enough insulin to enter them causes the disease. For a Type 2 diabetic, their body either resists the effects of insulin or doesn’t produce enough. Some people need to inject themselves, but they can also take oral medication instead. The method you get assigned is based on how effective it would be for your treatment. This type can be prevented by the person if they check their blood sugar levels regularly, keep up a good diet, and exercise. 

A Type 1 diabetic is someone with a pancreas that doesn’t produce insulin. They are dependent on injecting themselves with insulin before every meal. People usually find out if they have this type when they’re young, but adults can acquire it too. It’s something that can’t be prevented, and people who get diagnosed have to learn how to adapt to their new lifestyle. 

Srishti Singh is a senior at Washington High School and she was diagnosed with Type 1 when she was eleven years old. In the beginning, it was hard for her, but she realized her disease was something immutable. Singh said that she was able to adapt easily and do what she had to do to manage it like taking her shots and going to doctor appointments. As a dancer, she has to monitor her blood sugar levels regularly to make sure she doesn’t go low. She says, “I didn’t miss out on anything as a diabetic and it’s something that you just have to accept.” 

For instance, another athlete who learned how to manage her diabetes and continued to excel in track and field is Kate Hall. She was diagnosed at the age of ten, after showing  symptoms of Type 1 diabetes such as eating more than usual without gaining weight at all. Another sign was when her mother noticed her breath smelling like fruit – a sign of going into ketosis, where the body produces ketones that burn fat. Hall remembers giving herself her first shot of insulin, and it made her realize that she wouldn’t let her disease hold her back from playing sports. She proved this when broke the girl’s national high school record for a long jump when she jumped twenty-two and a half feet and beat the previous record. 

It took time for her to adjust to a new routine of injecting herself with insulin. She had to know the right amount of carbohydrates in her food to match the insulin she would take. Hall says that she treats her diabetes as if it were training, and learning how to deal with it was the only way she could continue to excel. One time, before she competed in a meet, her blood sugar level was 300, which meant she had to correct it so it would go down, but doing so caused her blood sugar levels to go too low. Her calf began to start hurting, so she had to sit out for the rest of the meet. It’s frustrating, but she remembers the situation and learns from it.

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