Amazing Race Winner Natalie Strand's Diabetes Journey

Move over, diabetes! For anesthesiologist Natalie Strand, confidence, ability, a strong teammate and assistance from her diabetes educator won her a first-place finish.

Health Monitor Staff

3. Dodge sugar-spiking stress
Most of us have experienced flight delays and the occasional white-knuckle turbulence, but the pace and competitive nature of The Amazing Race took travel tensions to new levels. "I'm definitely one of those diabetics who notices a spike in my blood sugar with stressful situations," says Nat, who had to overcome a fear of heights for many of the challenges.

And it's not her imagination: Nail-biting experiences trigger the production of adrenaline and cortisol, fight-or-flight hormones that send blood sugar skyrocketing. To counter on-the-spot tension, Nat turned to deep breathing. But whatever works for you—whether it's taking a walk, punching a pillow or sipping herbal tea—will do the trick.

4. Stock up on snacks
One of Nat's biggest challenges during the race was not knowing when she'd see her next meal—or what it would be. When on the road, pack a healthy supply of snacks and glucose tablets to combat low blood sugar during long periods between meals. When faced with unexpected meal choices—like that boiled sheep's head—Nat did her best to keep her blood sugar levels in check.

"Usually when I'm traveling, I'll do low-carb or foods that I'm familiar with and, if not, I will test a lot to see if my blood sugar is trending up or down. Having my continuous glucose monitor during the race was very helpful in that sense."

5. Don't forget to test
Whether you're on a day trip or an around-the-world adventure, continue to check your blood sugar levels according to your health provider's recommendations to catch problems early and prevent highs and lows. "I made some changes to my insulin pump," Nat says. "I knew I was going to be in a different time zone every day, so my rates of peaking in the early-morning hours and lowering during the day weren't going to work out as well."

November 2012