Average Can Be Perfect

There are some major differences between type 2 diabetes and type 1 diabetes, and one difference, believe it or not, is that it’s somewhat easier to control blood glucose levels with type 1 diabetes. That’s mostly attributable to rapid acting insulin (all of us with type 1 take rapid acting insulin with meals or to correct “highs”), but also because we have often the “best” tools. Continuous blood glucose monitors and insulin pumps allow many people with type 1 diabetes to see blood glucose levels anytime, and respond to out-of-range levels immediately with food or the push of a button to deliver insulin.

So, since I have the “best” tools, 46 years experience managing my own blood glucose every day, and professional certifications as a dietitian-nutritionist and diabetes educator I feel especially qualified to give you an important piece of advice – forget perfect! This is a critically important point. Chasing perfection in blood glucose levels can be very frustrating, and frustration can lead to giving up on the effort. It’s important to accept the fact that our metabolism is just too complex to manage perfectly, even for those of us with the best tools and most experience. Perfection is a completely unrealistic goal.

Here’s the good news. With diabetes, preserving your long term health doesn’t require perfection – it’s about averages. Need proof? You’re probably familiar with the lab test for hemoglobin A1C (sometimes called HbA1C or just A1C), but do you know that A1C measures average blood glucose levels over a period of a few months? And, the target A1C of 7.0% (American Diabetes Association) is having an average blood glucose level of approximately 154 milligrams/deciliter.

Checking your blood glucose levels at home gives you a snapshot, and that information can be very useful. But, if you’re checking, for example, soon after meals, you can waste a lot of emotional energy fretting about numbers that aren’t “perfect.” Blood glucose levels rise and fall hour by hour, depending upon many factors.

Don’t let the quest for perfection discourage you. Set your sights on average – it’s A1C, your average, which counts in the long run.

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