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Exercise regime to bring back hypo awareness

Project summary

Dishabituation as a treatment for impaired hypoglycaemia awareness in Type 1 diabetes

Some people with Type 1 diabetes lose the ability to tell when their blood glucose levels are going too low. Dr Catriona Farrell will study whether we can use short bursts of high intensity exercise to improve awareness of very low blood glucose levels. Dr Farrell hopes that this method could help to protect people from the consequences of being unaware of your low blood glucose.

Background to research

People with Type 1 diabetes may lose their ability to sense when their blood glucose levels go very low, known as hypo unawareness. Severe hypo unawareness is a big concern for people with Type 1 diabetes, as they may lose consciousness and, in very extreme cases, go into a coma. Currently there are no good treatment options for hypo unawareness. We don’t yet fully understand why people lose their ability to sense when their blood glucose is too low. But we know that if someone has repeated hypos, they’re more likely to stop noticing when new hypos occur. And if you can avoid hypos, your awareness may return – but avoiding hypos may not be an easy task. So we need to find better ways to help people with Type 1 diabetes bring their hypo awareness back.

Research aims

Dr Farrell will carry out two clinical trials testing if short bursts of high intensity exercise can improve hypo awareness in people with Type 1 diabetes. In the first trial, Dr Farrell will compare a regime of 40 minutes of mild to moderate cycling to a 37-minute cycling programme immediately followed by three 20 second intense bursts of cycling. She wants to see how these two exercise regimes may affect hypo awareness. In the second study, participants, who has said they have reduced hypo awareness, will be randomly assigned to take part in a four-week study. They will take part in either 150 minutes of low to moderate intensity exercise each week, or the same programme with each exercise finishing with an intense burst. During the four weeks, their blood glucose levels will be continuously monitored and Dr Farrell will evaluate how the exercise regimes affect hypo awareness.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

We are committed to improving the lives of people with Type 1 diabetes. This project will help us to understand if exercise therapy can be used to restore hypo awareness and protect people from the consequences of being unaware of low blood glucose levels.

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