Preventing Low Blood Sugar
By Hope Warshaw, MMSC, RD, CDE, diabetes educator, consultant, and Coordinator of the Perrigo Diabetes Care advisory board; and Riva Greenberg, diabetes patient-expert, author, speaker, and Huffington Post columnist contributed to this article.
While you always want to be prepared to correct a low, there's a lot you can do to help prevent low blood sugar episodes. One of the best ways is to eat similar amounts of carbohydrate throughout the day. Here are several more actions you can take to help prevent low blood sugar.
- Know your blood sugar targets. Knowing what blood sugar range to aim for will help you keep your blood sugar from going too low.
- Check your blood sugar. Regularly checking your blood sugar is important for anyone on insulin and glucose-lowering medication to help keep blood sugar in a healthy range. You'll also see how what you eat and your activity affect your blood sugar. This will help you make good decisions in the future.
- Time your medication. Try to take your blood glucose-lowering medicines at similar times each day.
- Try not to skip or delay meals. If it seems that you'll have to miss or delay a meal, and you haven't recently had a snack, have a quick snack. It may help to keep a few nonperishable snacks close at hand: crackers, dried fruit, pretzels, nuts, fruit juice, or milk boxes.
- Work with a diabetes educator or dietitian on your eating plan. Knowing how to balance what and how much you eat with your blood sugar-lowering medicines can help you limit lows. Ask your healthcare professional for a referral to a diabetes educator or dietitian if you need one.
- Eat food when you drink alcohol. Eat some carbohydrate, such as pretzels, popcorn, or an appetizer, when you drink alcohol to prevent a low. If you're drinking a sweet drink it may not be necessary. Before you go to sleep after drinking, always check your blood sugar. If it is low, take some pure glucose or eat some carbohydrate to prevent it from going lower while you sleep.
- Exercise safely. Being active can lower your blood sugar. If you aren't used to exercising, check your blood glucose before and during your activity. Remember, an hour of gardening or doing housework is exercise!
- Educate others. Teach people close to you the signs and symptoms of low blood sugar and how to help you.
- Talk to your healthcare professional. If you are having several lows a week, report this to your healthcare professional and be ready to share your blood sugar results. It's likely that you need to adjust one or more aspects or your diabetes care plan.
- Consider a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). If you are prone to severe lows, your healthcare professional may recommend wearing a CGM (a device that measures your blood sugar in real time.)
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As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the benefits that made it cost-effective for me to go with the real healthcare (HSA) plan rather than the phony (HRA) plan is that my company is now covering "preventative" medicines at $0 copay. The formulary for these, as stated by CVS/Caremark (my pharmacy benefits provider), covers all test strips, lancets, and control solutions. I dutifully get my doctor to write up prescriptions for all of my testing needs, submit...