Should I Worry About Hypoglycemia?
Whenever the lunch hour rolls around, we may here a coworker, friend or relative, exclaim that they must eat because their blood glucose is low. Yes, low blood glucose controls will trigger our hunger signals, and it can even make us cranky, moody, or unable to focus. As annoying as this is however, having low blood glucose does not automatically mean a person has hypoglycemia. Their blood glucose is likely just at the bottom of the ‘normal’ scale.
What is the normal scale?
A ‘normal’ blood glucose level is one which fluctuates between 70-140 mg/dL. Whenever a blood glucose level starts to drop below 70 mg/dL, it starts entering hypoglycemic territory.
Hypoglycemia is a condition in which the body doesn’t have enough glucose to fuel itself properly and perform its many bodily functions, including our day to day tasks and activities. It is not just a ‘low blood sugar,’ it is an abnormally low blood sugar.
This is an important distinction because when a person is suffering from a hypoglycemic event, they aren’t just hungry – in fact, if the blood glucose level is low enough, they could lose consciousness and even die.
When should I worry about Hypoglycemia?
Not every person with type 2 diabetes will experience hypoglycemia, especially if they are not on any medications. Hypoglycemia is more common among persons who are taking such oral agents as sulfonylureas, or injecting insulin.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia may include: blurry vision, shakiness, heart palpitations, mood swings, confusion, sweating, dizziness, etc. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms it’s important to test your blood glucose level immediately.
How do I treat hypoglycemia?
It’s important that we test our blood sugar to ensure that we are actually treating hypoglycemia, and not simply overeating.
Follow the 15/15 Rule:
Consume 15 grams of fast acting carbohydrate, and wait 15 minutes to test with your glucose meter.
If blood glucose is below 70 mg/dL, consume 15 grams of fast acting carbohydrates (such as glucose tabs, glucose gels, ½ cup of orange juice or regular soda, etc.), wait 15 minutes, and retest. Follow this procedure until blood glucose is above normal, and then consume a snack with protein such as a tablespoon of peanut butter.
Do Not Have Pastries or Chocolate:
It can be tempting to have chocolates or desserts whenever we’re experiencing hypoglycemia, but this is not the right thing to do. Whenever we are treating hypoglycemia, it’s important that we consume straight sugar or glucose – that is, a food that only has glucose or sugar, and no protein or fat. Protein and fat will slow down digestion and therefore, delay glucose absorption. Blood glucose levels may drop critically while waiting for the body to digest protein and fat. This may put our lives in danger, if blood glucose is low enough.
Consuming too many sweets and treats when our blood glucose is low may also lead us to mismanage the situation and cause a rebounding high blood sugar reading later on.
Most hypoglycemic incidents may be safely handled, or even prevented with adequate planning. With regularly scheduled snacks throughout the day, especially before exercising or strenuous work, and with properly dosed medication, we may be able to curtail or avoid critically low blood glucose situations. Additionally, there are on-the-go glucose tablets or gels that a person with diabetes may carry around and keep on their person in the event of an emergency.
If you are experiencing regular hypoglycemic events, speak to your doctor or certified diabetes educator. You just may need an adjustment to your medication, or help planning out your meals.
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, sleep apnea, RLS) in addition to your diabetes?