If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, blood sugar management is vital to the long-term health of your organs, such as kidneys, heart, eyes and even your gums. Variables such as changes in routine, health, stress levels and medication calculations can cause dangerous swings in blood sugar levels. Knowing how to avoid low blood sugar and learning how to raise it when it gets too low will help you get back on track and safeguard your health.
What is Blood Sugar?
Our bodies break down the carbohydrates we eat and convert them to glucose in our blood. A normal pancreas produces just the right amount of a hormone called insulin to round up the glucose in your blood and deliver it to your cells. Your cells use this stored glucose for immediate energy and store the rest for later needs.
When you measure your blood sugar level, you measure the glucose present in your blood. If you are a diabetic, it means your pancreas isn’t functioning correctly. A Type 1 diabetic’s pancreas produces no insulin. A Type 2 diabetic’s pancreas still produces some insulin but not enough. Most diabetics use insulin medication to lower blood glucose levels, but it’s not an exact science.
How Does Low Blood Sugar Affect Diabetics?
For anyone with diabetes, it is especially important to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Most diabetics take medication and are therefore more prone to having low blood sugar levels.
Medication management depends on the individual’s blood glucose patterns and changing circumstances. Miscalculating insulin medication can cause blood sugar levels to drop suddenly. Not taking enough medication or maintaining a healthy diet can cause high blood sugar levels.
Both high and low blood sugar are dangerous and can cause significant short-term or long-term medical issues. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to prevent them.
What Causes Low Blood Sugar?
If you’re not eating enough throughout the day or altogether skipping meals and snacks, your blood sugar levels will inevitably drop.
Fueling your body is essential when exercising for longer or harder than usual to keep your levels from falling. Insulin dosage and timing with meals, snacks and exercise are essential.
How to Prevent Low Blood Sugar
To make sure that your blood sugar stays at a healthy level, you should talk with your provider about what your routine should look like — including the details of your meal plan, how often you should test your blood sugar, your exercise regimen and any other specifics.
Here are a few things you can do to help maintain healthy blood sugar levels:
- Eat healthy meals regularly.
- Follow your meal plan by eating three nutritionally dense meals throughout the day and by carrying between-meal snacks with you in case you need them.
- Exercise at least 30 minutes after your last meal and always check your blood sugar before starting.
- Check your insulin dosage.
- Before giving yourself a dose of insulin, double-check the amount that you are about to take.
- Wear a medical alert bracelet noting that you have diabetes.
Signs and Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar
Signs and symptoms of low blood sugar tend to kick in when someone’s blood sugar levels dip below 70 milligrams per deciliter.
Although symptoms of low blood sugar can appear different for everyone, the following are common side effects:
- Rapid heartbeat
- A feeling of hunger
- Seizures or convulsions
- Moodiness, crankiness or irritability
- Sweating or clammy skin
- Pale or gray-color skin
- Drowsiness, weakness or dizziness
- Difficulty walking
- Blurred or double vision
- Loss of consciousness
If you have diabetes, remember the signs and symptoms you experience when your blood sugar levels drop so that you can identify them more quickly the next time it happens.
How to Raise Blood Sugar
If you are suffering from low blood sugar as a diabetic, you should immediately eat or drink 15 grams of a fast-acting carbohydrate.
Some great options include 1/2 cup of fruit juice or a soft drink, 1 cup of skim milk, 1 tablespoon of honey, four to six pieces of hard candy, one tube of glucose gel or three to four glucose tablets.
Once you’ve had something to eat or drink, wait 15 minutes and recheck your blood sugar.
If your levels still show up as lower than 70 mg/dL, have another serving of the options above. Continue to repeat these steps until your levels normalize.
Because you are susceptible to passing out when suffering from low blood sugar, never drive when you have hypoglycemic symptoms.
Instead, pull off the road immediately to check your levels and raise them if needed. It’s essential to keep a sugar source in your car at all times, just in case.
If you or someone else is suffering from a severe hypoglycemic reaction, call 911 immediately.
If someone is unconscious due to extremely low blood sugar levels, do not give the person food or fluids as they could choke. Instead, that person will need a glucagon injection—a prescription medication that helps raise blood sugar—if available.
Where to Seek Help for Blood Sugar Concerns
If you are concerned about your blood sugar levels, our qualified physicians and nurses at CareNow® are ready to give you a proper diagnosis.
We are open after hours and on weekends when regular physicians’ offices are typically closed. Walk-in patients are also welcome at all CareNow® locations.