So What Do I Need To Know
Maybe it’s more accurate to say that people with type 2 diabetes who take certain types of medication are more at risk for lows. We’re getting closer! But to get to the truth, we should take a look at someone without diabetes. Is it possible for them to have lows, too?
Theoretically yes, especially if doing long-lasting physical activities without proper food intake. Additionally, extreme stress and binge drinking are also common causes of low blood sugar for people without diabetes.
However, it’s pretty rare because as soon as BG’s drop, the body’s natural counterregulatory system kicks in, raising blood sugar back to normal levels. It stops the production of insulin and activates its stress system.
I’ve never experienced hypoglycemia , even though I am very active and eat a rather low carb diet.
How Are Low Blood Sugar Levels Treated
When blood sugar levels are low, the goal is to get them back up quickly. Most kids who have low blood sugar need to:
- eat, drink, or take something that contains sugar that can get into the blood quickly. Your mom or dad may give you really sugary foods or drinks, like regular soda, orange juice, cake frosting, glucose tablets, or glucose gel
- wait about 10 minutes to let the sugar work
- recheck their blood sugar levels with a blood glucose meter to see if the levels are back to normal
Sometimes, blood sugar levels can get very low and you might not feel well enough or be awake enough to eat or drink something sugary. When this happens, kids need to get a glucagon shot. Glucagon is a hormone that helps get your blood sugar level back to normal very quickly. Your doctor and diabetes health care team can tell you if you need to keep these shots on hand and will help you and your parents understand when it’s necessary to use one.
Your parents and other grown-ups who take care of you should know how to give glucagon shots. If you don’t have a glucagon shot or the person you’re with doesn’t know how to use one someone should call 911.
How To Normalize Your Blood Sugar
You should not only focus on what the number of a low blood sugar level is but instead try to maintain a healthy blood sugar average within the ranges mentioned above. As each person is different, seeking advice from a doctor is the first step.
Only your doctor will be able to give specific advice regarding diet, exercise and medication.
Eating certain foods may cause blood sugar levels to rise or fall. Dr. Bernstein notes in his book Dr. Bernsteins Revised and Updated 2011 Diabetes Solution that a person with type 1 diabetes should have a low carb diet and get plenty of exercise. The American Diabetes Association notes that a person with type 2 diabetes simply needs to maintain a healthy diet and eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods.
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Complications From Spells Of Hypoglycemia
Mildly low blood sugar levels are somewhat common for people with diabetes however, severely low blood sugar levels can be life threatening. They may lead to seizures and nervous system damage if left untreated long enough. Immediate treatment is critical.
Its important to learn to recognize your symptoms and treat them fast. For people at risk for low blood sugar, having a glucagon kit a medication that raises blood sugar levels is important. Talk with your doctor for more information.
You may also want to talk with friends, family members, exercise partners, and co-workers about how to care for you if your blood sugar drops too low.
Its important for them to learn to recognize low blood sugar symptoms and know how to use the glucagon kit, as well as understand the importance of calling 911 if you lose consciousness.
Wearing a medical identification bracelet is a good idea. It can help emergency responders care for you properly if you need emergency attention.
Treat low blood sugar as soon as possible. Avoid driving if you are experiencing low blood sugar, as it can increase your risk for having an accident.
There are several ways that you can prevent low blood sugar.
How Can I Prevent Hypoglycemic Episodes
The key to preventing hypoglycemic events is managing diabetes:
- Follow your healthcare providers instructions about food and exercise.
- Track your blood sugar regularly, including before and after meals, before and after exercise and before bed.
- Take all your medications exactly as prescribed.
- When you do have a hypoglycemic event, write it down. Include details such as the time, what you ate recently, whether you exercised, the symptoms and your glucose level.
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Causes Of Blood Sugar Levels
Whilst the liver and muscles produce some glucose, most comes from the foods we eat. Food and drinks that are high in carbohydrates are most impactful on blood sugar level. What we eat provides us most of the nutrients our body needs and sometimes, does not need. That is not to say that food is a major cause of blood sugar level increasing or decreasing too dramatically.
Typically, if a person has health conditions or poor nutrition, this will lead to a spike or decline in blood sugar level. The causes differ from high to low blood sugar levels and are as follows:
Preventing Low Blood Sugar
Preventing low blood sugar is better than having to treat it. Always have a source of fast-acting sugar with you.
- When you exercise, check your blood sugar levels. Make sure you have snacks with you.
- Talk to your provider about reducing insulin doses on days that you exercise.
- Ask your provider if you need a bedtime snack to prevent low blood sugar overnight. Protein snacks may be best.
DO NOT drink alcohol without eating food. Women should limit alcohol to 1 drink a day and men should limit alcohol to 2 drinks a day. Family and friends should know how to help. They should know:
- The symptoms of low blood sugar and how to tell if you have them.
