Most of the food you eat is broken down into sugar (also called glucose) and released into your bloodstream for use as your body’s main source of energy. Diabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels are too high. If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, it is very important to keep your blood sugar numbers in your target range. You may need to check your blood sugar levels several times each day.
Your pancreas releases insulin when your blood sugar goes up after eating. Insulin acts like a key to let the blood sugar into your body’s cells for use as energy. When blood sugar and insulin are high in the blood, the liver absorbs blood sugar and stores it as glycogen. The liver can turn it back into blood sugar later when it’s needed for energy.
Carbohydrates, or carbs, have a direct effect on your blood sugar levels. Along with proteins and fats, carbs are one of the three main nutrients found in foods and drinks. If you have diabetes, planning what you eat is very important. Counting carbs—adding up all the carbs in everything you eat and drink—is a tool you can use to help you manage blood sugar levels.
Checking Blood Sugar Levels
Checking your blood sugar levels regularly helps track what makes your numbers go up and down. For example, being sick, stress, or eating certain foods may cause your numbers to go up. When you take your medicine, get more active, or eat less than usual, your numbers may go down. High blood sugar, also known as hyperglycemia, means your blood sugar level is higher than your target level. If this continues over time, it can lead to long-term, serious health problems.
Low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia, means your blood sugar level dropped below 70 mg/dl and is more common in people with type 1 diabetes. Low blood sugar is dangerous and should be treated as soon as possible. If you take insulin or certain pills for diabetes, you have a greater risk of having low blood sugar whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
Ketones, Ketosis, and Ketoacidosis
Ketosis and ketoacidosis both involve the production of ketones in the body. However, while ketosis is generally safe, ketoacidosis can be life-threatening.
When there isn’t enough sugar in the body for activities, the liver releases enough sugar to be used for parts of the body like the brain, red blood cells, and parts of the kidney. For the rest of the body, the liver makes an acid called ketones that breaks down body fat for energy.
If blood sugar is in the normal range, ketones are generally not harmful. Ketosis occurs when the level of ketones in your blood or urine is high, but not high enough to cause ketoacidosis. You can be in ketosis if you’re on a low-carbohydrate diet or fasting.
If you have type 1 diabetes, you may build up too many ketones in your blood and develop diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). DKA is a very serious condition that could lead to coma or death. It’s rare in people with type 2 diabetes but could be a side effect of some medicines used for type 2 diabetes. If your blood sugar stays over 240 mg/dL after 2 checks, you should test your urine for ketones.
Although ketosis and ketoacidosis both cause ketone levels in the body to rise, they are not the same. Nutritional ketosis is the aim of the ketogenic diet, and it is generally safe, whereas ketoacidosis is a potentially dangerous complication of type 1 diabetes. People with diabetes should avoid ketogenic diets and follow their doctor’s treatment recommendations to prevent ketoacidosis. Ketogenic diets can help people lose weight and may offer some health benefits. However, it is always best to talk to a doctor before trying a new diet.
How to Control Blood Sugar?
Lifestyle choices can often help you manage your blood sugar levels. Eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting regular exercise can help. Other tips for controlling blood sugar include:
Exercise increases insulin sensitivity and helps your muscles pick up sugars from the blood. This can lead to reduced blood sugar levels.
Control Your Carb Intake:
Carbs are broken down into glucose, which raises blood sugar levels. Reducing carbohydrate intake can help with blood sugar control.
Increase Your Fiber Intake:
Eating plenty of fiber can help with blood sugar control, and soluble dietary fiber is the most effective.
Drink Water and Stay Hydrated:
Staying hydrated can reduce blood sugar levels and help prevent diabetes. Water is the best.
Choose Foods With a Low Glycemic Index:
It’s important to choose foods with a low glycemic index and watch your overall carb intake.
Control Stress Levels:
Controlling stress levels through exercise or relaxation methods such as yoga will help you control blood sugars.
Get Enough Quality Sleep:
Good sleep helps maintain blood sugar control and promotes a healthy weight. Poor sleep can disrupt important metabolic hormones.
Lose Some Weight:
Keeping a healthy weight and waistline will help you maintain normal blood sugar levels and decrease your risk of developing diabetes.
Keep a record of your blood sugar numbers to see what makes your levels go up or down. Your doctor, dietitian, and health care team will help guide you in how to live healthier to prevent serious health problems. Talk to your health care team for more information about diabetes and blood sugar. Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance plans pay for the A1C test and some of the cost of supplies for checking your blood sugar. Check your plan or ask your health care team for help finding low-cost or free supplies. Ask what to do if you run out of test strips.