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Take It From a Pro: Staying Active and Healthy With Diabetes

It’s true for everyone - regular exercise is one of the keys to good health. It makes you feel energized, eases stress, promotes weight loss and offers a slew of other benefits. For professional athletes, intense physical activity is a way of life. However, to reap the many rewards their active careers offer, they must contend with a constantly changing, busy schedule, non-stop travel and the pressure of competition.

These challenges are amplified for athletes with diabetes because despite the amount of activity and unpredictability their lives may include, taking a break from regular insulin delivery and counting carbohydrates at every meal isn’t possible. The consequences of a low or high blood glucose level can range from poor performance to a hospital visit. Luckily, recent advancements in diabetes management technology have made it much easier to be on the go with diabetes.

LPGA hopeful Carling Coffing, 24, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as the age of 5, the same year she discovered she wanted to become a professional golfer. She decided early on that diabetes would never limit her life, and because of that and good glucose control, she has achieved her ultimate dream.

“Being a professional golfer with diabetes isn’t always easy, but I’ve had a lot of help from using an insulin pump to manage my diabetes,” says Coffing. “I used to take up to four shots of insulin a day, which wasn’t an easy thing to do, especially during tournaments. The system I use now delivers the insulin I need 24 hours a day. It integrates continuous glucose monitoring which gives me the heads up when I am on my way to having low or high blood sugar so I can treat ahead of time.”

A person with type 1 diabetes has a pancreas that doesn’t function normally, making her or him insulin dependent for life. Keeping glucose levels in normal range can greatly reduce the risk of health complications for people with diabetes, such as heart disease, stroke and blindness.

Coffing offers the following four tips to anyone with diabetes who is committed to staying active and healthy:

• Create an exercise schedule. Every Sunday night, decide when you’re going to catch the early aerobics class before work, or take a jog with friends. Planning ahead will make exercising at least three times a week possible. Even if she has an early tee time and can’t hit the gym in the morning, Coffing still makes sure to do lunges in the evening while watching her favorite show.

• Research before meals. Coffing travels eight months out of the year, so eating out is a big part of her life, and it likely is a part of yours, too. Counting carbohydrates at restaurants can be difficult, so prior to dining, take the time to look up nutritional information online. The good news is healthy options are almost always available. Also, consider looking into using a mobile phone application designed to help calculate the carbohydrate content in foods, which could be a great tool when you’re on the go.

• Keep glucose meters on hand. Having a meter nearby at all times makes it easy to stay in your target glucose range because you can check your level regularly throughout the day. Coffing always makes sure to keep a glucose meter in her car, on her nightstand and in her golf bag.

• Stay positive. Every morning, say out loud that you did something great for your health the day before, whether it was staying in your target glucose range on that five-mile jog, or choosing the sugar-free gum at the store.

“It’s a little bit of extra work every day, but if you take care of yourself, you can have a normal life with diabetes,” says Coffing. “It’s important to remember that maintaining a healthy lifestyle makes us stronger, and we should always do our best at that.”