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 stay fit and healthy in the long term.
The National Committee for Preventive Detection Evaluation, the chromium and many interesting articles. People who do not have diabetes usually keep their blood glucose level within a narrow range. The beta cells in the pancreas are able to produce just the right amount of insulin at the right time and they are constantly refining blood glucose levels. People with diabetes do not have this fine control over their blood sugar levels.
This can be because the beta cells have been destroyed and no insulin is produced at all, as is the case with type 1 diabetes. It is also possible that the body does not respond to the insulin and/or that not enough insulin is produced when needed, as is the case with type 2 diabetes. The approach to type 1 and type 2 diabetes is slightly different, but no matter what type of diabetes you have, you will still have to intervene and take over that fine tuning of your blood glucose level.
Controlling blood sugar levels is a bit like trying to lasso an unmanageable animal. Blood glucose is dynamic; it changes constantly and it is influenced by many 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 fairly easy to account for; some factors are more variable. No two days are ever exactly the same, or completely predictable, and this makes it difficult. Blood glucose is therefore not easy to determine.
In practical terms, you will have to learn about those things that increase your blood glucose level and those things that decrease your blood glucose level. Then you will have to balance these factors daily and possibly even hourly. This means that you will need to coordinate medication, nutrition, and activities while taking into account stress, illness, or changes in your daily activities.
You will strive to avoid the extreme highs and lows and manipulate your blood sugar level in the direction of the normal range. You will regularly take blood glucose tests with your fingers and use these results to balance the things that make your blood glucose levels rise and fall. Once you have equalized your blood sugar level, you should still monitor it and continue to make adjustments.
Monitoring blood sugar is an ongoing process and will require your attention for the rest of your life. Don’t worry! It may sound daunting to you, but it will soon become second nature.
People who do not have diabetes usually have a blood glucose level between 4 and 8 mmol/l. In general, people with diabetes should try to achieve test results between 4 and 10 mmol/l most of the time. Some people – for example pregnant women – will have to strive for stricter control. Others – e.g. young children, the elderly or people at risk of severe hypoglycaemia – should aim for higher levels.
Your diabetes team will give you individual guidance on the blood glucose levels you should aim for.
In the short term, monitoring blood glucose levels is important to prevent diabetic emergencies – very high or very low blood glucose levels. Both conditions are unpleasant and can be dangerous, so they should be avoided if 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 not treated in time.