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What To Do When My Sugar Is Low

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If you dont feel better after three tries, or if your symptoms get worse, call your healthcare provider or 911. Healthcare providers can use a medication called glucagon. They inject it with a needle or squirt it up your nose. Glucagon is also available for home use. Your healthcare provider can prescribe it and teach a family member or friend how to use it in the event of severe hypoglycemia.

Symptoms And Treatment Of Hyperglycemia

Hyperglycemia doesn’t cause symptoms immediately. After blood sugar has been high for days or weeks, you may have symptoms including:

These symptoms can progress to mental confusion, seizures, problems with vision, and loss of consciousness.

Hypoglycemia requires immediate action. Most of those with diabetes know to take a high-calorie drink or snack if they have symptoms of hypoglycemia. If this doesn’t work, it’s important to get medical help right away. If someone who doesn’t have diabetes has these symptoms, quick treatment is also important.

How Can I Tell If Someone Has Low Blood Sugar

Someone with low blood sugar may have some or all of these symptoms:

  • Trembling/shaking
  • Anger, anxiety and irritability

If they dont consume something quickly enough to treat the problem, they could have more serious symptoms, including passing out, experiencing mouth or tongue numbness, losing coordination or even experiencing seizures or coma.

If you know someone has diabetes and theyre displaying symptoms of low blood sugar, ask them if theyve checked their blood sugar recently or if they could check it right away.

If their blood sugar is low enough, they may not be able to process the question. You can try to get them to eat or drink something to slowly raise it.

Some people may get defensive when you ask about their blood sugar, but its common to become irritable and act unlike yourself when its low.

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Cut Back On Sugary Drinks

Most added sugars in the American diet come from sugary drinks sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened teas, and others .

Additionally, drinks that many people perceive as healthy, such as smoothies and fruit juices, can still contain astounding amounts of added sugar.

For example, 1 cup of cranberry juice cocktail contains more than 7 teaspoons of sugar .

Additionally, your body doesnt recognize calories from drinks in the same way as those from food. Calories from drinks are absorbed quickly, resulting in a rapid increase in your blood sugar level.

Drinks also dont make you feel as full as solid food, so people who consume lots of calories from drinks dont eat less to compensate (

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There are several artificial sweeteners on the market that are totally free of sugar and calories, such as sucralose and aspartame.

However, these artificial sweeteners may be linked to imbalances in gut bacteria that can lead to poorer blood sugar control, increased food cravings, and weight gain. For this reason, it may be best to avoid artificial sweeteners too (

They are all naturally derived, although they do go through some processing before they arrive at your local grocery store. Still, research on these sugar alternatives is ongoing.

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What Is Blood Glucose In The Context Of Exercise

When we exercise, we predominately use energy from two sources: fat or glucose. Fat already stored in our body is the primary way we power low-intensity exercise . This means that walking and chatting with a friend or a long easy bike ride uses fat as fuel. However, fat molecules take longer to dissociate and become available for us to use as energy. Thus, when we need energy quickly, like during a sprint or all-out effort, fat is not an option. In these high-intensity circumstances we turn to blood glucose as our main fuel source. The higher the intensity of our workout, the greater the proportion of energy that comes from glucose.

What Is The Outlook For People With Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia can be managed when you and your healthcare provider understand what causes your blood sugar to go down. Give your healthcare provider as much information as possible about any hypoglycemic episodes. Fixing the problem may be as simple as changing the times you take medication, eat and exercise. Minor changes to the types of food you eat may also help.

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Treating An Episode Of Hypoglycaemia

The immediate treatment for hypoglycaemia is to have some sugary food or drink to end the attack.

For example, this could be:

  • a glass of fruit juice or non-diet soft drink
  • between three and five dextrose tablets
  • a handful of sweets

At first you should avoid fatty foods and drinks, such as chocolate and milk, because they don’t usually contain as much sugar and the sugar they do contain may be absorbed more slowly.

After having something sugary, you should have a longer-acting carbohydrate food, such as a few biscuits, a cereal bar, a piece of fruit or a sandwich.

It will usually take around 15 minutes to recover from a mild episode of hypoglycaemia. If you have a blood glucose meter, measure your blood sugar again after 15 to 20 minutes. If it’s still too low , you should have some more sugary food or a drink before testing your levels again in another 15 to 20 minutes.

When treating someone else with hypoglycaemia, if the above treatment isn’t effective, you may be able to help them by applying glucose gel to the inside of their cheeks, and gently massaging the outside of their cheeks.

It may take 10 to 15 minutes before they feel better. This shouldn’t be done if the person is drowsy or unconscious because of the risk of choking.

Symptoms Of A Low Blood Sugar Level

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A low blood sugar level can affect everyone differently. You’ll learn how it makes you feel, although your symptoms may change over time.

