Diabetes is a challenging disease to manage, and keeping blood sugar levels in a healthy range can be difficult. Blood sugar is affected by several different factors, and managing them all at once is never easy.
For the estimated 29 million people living with diabetes in the United States alone, there are several methods you can try to help manage your symptoms. Here are a few.
Everything from choosing proper portion sizes to ensuring you get enough nutrients is important. Try focusing on:
- Carb counting and portion sizes: Carbohydrates often have the largest impact on blood sugar levels, and people taking insulin have to pay close attention to carbs in the diet. Because of this, portion control is vital—write down portions for foods you eat throughout the day, and use measuring cups or scales if needed.
- Well-balanced meals: Look for a good mix of starches, fruits, vegetables, proteins and fats. Choose good carbohydrates, such as fruits, veggies and whole grains. Limit foods high in saturated fat or trans fat, including fried foods, whole dairy products, salad dressings and many sweets.
- Meal and medication schedules: Eating too little or too much food when taking diabetes medications can lead blood sugar irregularities. Speak to your doctor about coordinating these schedules properly.
- Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages: These are high in calories and offer little nutrition. They can also cause blood sugar levels to rise quickly.
Exercise helps use glucose for energy and helps the body use insulin more efficiently. Together, these factors lower blood sugar levels. Here are some exercise tips:
- Speak to your doctor: Most doctors recommended 30 minutes or more of moderate intensity activity at least five days of the week. Speak to your doctor to make sure this is right for your situation and to learn about balancing different types of exercise.
- Keep a schedule: Your doctor can help you properly coordinate exercise around meal and medication schedules.
- Monitor blood sugar levels: Know what levels your blood sugar should be at during exercise, and check it before, during and after exercise.
- Stay hydrated: Dehydration can affect blood sugar levels.
- Be prepared with a snack or glucose tablets in case your levels drop too low.
- Adjust the treatment plan as needed based on timing or other considerations, in coordination with your doctor.
Medications and Emergency Preparedness
Any emergency situation can be of particular concern for diabetic patients who are in regular need of medication. Consult your doctor about the proper items to keep with you at all times, and about hydration and dietary considerations. A few other things to keep in mind with diabetes medications include:
- Store insulin properly: Insulin is sensitive to extreme temperatures and has an expiration date you need to pay attention to.
- Report problems to your doctor: If medications are causing blood sugar levels to fluctuate too broadly, they may need to be adjusted.
- Be cautious: New medications can affect blood sugar levels, so always check with your doctor before taking a new over-the-counter medication.
Sickness can increase blood sugar levels, and impact appetite and normal activities in ways that relate to diabetes. Here are a few tips:
- Plan ahead: Have a sick-day plan for medications and diet.
- Continue to take medication: If this becomes impossible due to nausea or vomiting, contact your doctor.
- • Stick to your meal plan: Try your best to eat as usual and get a solid supply of water.
If the liver is too busy metabolizing alcohol, it may not boost blood sugar levels in the ways it should. Here are some tips for drinking alcohol with diabetes:
- Get your doctor’s approval
- Don’t drink on an empty stomach
- Choose drinks carefully—lighter beers or wines have lower calories
- Keep track of your calorie intake
- Check blood sugar levels before going to bed
These processes can cause hormonal changes that lead to significant fluctuations in blood sugar levels. A few tips include:
- Look for patterns: Track blood sugar readings from month to month—this may help predict fluctuations.
- Adjust the treatment as needed in coordination with your doctor.
- Check blood sugar levels more frequently, as symptoms of menopause can sometimes be confused with symptoms of low blood sugar.
Stress is another factor that can produce hormones that affect blood sugar levels. It can also be harder to follow a diabetes management plan if you’re dealing with severe stress or pressure. A few things to do to combat stress:
- Look for patterns, and log them.
- Fight back using relaxation techniques, prioritize tasks and set limits for yourself. Avoid stress triggers, and exercise more often to relieve stress and lower blood sugar.
- Learn new strategies for coping with stress—some people find benefits from working with a psychologist or clinical social worker.
If you’re looking for better ways to manage diabetes, your doctor can offer a comprehensive treatment plan.
Our Utah County Endocrinologist is able to help diagnose and treat endocrine system disorders—even complex cases in which conventional treatments don’t work. As trained specialists, our providers know the latest treatments and technologies to treat a variety of disorders.
“Diabetes management: How lifestyle, daily routine affect blood sugar.” The Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/in-depth/diabetes-management/art-20047963?pg=1
“Managing Diabetes.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/index.html