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Exercising with Autonomic Neuropathy

Jul 11, 2013
Altered Hormonal Responses

Of interest, in individuals with type 1 diabetes, autonomic neuropathy further reduces counterregulatory catecholamine responses, which increases the risk for severe hypoglycemia associated with exercise11. Intensive therapy, however, with an emphasis on preventing hypoglycemia reverses hypoglycemia unawareness in individuals with autonomic dysfunction despite marginal improvement in adrenaline responses; prevention of hypoglycemia also results in a lower occurrence despite impaired counterregulation12. Thus, autonomic neuropathy, long diabetes duration, and antecedent recent hypoglycemia contribute to different extents to impaired adrenaline responses and hypoglycemia unawareness (which is largely a reversible condition with prevention of hypoglycemia)13

In conclusion, many individuals with diabetes develop some autonomic nerve dysfunction as a result of diabetes and its associated hyperglycemia and oxidative stress. Any type of autonomic neuropathy potentially can affect the ability to exercise and alter normal exercise responses (such as heart rate and blood pressure). Once autonomic neuropathy has been diagnosed, individuals should take these alterations into account to be able to exercise safely and effectively with this diabetic complication.



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This article is excerpted from Chapter 19 of Exercise and Diabetes: A Clinician’s Guide to Prescribing Physical Activity, a case-study based book available through the American Diabetes Association in June 2013 and written by Dr. Sheri Colberg (find more information about the book online at www.shericolberg.com/exercise-diabetes.asp).  

In addition, anyone wishing to earn free CME credits through the ADA for completing a new self-assessment program on exercise and diabetes may do so now through the ADA’s web site at http://professional.diabetes.org/ce.

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