Being Prepared for Hypoglycemia to Stay on Top of My Diabetes Game
Keith Crear is always on-the-go. As a sports photojournalist, he’s always running up and down the field to get the perfect shot. Whether if it’s taking photos of his beloved Houston Texans, doing some work for the New Orleans Saints, getting snaps of an MLS or MLB game, part of remaining on the top of his game is managing his type 2 diabetes well.
As one can imagine, the constant exertion from his work means he has to be prepared for hypoglycemic events, also known as low blood sugar. Hypoglycemia is a prevalent issue within the type 2 diabetes community and severe lows can lead to a host of health issues such as seizure, unconsciousness and even death. Knowing what to do in case of low blood sugar is critical.
“Crazy enough, my primary doctor didn’t talk to me about what to do if I go low,” said Keith, who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2017. “I think everyone is so worried about the higher levels of blood sugar, that nobody really spoke to me about low blood sugar, outside of my diabetes specialist who I’m seeing now. After my sessions with my specialist, I started doing my own research on hypoglycemia.”
For people with diabetes, knowing the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia can help with quick decision-making. Learning them helped Keith recognize he’d already experienced low blood sugar.
“I’ve had two episodes,” said Keith. “My blood sugar dropped to the high 60s—around 3.8 mmol/L68 mg/dL—and the second time, down to 3.6 mmol/L65 mg/dL. The first time, I felt weak and couldn’t move. It felt like someone was lying on top of me.”
Weakness is a common symptom of hypoglycemia. Keith also went into further detail about his second episode, which happened during the workday—a reminder to those within the type 2 diabetes community that hypoglycemia can occur at any time.
“The second time it happened, I was going about my day and realized I wasn’t eating enough,” said Keith. “That’s one thing a lot of doctors don’t tell you about, either—how the lack of eating can affect your blood sugar. This time, my primary symptom was lightheadedness.”
Typically, people with type 2 diabetes treat low blood sugars with, juice, snacks, or candy, even with newer options like nasal glucagon available, which treat hypoglycemia without patients experiencing huge spikes. Keith is no exception and keeps granola and protein bars in his camera bag when he’s on the field.
“Another important thing I do is set a time for me to eat and hydrate,” said Keith. “My day-to-day, especially when I’m out on the field, I keep myself regimented. When I’m running up and down the sidelines, I’m burning a lot of glucose. So, even if I eat and my blood sugar spikes a bit, I’m not worried because I’m going to use a lot of that energy anyway. Plus, it helps stave off any possible low episodes.”
Just like the professional athletes Keith has the opportunity to photograph, his colleagues understand the importance of teamwork, too. In the event of a diabetes-related emergency, they’re ready to come to his aid and learned from Keith to recognize the signs of low blood sugar emergency.
“I tell everyone I work with if it looks like I’m acting strange or seemed zoned out to hand me a bar out of my bag or hand me some juice,” said Keith. “Obviously, I try to not let it get to that point. But it’s great to know my team has my back when I need them.” In addition to that, he tells his colleagues what to look out for if his blood sugar is too high.
With COVID-19, sports are looking a little different nowadays. While the focus in the sports world has primarily focused on prevention measures such as bubbles for athletes, it’s still a risk for people with type 2 diabetes who work in the sports entertainment industry. In Keith’s line of work of sports photojournalism, there are limits to the amount of media allowed to attend games.
“One of my main concerns since COVID is having diabetes and needing to be on high alert,” said Keith. “People are asking me all of the time how COVID-19 affects diabetes. I’ve done my research and have had to explain to people it’s not that I’m a higher risk of getting coronavirus, but having diabetes puts us at a higher risk from severe complications from the virus.”
People with type 2 diabetes can best protect themselves from COVID-19 by following recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). That includes managing blood sugars. As mentioned before, severely low blood sugar can have acute, serious effects. However, one of the ways to stay prepared against severe hypoglycemia is to keep emergency treatments such as nasal glucagon, a dry nasal spray that helps raise blood glucose to normal levels safely. Nasal glucagon is an alternative to the traditional candies and snacks people with diabetes use to prevent or treat low blood sugar. Keith is one of many within the type 2 diabetes community who’ve become newly aware of this option.
In his journey as a new advocate within the type 2 diabetes community, Keith plans to continue to share his experiences with type 2 diabetes, including important issues like low blood sugar.
“Low blood sugar, just like high blood sugar, is detrimental to your body,” said Keith. “It’s about finding balance. Just like a car, if you put lower grade gas in it, it sputters. If you don’t put enough gas in it, it sputters. You have to give your body the right foods and enough food to maintain that balance. It’s possible and I know we can all achieve this.”
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