Diabetes Forecast

The Jumper: Josh Glazov

Want a challenge? Leap from airplanes, keep blood glucose steady

By Tracey Neithercott , , ,
Josh Glazov

Josh Glazov
Photograph by Albert Wing

There’s something about jumping from an airplane at 13,000 feet, free-falling for 60 seconds, and relying on a piece of cloth to halt your plunge to earth that makes you feel incredibly alive. That was Josh Glazov’s reaction when he took his first leap from a moving airplane at 20. “I had wanted to get into flying, but I was disqualified because of [type 1] diabetes,” he says. “And I realized flying was fun, but this was exciting.”

Thus began Glazov’s love affair with skydiving. After hours of training and thousands of jumps, he became a tandem instructor—a skydiving expert who straps a newbie to his chest, releases the parachute, and guides the pair’s descent and landing. Among dozens of safety precautions skydivers must focus on, Glazov also had to concentrate on keeping his blood glucose steady—not an easy task.

“Your blood sugar is just more volatile and more unpredictable,” he says. While the altitude didn’t impact Glazov’s glucose levels, the rush he got while jumping did. His blood glucose plummeted with him, only to rise once he was on his feet again. To combat lows, Glazov had snacks at the jump site and glucose in his suit.

While downtime between jumps had the potential to raise his glucose level, Glazov says certain aspects of solo jumping or being a tandem instructor, such as packing a parachute, were vigorous exercise. Combine that with carrying a 25-pound backpack and corralling students, and his blood glucose sometimes dipped from exertion.

With work and family tugging at his time, the 43-year-old Chicago resident hasn’t skydived in some time. But Glazov says he’s ready to go again once his elementary school–age son gets older and can accompany him. After all, Glazov credits the extreme sport with pulling him out of a serious funk. “Like any other chronic illness, [with diabetes] you’re more likely to become depressed than others,” he says. “[Skydiving] makes you feel good.

There’s a sense of accomplishment. I don’t know if I was chronically depressed, but it was a time when I didn’t feel particularly good about myself. That dramatically changed when I started skydiving.”

Safety Note

Talk to your doctor to make sure engaging in extreme sports is reasonably safe for you.



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