Early signs of a low blood sugar level include:

  • a fast or pounding heartbeat
  • becoming easily irritated, tearful, anxious or moody

If a low blood sugar level is not treated, you may get other symptoms, such as:

  • unusual behaviour, slurred speech or clumsiness
  • seizures or fits
  • collapsing or passing out

A low blood sugar level, or hypo, can also happen while you’re sleeping. This may cause you to wake up during the night or cause headaches, tiredness or damp sheets in the morning.

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Best Foods For Low Blood Sugar

For patients with diabetes, monitoring blood sugar levels is a part of daily life.

Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, can occur for many people with diabetes who are on certain medications, including insulin and sulfonylureas. It can occur for a variety of reasons including skipping a meal, exercising strenuously, taking too much insulin or consuming alcohol, especially on an empty stomach.

Low blood sugar can be as minor as a slight inconvenience or as serious as a life-threatening emergency. Thats why it is important to boost blood sugar before it becomes problematic.

Angela Norton, a diabetes educator at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, has diabetes herself, so she knows firsthand the tips and tricks of keeping blood sugar on track. Although blood glucose is considered normal if above 70 mg/dL, Norton says patients with diabetes should not wait until they reach below that threshold to take action.

Treat when you feel the symptoms, even if your blood sugar is not below 70, because as long as it is less than 100, it may be dropping fast, she says.

When it comes to treatment, Norton shares these five foods to help boost low blood sugar.

1. CandyWhen hypoglycemia occurs, patients should follow the 15-15 rule. Consume 15 grams of carbohydrates to raise blood glucose and check your levels again after 15 minutes. When the numbers return to normal, eat a snack to stay on track.

Gummy candies contain carbohydrates, which have a large impact on blood sugar levels.

Your Hypoglycemia Action Plan

If you experience symptoms of hypoglycemia, its important to take action. Start with these steps:

Test your blood sugar. If you recognize any of these symptoms and believe your blood sugar may be too low, the first step you should take is to test your blood sugar with your glucose meter, Tan says. Anything less than 70 milligrams per deciliter is considered low blood sugar, according to the National Library of Medicine . However, target levels are often individualized, so talk with your healthcare provider about your optimal numbers, Tan adds.

Eat or drink fast-acting carbs. If you have low blood sugar, you need to take action right away. Your best bet is to consume about 15 grams of carbohydrates, the NLM says. Some options include:

  • ½ cup or 4 ounces of orange juice
  • ½ cup or 4 ounces of regular soda
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar dissolved in water
  • 1 tablespoon of honey or maple syrup
  • 5 or 6 hard candies, jelly beans, or gumdrops
  • 1 tablespoon of cake frosting
  • 2 tablespoons of raisins
  • ½ cup of applesauce

You can also take three to four glucose tablets or a tube of glucose gel. Everyone who takes medications for diabetes should always have glucose tablets with them, Galindo urges.

Wait, then retest. The next step is to wait 15 minutes, then test your blood sugar again. If blood sugar has reached 100 mg/dl or greater, youre fine. If not…

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How Can I Tell If My Blood Sugar Is Irregular

Again, only a doctor can diagnose a problem with your blood sugar. But you may be wondering how to know if its something you should get checked out. There can be two main issues with your blood sugar either its consistently too high or too low. Even if you dont have diabetes, there are some signs that your blood sugar levels are not functioning normally.

Hypoglycemia is a condition in which your blood sugar is too low. Signs include an irregular heartbeat, fatigue, shakiness and tingling or numbness in your face. If you consistently feel this way when you get hungry or between meals, talk to your healthcare provider.

On the flipside, hyperglycemia happens when your blood sugar is too high, and can happen to nondiabetics. Symptoms include frequent urination, increased thirst and headache. If you think youre hyperglycemic and cant keep fluids or food down, call for emergency medical assistance.

Knowing Your High And Low Blood Sugar Symptoms Allows You To Test

Printable 7 Day Low Sugar Meal Plan

Once you understand symptoms of high and low blood sugar, it is possible to test quickly and avoid serious problems.

Keeping to a clear target range is one of the key goals of diabetes management, and knowing when you have the symptoms of high or low blood sugar levels allows you to test your blood sugar and make a correction.

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Easy Ways To Cut Back On Sugar

Trying to get down to the recommended level of sugar all at once can feel overwhelming. Follow this plan and you can easily reduce your sugar intake over the course of a few weeks while still indulging your sweet tooth on occasion.

Step 1: Know how much you eat. Take a look at what treats you have during your average day, and be mindful of how it adds up, Dunn says. Notice habits you might be able to adjustsuch as always grabbing a doughnut when you buy a cup of coffee in the morning, reaching for a sugary pick-me-up in the afternoon, and having dessert every night. Cutting out just one of those each week will help with your overall sugar intake.

Then focus on how sweet your food tastes. So many foodseven savory ones like bread and salad dressingcontain added sugars, and thats trained our taste buds to expect that sweetness in nearly everything we eat, says Rachel Cheatham, PhD, an adjunct assistant professor at the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy in Boston. As you cut back, you may start to notice that things like cake taste overly sweet and that foods you never thought of as sweetlike carrots and appleshave a pleasantly sweet taste, she says. As you become more aware of the sweetness in foods, your preferences will begin to shift.