- How much and what kind of food they should give you.
- When to call for emergency help.
- How to inject glucagon, a hormone that increases your blood sugar. Your provider will tell you when to use this medicine.
If you have diabetes, always wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace. This helps emergency medical workers know you have diabetes.
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When To See A Healthcare Provider
Getting professional medical advice from a healthcare provider like an endocrinologist is the best way to learn more about whether your blood sugar levels are where they should be. Not getting proper treatment for low or high blood sugar levels can be serious and lead to health complications, especially for those with diabetes. Diabetes complications include nerve damage, kidney disease, heart disease, or heart attacks.
If you see a healthcare provider about your blood sugar levels, be prepared to answer questions about risk factors like what you eat, how much you exercise, and about your family history. Some healthcare providers may want to take a blood sample to test your blood sugar levels. They may also order an A1C test, which is a blood test that measures blood sugar levels over several months. You may have to fast eight hours beforehand to get accurate test results, so its always a good idea to check before your appointment.
If your blood sugar level goes above 250 mg/dL, you should go to the ER for immediate medical attention, says Dr. Tarugu. Emergency rooms are equipped to handle high blood sugar levels and can administer treatments like insulin therapy and fluid or electrolyte replacement.
How To Treat Someone Who’s Having A Seizure Or Fit
Follow these steps if someone has a seizure or fit caused by a low blood sugar level:
Tell your diabetes care team if you ever have a severe hypo that caused you to have a seizure or fit.
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Symptoms Of Diabetes That May Prompt An A1c Test
As mentioned by the NIH, a doctor may recommend an A1C test if a person shows signs of poor glucose control, diabetes, or prediabetes.
Warning signs can include:
- increased urination, especially at night
- increased hunger
- numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- slow healing sores
- long-term use of glucocorticoids, antipsychotics, and certain medications for HIV
Prevention Of Low Blood Sugar
Do not skip or delay meals. If your diet plan includes snacks, make sure to take these.
Measure insulin dosage carefully and inject it properly. If you cannot see well, a family member or a visiting nurse can prepare your insulin injections for you.
Take only the prescribed amount of insulin or oral medication for diabetes that your doctor has ordered.
Keep exercise consistent from day to day. Eat a snack or reduce your insulin prior to unusual exercise.
If you are taking insulin, notify your doctor if you have low blood sugars four or more times per week or if you have a severe low blood sugar. Severe low blood sugars are those less than 40 mg., those requiring help from another person, or those which cause you to have a convulsion or become unconscious.
If you are taking oral medication for your diabetes notify your doctor or nurse if blood sugars are running less than 80 mg. or if you have a severe low blood sugar.
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How Can I Be Better Prepared For Hypoglycemia
You can take some steps to be ready for hypoglycemia:
- Be aware of the symptoms and treat them early.
- Carry some fast-acting carbs with you all the time.
- Check your glucose levels frequently, especially around meals and exercise.
- Inform family, friends and co-workers so they know what do if you need help.
- Talk to your healthcare provider regularly to make and update your plan.
- Wear a medical bracelet that lets people know you have diabetes. Carry a card in your purse or wallet with instructions for hypoglycemia.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Hypoglycemia is quite common in people with diabetes. If not treated, it can cause troubling symptoms, and even serious health problems. Fortunately, you can avoid hypoglycemic episodes by monitoring your blood sugar. You can also make small adjustments to eating and exercising routines.
Causes Of Low Blood Sugar
There are many reasons why you may have low blood sugar, including:
- Taking too much insulin.
- Not eating enough carbs for how much insulin you take.
- Timing of when you take your insulin.
- The amount and timing of physical activity.
- Drinking alcohol.
- How much fat, protein, and fiber are in your meal.
- Hot and humid weather.
- Unexpected changes in your schedule.
- Spending time at a high altitude.
- Going through puberty.
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How To Treat Low Blood Sugar
If you think you have low blood sugar, be sure to check it.
Keeping your blood sugar levels on target as much as possible can help prevent or delay long-term, serious health problems. While this is important, closely managing your blood sugar levels also increases your chance for low blood sugar . Blood sugar below 70 mg/dL is considered low. If you think you have low blood sugar, check it. If you arent able to check it, go ahead and treat it.
Untreated low blood sugar can be dangerous, so its important to know what to do about it and to treat it immediately.
Fasting Blood Glucose Level Test Preparation
What should you do if your doctor orders a fasting blood sugar test? The preparation is the same as when you take a fasting test for cholesterol. First, be sure to find out if you need to schedule an appointment for your test . Ask your doctor what time is best to take it.
