The Importance of Preventing HypoglycemiaIf you have diabetes, you may experience low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) if there's too much insulin and not enough sugar in your blood. You may develop hypoglycemia from taking too much diabetes medication or insulin, exercising more than usual or skipping a meal. Hypoglycemia is defined as blood sugar below 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or 3.9 millimoles per liter (mmol/L).
Early symptoms of diabetic hypoglycemia include:
If left untreated, diabetic hypoglycemia can lead to seizures and loss of consciousness. Watch for more severe symptoms such as muscle weakness, jerky movements and blurred vision. Short-term hypoglycemia treatment involves drinking fruit juice or soda, eating hard candy or taking glucose tablets to raise your blood sugar.
How to Prevent Diabetic Hypoglycemia
To prevent diabetic hypoglycemia:
- Don’t skip meals
- Monitor your blood sugar
- Take your insulin and diabetes medication as prescribed
- Record your low glucose reactions to help identify patterns that may contribute to hypoglycemia
As diabetic hypoglycemia is an emergency, use a medical ID necklace so that emergency responders will know that you have diabetes.
You can determine if you have low blood sugar by using a blood glucose meter. You can prick your finger, put a drop of blood on a test strip, and insert it into a blood glucose meter. Other options include a sensor inserted under the skin, called a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), or flash glucose monitoring. FGM consists of a touchscreen reader device and a sensor patch that you wear on the upper arm. It greatly reduces the amount of finger-prick testing you need to do.
In addition to monitoring your blood glucose levels, it’s important to remember that nutrition plays a large role in glucose control. Carbohydrates are what cause blood sugars to rise, whereas proteins and fats do not. Protein can help to anchor carbohydrates in a meal, preventing a large blood sugar increase.
When planning a meal, the best thing to do is centre your meal around a protein source. Next, think about filling half your plate full of brightly-coloured fruits and vegetables. If you do choose a grain product or a starchy vegetable, try to keep the portion to a fist-sized volume or less.
Talk to an endocrinologist to learn more about blood glucose monitoring.
3 Important Things to Remember
- If left untreated, diabetic hypoglycemia can lead to seizures and loss of consciousness.
- To prevent diabetic hypoglycemia, don’t skip meals, monitor your blood sugar, take your insulin and diabetes medication as prescribed and record your low glucose reactions.
- In addition to monitoring your blood glucose levels, nutrition plays a large role in glucose control.