Sunday, 29 July 2007

Diabetes, athletes, and the technological revolution

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For athletes with type 1 diabetes, technological advances have opened up a whole new world. Tell your doctor you want to run a marathon? In past decades, the announcement might have been met with words of caution, even dismay. Exercise wasn't even part of the equation when it came to diabetes management. Being diagnosed with diabetes was a death knell for the careers of budding young athletes. Today, however, docs (well-informed ones, at least) are more likely to say, 'okay, let's come up with a plan.'

Diabetes-related technology is a big reason for this shift in attitudes. An article just out in The New York Times. looks at the extent to which technology has made life easier for type 1 diabetics. Devices like digital meters and automated pumps are not cheap. But they are increasingly efficient, safe, and sleekly high-tech. Above all, they give athletes the tools they need to control blood sugar levels with absolute precision - the kind of precision that was impossible in the days of the urine-glucose test. The down-side, I guess you could say, is the mixed blessing of all that control: "We are essentially the CEOs of our own bodies," observes type 1 diabetic and long-distance cyclist Paul Southerland, "and we don't get a break from them."

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