- Schedule your test if necessary
- Ask your doctor if you need to change any of the medications you take on the morning of the test
- If you normally drink coffee or have caffeine, ask your doctor if that is okay. It may not be, since it affects blood sugar levels
- Fast for at least 8 hours before your test. Usually, an overnight fast is most convenient
- You can drink water
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Simple Things You Can Do To Control Your Blood Sugar
A diabetic should do all that he or she can to maintain healthy blood sugar levels by eating right, exercising and following a doctors specific counsel and advice. Knowing what your low blood sugar levels are can help a person avoid the dangerous effects of hypoglycemia. In short, the answer to the question What number is low blood sugar is that any number under 4 mmol/L is dangerous.
How Serious Is Hypoglycemia
Hypoglycemic episodes can range from mild to severe.
Mild hypoglycemia can usually be treated by the individual and are to be expected to some degree in people on insulin. Mild hypos are not associated with significant long term health problems unless they are occurring very regularly or for long periods of time.
Severe hypoglycemia, however, will require treatment from someone else and may require an ambulance. Severe hypos can lead to immediate danger if not treated immediately. Whilst rare, severe hypos can potentially lead to coma and death.
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Treatment For High Blood Sugar Levels
For those with high blood sugar levels, it is vital to keep track of your blood sugars at home on a daily basis. This can be done with a glucose meter. These test monitors are often provided to diabetic patients so that they can manage their blood sugar levels at home everyday. They are available to purchase online if you are non-diabetic but wish to check on your levels regularly for safety.
Diabetic patients can be prescribed medications to help with insulin levels when their blood sugar is high. Those with type 1 diabetes will be prescribed medication which needs to be taken several times daily. This type of diabetes has no cure but can be managed with the right medication.
Those with type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes can treat their high blood sugar with a change in diet or exercise. A healthier balanced diet is usually advised and sometimes, insulin medication is also prescribed if the blood sugar level becomes abnormally higher than the high reading for diabetic patients.
Other Causes Of Low Blood Sugar
While low blood sugar is often associated with diabetes, it can also be affected by other factors. According to Dr. Danine Fruge, Medical Director of the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, Florida, the causes of blood sugar problems can include not only “diabetes, prediabetes , reactive hypoglycemia or other health issues, but also by not eating enough, taking too much insulin or even taking certain diabetes medications.”
Other medications can also cause hypoglycemia, like quinine, or Qualaquin, which is used to treat malaria, or various medications for kidney failure. Exercising more than usual can also cause it, especially while taking such medications.
Some other potential causes for low blood sugar include:
- Heavy drinking without eating
- Eating without ingesting enough carbohydrates
- Eating fewer carbs than usual without reducing insulin amounts, or improper balancing of liquid/solid carbs and timing of insulin
- Hormone deficiencies due to adrenal or pituitary tumor disorders, or in children without sufficient growth hormone
- Long-term starvation, such as that which can occur with anorexia nervosa
- Serious illness like hepatitis, kidney disorders and liver disease
- Pancreatic tumors that make the body secrete too much insulin
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How Do I Treat An Episode Of Hypoglycemia
The American Diabetes Association recommends the 15-15 rule for an episode of hypoglycemia:
- Eat or drink 15 grams of carbs to raise your blood sugar.
- After 15 minutes, check your blood sugar.
- If its still below 70 mg/dL, have another 15 grams of carbs.
- Repeat until your blood sugar is at least 70 mg/dL.
If you have symptoms of hypoglycemia but cant test your blood sugar, use the 15-15 rule until you feel better.
Note: Children need fewer grams of carbs. Check with your healthcare provider.
Low Blood Sugar Level And What To Do If Its Too Low
A person who knows the low blood sugar number will notice when his or her blood sugar level dips too low. If this happens, then eating a candy, drinking fruit juice or taking a glucose tablet will immediately resolve the problem. Those who are prone to low blood sugar should keep the above mentioned around the house, in the car and at the office in case blood sugar levels suddenly drop.
What Is Considered Normal Blood Sugar Levels
You can measure blood sugar levels with an at-home finger-prick test that gives you an instant reading of the mmol’s of sugar per liter of your blood. Generally, depending on the time of day and when you last ate, this can vary between 5.0-10mmol/L.
But what is a normal blood sugar level in Canada? Here is a handy blood sugar level chart based on the guidelines by Diabetes Canada:
After eating : 5.0-10.0mmol/L
Most diabetic adults: 4.0-7.0mmol/L fasted state, 5.0-10mmol/L after eating
Diabetics who are pregnant: < 5.3mmol/L fasted state, < 6.7mmol/L after eating
Gestational diabetics: < 5.3mmol/L fasted state, < 6.7mmol/L after eating
Children with diabetes: 4.0-8.0mmol/L fasted state, 5.0-10.0mmol/L after eating
The wide ranges in each group allow for individual differences. For example, we know that sugar regulation deteriorates with age and in pregnancy. So, if you are elderly you may find that you are on the higher end of each range.
However, each person is different and if you think your blood sugar is not in a normal range, it is important to seek medical advice.