If balancing your blood sugar levels feels like hard work, these strategies can help.
When you live with diabetes, balanced blood sugar can be elusive. You might feel like you are always fighting high blood sugar levels, fearing low levels, and are never quite able to hit the ideal number when you test at home.
Aside from frequent testing on your own, your doctor will use a HbA1C test to show your average blood sugar level over several months. While there is an ideal range, your doctor will assess your results for your specific health needs.
If you’re having difficulty reaching the target goals set by your doctor, try these steps for better blood sugar control:
- Count Your Carbs
Understanding how many carbohydrates are appropriate at meals and snacks, how your body responds to carbs, and how to calculate your insulin therapy requirements is key when it comes to successful blood sugar control. Work with your doctor to understand how many carbohydrates you should eat every day.
- Work with a Nutritionist
Having a registered dietitian (RD), a certified diabetes educator (CDE), or a professional with both credentials on your diabetes care team will give you an edge in learning how to manage diet, exercise, insulin, and blood sugar. A nutritionist can help you craft a diet that meets all of your goals (e.g. – weight loss, reducing heart disease risk factors, etc.)
- Read Food Labels
Once you understand carb counting, go one step further and learn how to figure out what’s in the food you’re eating. This is important because many foods might have the same carbohydrate content per serving but differences in other nutrients, such as fiber, which can affect how quickly your blood sugar level might rise. For instance, whole-grain, high-fiber pasta will affect blood sugar less than white pasta will.
- Check Your Blood Sugar Regularly
Even people with poorly controlled diabetes can improve their blood sugar control with a structured plan for self-monitoring blood glucose levels. In order to get a better understanding of how your body responds to food, insulin, exercise, and other aspects of your lifestyle, record your results and share them with your doctor at every visit.
- Understand Types of Insulin
There are four basic types of insulin that can help keep your blood sugar levels in check: long-acting, intermediate-acting, short-acting, and rapid-acting insulin. Long-acting insulin may be taken once or twice during the day and will help exert steady control over blood sugar day and night. Rapid-acting insulin is taken right before a meal to control blood sugar levels at mealtime. This type of insulin may be dosed based on the carbohydrates in a given meal. Short- and intermediate-acting insulin have later onsets and continue working longer than rapid-acting insulin, but they have a shorter duration than the long-acting insulin. Ask your doctor if one of these types of insulin or a combination of them might be helpful to you. Be sure you learn exactly how your specific insulin therapy works.
Getting more than two and a half hours of exercise a week, with a mix of strength training and aerobic exercise, leads to a reduction in blood sugar levels over time. You should always check your blood sugar level before and after workouts to prevent hypoglycemia. If you exercise vigorously or for extended periods, test after about 30 minutes of working out.
- Get Enough Sleep
Getting too much or too little sleep makes blood sugar control more difficult. Seven hours of sleep a night is a must for controlling blood sugar. If you’re not getting enough sleep or sleeping too much, these habits can help:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
- Make your room cool and dark
- Create a relaxing bedtime ritual
- Turn off the TV, computer, and other screens before bed
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine at night
- Reserve the bed for sleep and sex
- Manage Stress
Any sort of stress that activates the adrenalin system will raise your blood sugar. Your best bet is to learn stress reduction techniques, which can range from meditation and deep breathing to delegating tasks and improving your time management. Some of your other blood sugar control strategies, such as getting enough exercise and sleep, can also help with stress management.