Sponsored by: Ascensia Diabetes Care Canada
Dessi Zaharieva was seven years old when she started losing weight and using the bathroom more often, which was a cause of concern for her parents, who took her to get tested. After tests at her local health centre she learned that she had type 1 diabetes. Her body was unable to regulate blood sugars on its own, resulting in dangerous blood sugar swings that could be life-threatening.
Treatment of type 1 diabetes requires lifelong use of insulin infusions to manage blood sugar levels, combined with diligent management of diet and exercise. The interplay between these things has been of particular importance to Zaharieva considering that the very same month she received her diagnosis, she began training in taekwondo. By the time she was a teenager she was already competing internationally in taekwondo, and her personal challenges made it very clear that there was still a lot left to learn about how diabetes and exercise interact. “People with diabetes can’t just go out and exercise without thinking about the consequences,” she says. “We need to make premeditated adjustments before exercise to help not just with our performance, but also with our recovery. Living with diabetes is all about planning, making adjustments, and being organized.”
From the ring to the lab
Today, Zaharieva is studying exactly how best to make these adjustments through a PhD program at York University. Her research focuses specifically on how technology can help reduce the challenges of maintaining optimal blood sugars throughout regular physical activity, both at the elite level where she competes and at the everyday level for those seeking to add an exercise regimen into their busy schedules.
Zaharieva uses an insulin pump, along with Ascensia’s CONTOUR® NEXT ONE glucose monitoring device and the free CONTOUR® Diabetes App, to stay on track. “This is where technology has come a long way,” she says. “Just having the pump itself wasn’t always the most beneficial — I didn’t understand what was happening with my blood sugars after training. What really helped was the combination of having an accurate meter, where I could always know where my blood sugars were, and an app that could pick up trends and patterns.”
Technology is the future of diabetes, Zaharieva notes. “Without this technology, figuring this stuff out was trial and error. I know that the features of these products have made my diabetes management a lot easier.” Her own research, as well as that being done by others in the field, certainly backs that up. The cutting-edge diabetes technology available today is already empowering many Canadians like Zaharieva.