Keeping your blood sugar levels within the range recommended by your doctor can be challenging. That’s because many things make your blood sugar levels change, sometimes unexpectedly. Following are some factors that can affect your blood sugar levels.
Healthy eating is a cornerstone of healthy living — with or without diabetes. But if you have diabetes, you need to know how foods affect your blood sugar levels. It’s not only the type of food you eat but also how much you eat and the combinations of food types you eat.
Here are some things you can do:
- Learn how to count your carbohydrate intake and manage your portion sizes. Carbs often have the biggest impact on your blood sugar levels. Use measuring cups or a scale to ensure proper portion size and an accurate carbohydrate count.
- Eat a balanced meal. Have a good mix of starches, fruits and vegetables, proteins, and fats during every meal.
- Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages. These have no nutrition value and they cause blood sugar to rise quickly.
Regular physical activity is an important part of your diabetes management plan. When you exercise, your muscles use sugar (glucose) for energy. Regular exercise also helps your body use insulin more efficiently.
These factors work together to lower your blood sugar level. The more strenuous your workout, the longer the effect lasts. But even light activities — such as housework, gardening or being on your feet for extended periods — can improve your blood sugar level.
What can you do?
- Talk to your doctor about an exercise plan. In general, most adults should exercise at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week.
- Keep an exercise schedule. This will allow you to coordinate your workout routine with your meal and medication schedules.
- Know your numbers. Talk to your doctor about what blood sugar levels are appropriate for you before you begin exercise.
- Check your blood sugar level before, during and after exercise. Be aware of warning signs of low blood sugar, such as feeling shaky, weak, tired, hungry, lightheaded, irritable, anxious or confused.
- Drink plenty of water or other fluids while exercising because dehydration can affect blood sugar levels
- Always have a small snack or glucose tablet with you during exercise in case your blood sugar drops too low.
The liver normally releases stored sugar to counteract falling blood sugar levels. But if your liver is busy metabolising alcohol, your blood sugar level may not get the boost it needs from the liver. Alcohol can result in low blood sugar shortly after you drink it and for as many as 24 hours more.
What to look out for:
- Check with you doctor to make sure its ok for you to drink alcohol.
- Never drink alcoholic beverages on an empty stomach.
- Choose your drinks carefully. Light beer and dry wines have fewer calories and carbohydrates than do other alcoholic drinks
- Check your blood sugar level before bed. Because alcohol can lower blood sugar levels long after you’ve had your last drink, check your blood sugar level before you go to sleep
When you are stressed, your body produces hormones in response to the stress especially if it’s prolonged. This may cause a rise in your blood sugar level. Also, it may be harder to closely follow your usual diabetes management routine if you’re under a lot of extra pressure.
What to do:
- Look for patterns. Log your stress level on a scale of 1 to 10 each time you log your blood sugar level. A pattern may soon emerge.
- Take control. Once you know how stress affects your blood sugar level, fight back. Learn relaxation techniques, prioritise your tasks and set limits. Whenever possible, avoid common stressors. Exercise can often help relieve stress and lower your blood sugar level.
- Get help. Learn new strategies for coping with stress. You may find that working with a psychologist or clinical social worker can help you identify stressors, solve stressful problems or learn new coping skills.
The more you know about factors that influence your blood sugar level, the more you can anticipate fluctuations — and plan accordingly. If you’re having trouble keeping your blood sugar level in your target range, ask your doctor for help.