Editors Note: A version of this article also appeared in the August 2021 issue of Consumer Reports on Health.

Sally Wadyka

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What Can Cause Low Blood Sugar Levels

Some things that can make low blood sugar levels more likely are:

  • skipping meals and snacks
  • not eating enough food during a meal or snack
  • exercising longer or harder than usual without eating some extra food
  • getting too much insulin
  • not timing the insulin doses properly with meals, snacks, and exercise

Also, some things may increase how quickly insulin gets absorbed into the bloodstream and can make hypoglycemia more likely. These include:

  • taking a hot shower or bath right after having an insulin injection increases blood flow through the blood vessels in the skin, which can make the insulin be absorbed more quickly than usual
  • injecting the shot into a muscle instead of the fatty layer under the skin
  • injecting the insulin into a part of the body used a lot in a particular sport .

All of these situations increase the chances that a person may get hypoglycemia.

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Overdose Of Diabetes Medication

A common cause of hypoglycaemia is taking too much insulin for your current needs. Insulin is a medication that helps control your blood glucose levels. It’s commonly used to treat type 1 diabetes and is also recommended for some people with type 2 diabetes.

A fall in blood glucose levels can also occur after taking too much oral hypoglycaemia medication, such as sulphonylurea, which causes a release of insulin. This medication is often used to lower blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

Preventing A Low Blood Sugar Level

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If you have diabetes, you can reduce your chance of getting a low blood sugar level if you:

  • Check your blood sugar level regularly and be aware of the symptoms of a low blood sugar level so you can treat it quickly.
  • Use a continuous glucose monitor or flash monitor to see how your blood sugar levels are changing. Ask your diabetes care team about getting a monitor if you do not already have one.
  • Always carry a sugary snack or drink with you, such as glucose tablets, a carton of fruit juice or some sweets. If you have a glucagon injection kit, always keep it with you.
  • Do not skip meals.
  • Be careful when drinking alcohol. Do not drink large amounts, check your blood sugar level regularly, and eat a carbohydrate snack afterwards.
  • Be careful when exercising eating a carbohydrate snack before exercise can help to reduce the risk of a hypo. If you take some types of diabetes medicine, your doctor may recommend you take a lower dose before or after doing intense exercise.
  • Have a carbohydrate snack, such as toast, if your blood sugar level drops too low while you’re asleep .

If you keep getting a low blood sugar level, talk to your diabetes care team about things you can do to help prevent it.

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Complications From Spells Of Hypoglycemia

Mildly low blood sugar levels are somewhat common for people with diabetes. However, severely low blood sugar levels can be life threatening. They may lead to seizures and nervous system damage if left untreated long enough. Immediate treatment is critical.

Its important to recognize your symptoms and treat them quickly. For people at risk for low blood sugar, having a glucagon kit a medication that raises blood sugar levels is important. Talk with your doctor for more information.

You may also want to talk with friends, family members, exercise partners, and co-workers about how to care for you if your blood sugar drops too low.

Its important for them to recognize low blood sugar symptoms and to know how to use the glucagon kit, as well as understand the importance of calling 911 if you lose consciousness.

Wearing a medical identification bracelet is a good idea. It can help emergency responders care for you properly if you need urgent medical attention.

Treat low blood sugar as soon as possible. Avoid driving if you are experiencing low blood sugar, as it can increase your risk for having an accident.

There are several ways you can prevent low blood sugar. Well look at each of these prevention methods in more detail below.

How Do I Treat Hypoglycemia

A mild case of hypoglycemia can be treated through eating or drinking 15-20g of fast acting carbohydrate such as glucose tablets, sweets, sugary fizzy drinks or fruit juice.

Some people with diabetes may also need to take 15-20g of slower acting carbohydrate if the next meal is not due.

A blood test should be taken after 15-20 minutes to check whether blood glucose levels have recovered. Severe hypoglycemia may require an ambulance, for example if loss of consciousness occurs or a seizure persists for more than 5 minutes.

Severe hypos can be treated with glucagon if a glucagon injection kit is available and in date.

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Preventing Low Blood Sugar

Preventing low blood sugar is better than having to treat it. Always have a source of fast-acting sugar with you.

  • When you exercise, check your blood sugar levels. Make sure you have snacks with you.
  • Talk to your provider about reducing insulin doses on days that you exercise.
  • Ask your provider if you need a bedtime snack to prevent low blood sugar overnight. Protein snacks may be best.

Do not drink alcohol without eating food. Women should limit alcohol to 1 drink a day and men should limit alcohol to 2 drinks a day. Family and friends should know how to help. They should know:

  • The symptoms of low blood sugar and how to tell if you have them.
  • How much and what kind of food they should give you.
  • When to call for emergency help.
  • How to inject glucagon, a hormone that increases your blood sugar. Your provider will tell you when to use this medicine.

If you have diabetes, always wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace. This helps emergency medical workers know you have diabetes.

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