Controlling blood sugar (glucose) levels is one of the most important aspects of diabetes management. It will make you feel better in the short-term and it will help you to stay fit and healthy in the long term.
The National Committee on Prevention Detection Evaluation, the chromium and many interesting articles. People who do not have diabetes keep their blood glucose levels within a narrow range for most of the time. The beta cells in the pancreas are able to produce just the right amount of insulin at the right time and they are constantly fine-tuning the blood glucose level. People with diabetes do not have this fine control over their blood glucose levels.
This might be because the beta cells have been destroyed and there is no insulin production at all, as in Type 1 diabetes. Alternatively, it may be that the body does not respond to the insulin and/or not enough insulin is produced when it is needed, as in Type 2 diabetes. The approach to managing Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes is slightly different, but whichever type of diabetes you have, you will still need to step in and take over that fine-tuning of your blood glucose level.
Controlling blood glucose levels is a bit like trying to lasso an unruly animal. Blood glucose is dynamic; it changes constantly and it is influenced by a host of factors including your choice of food, how much you eat, the timing of your medication or insulin, your emotions, illnesses, your weight, and your body’s resistance to insulin.
Some of these factors are relatively constant from day to day and are quite easily accounted for; some factors are more variable. No two days are ever exactly the same, or entirely predictable, and this makes it difficult. So, blood glucose is not easily lassoed.
In practical terms, you will need to learn about those things that raise your blood glucose level and those things that lower your blood glucose level. Then you will need to balance these factors on a day-to-day and possibly even hour-by-hour basis. This means coordinating medication, food and activity levels, whilst making appropriate allowances for stress, illness or changes in your daily activities.
You will be aiming to avoid the extreme highs and lows, trying to manipulate your blood glucose toward the normal range. You will be doing regular finger-prick blood glucose tests and using these results to help balance those things that make your blood glucose rise with those that make it fall. When you have evened out your blood glucose level you will still need to keep an eye on it and continue to make adjustments.
Controlling blood glucose is a continuous process and it will require your attention from now on, for the rest of your life. Don’t worry! It may sound daunting to you right now, but it will soon become second nature.
People who do not have diabetes have blood glucose levels between 4 and 8 mmol/l for most of the time. In general, people with diabetes should try to aim for test results between 4 and 10 mmol/l most of the time. Some people – pregnant women, for example – will need to aim for tighter control. Other people – young children, the elderly, or those at risk of severe hypoglycemia, for example – will need to aim for higher levels.
Your diabetes team will give you individual guidance on the blood glucose levels that you should be aiming for.
In the short term, controlling blood glucose levels is important in order to avoid diabetic emergencies – very high or very low blood glucose levels. Both of these conditions are unpleasant and can be dangerous, so they should be avoided if at all possible.
High blood glucose levels in Type 1 diabetes, if caused by a lack of insulin, can lead to a condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis or ‘DKA’ which can be fatal if it is not treated in time.