AskNadia: Why High Altitudes Will Give You High Blood Sugars

Dear Nadia:

Why do my BG’s run high when I hike in higher altitudes?


Dear RU:

When you exercise in elevations your body is accustomed to, chances are you have a good idea of how your blood sugar will respond.


Exercising in high altitudes such as hiking generally, reduces your oxygen intake and stresses your body. Stress releases cortisol, the stress hormone, causing blood sugars to go up. Additionally, research demonstartes that carbohydrate metabolism may be comprised at higher altitudes causing insulin resistance.


On the flip side, If you get dehydrated from hiking you will experience similar symptoms to hypoglycemia; shortness of breath, nausea, and rapid heart beats.

Blood Glucose Meters, CGM’s & Insulin Pump’s

Medical devices can vary in their accuracy at higher elevations. If one device is less accurate, it will be confusing to isolate which one is impacting your blood sugar.  Calibrate all your devices to affirm their accuracy before you start your trip. This will add anther layer of security to  assure your blood sugar readings are within the proper range for your devices.

I would also recommend testing your blood sugar before, during and after your hike to give you a baseline on how higher elevations impact your blood sugars, making your return trip less stressful and more predicable.

If possible, bring back up diabetes supplies just in case you ascertain accuracy issues with one medical device.



Nadia’s feedback on your question is in no way intended to initiate or replace your healthcare professional’s therapy or advice. Please check in with your medical team to discuss your diabetes management concerns.

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Nadia was not only born into a family with diabetes but also married into one. She was propelled at a young age into “caretaker mode,” and with her knowledge of the scarcity of resources, support, and understanding for people with diabetes, co-founded Diabetes Interview, now Diabetes Health magazine.

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