7 tips for blood glucose management
Managing your blood glucose to keep your levels in-range can be a challenge if you live with diabetes. There are many factors that can cause blood sugar levels to spike or drop, and your body is likely to have its own unique reaction to them. Here we take a look at seven tips that could help you better manage your blood glucose levels.
1. Prioritise healthy carbs
Living with diabetes involves a complex relationship with carbohydrates. Carbs are commonly the main source of energy in a diet1, but not having the right amount can cause rapid increases or decreases in blood glucose levels. Simple, refined carbs like pasta and white bread can cause spikes in glucose levels. Try instead choosing complex, high-fibre carbs such as wholegrain breads, cereals, dried peas, lentils, fruit and vegetables2. These can cause a slower release of glucose and ensure your blood sugar levels don’t spike right after eating them. Take a look at our online carbohydrate counting resource for more information.
2. Cut down on sugar
Food and drink that is high in sugar (another simple carb) not only contains more calories, but can significantly raise your blood glucose levels as well. This is why sugary drinks and small amounts of sweets make good hypo treatments for those that need them. Look for simple swaps you can make in your diet to reduce your sugar intake more easily. For example, switching from sugary canned drinks to water infused with lemon, cucumber or berries, or green tea, and choosing healthier desserts such as a low-sugar yogurt sprinkled with berries. These options are still full of flavour while low in sugar.
3. Monitor, monitor, monitor
Regularly monitoring your blood glucose and taking action on the results can be the first line of defence against out-of-range levels. Following a structured monitoring routine can help you stay in range, plan your meals and activities, and for some people, decide insulin dosages. If you’re looking for ways to better manage your monitoring, read this article for more ideas.
4. Manage your stress
Stress can be a significant factor in raising blood glucose levels. When you are emotionally stressed your body releases a number of hormones, such as adrenaline, which cause glucose to be released from the liver and into the blood, to provide the body with enough energy to cope in a stressful situation3. This means a spike in blood glucose levels can often follow periods of feeling stressed. Finding ways to reduce stress, for example spending time outdoors, walking, meditating, practicing mindfulness and gardening, can help to keep your glucose levels under control and increase your sense of wellbeing during challenging times.
5. Exercise regularly
Exercise can often help lower blood glucose levels by increasing your insulin sensitivity and boosting glucose absorption in the muscles4. What’s more, the effects can sometimes last for several hours or even longer. In the longer term, it can lower average blood glucose levels over a period of months – which can be reflected in your HbA1c results5
If you take insulin or similar medicine, be sure to adjust your carb intake or insulin dose with your exercise and check your blood sugars before your workout. It can also be helpful to check your blood sugar level again 30 minutes after exercise, to ensure it is stable and reduce the chances of a hypo6.
6. Take extra care when ill
When you’re ill, the body is under physical stress, and so again the body releases more glucose to help it fight off the infection7. For people with diabetes, this can result in additional symptoms. Be aware of increased thirst, wanting to pass urine more often and general dehydration. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids, try to eat snacks if you can’t keep a whole meal down, check your blood glucose every four hours for signs of a hyper if you can, and follow the guidance provided by your healthcare team. If you do need to go into hospital, it’s important to let the medical team know about your diabetes.
7. Plan your alcohol intake
Alcohol lowers blood glucose levels by reducing the liver’s output of glucose. If you enjoy the occasional drink, be aware that if you’re on insulin, alcohol can increase your risk of having a hypo for up to 24 hours8. Avoid drinking on an empty stomach and make sure you drink a glass of water before you go to bed. If you’re partying away from home, ensure you’re wearing a medical ID and that someone you are with knows how to deal with a hypo. It’s also worth noting that some drinks, such as beers and ales, are higher in carb content when compared to spirits and dry wine.
1. Harvard Health Publishing (2021). Healthy eating for blood sugar control. [Online] Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/healthy-eating-fo... [Accessed 9th March 2022]
2. Diabetes UK. Carbohydrates and diabetes: What you need to know. [Online] Available at: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/enjoy-food/carbohydrates-a... 9th March 2022]
3. Diabetes Teaching Center at the University of California, San Francisco. Blood Sugar & Stress. [Online] Available at: https://dtc.ucsf.edu/types-of-diabetes/type2/understanding-type-2-diabet... [Accessed 9th March 2022]
4. Rose, A,J. and Richter, E. (2005). Skeletal Muscle Glucose Uptake During Exercise: How is it Regulated? Physiology, 20(4). pp.260-270.
5.Harvard Health Publishing (2021). The importance of exercise when you have diabetes. [Online] Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-importance-of-exercis... [Accessed 9th March 2022]
6. Diabetes UK. What is a hypo? [Online] Available at: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/complications/hypos [Accessed 9th March 2022]
7. Diabetes UK. Diabetes when you’re unwell. [Online Available at: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/life-with-diabetes/illness [Accessed 9th March 2022]
8. Diabetes UK. Alcohol and diabetes. [Online] Available at: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/enjoy-food/what-to-drink-w... [Accessed 9th March 2022]
The views expressed in the Accu-Chek blog are not necessarily those of Roche Diabetes Care Limited or our publishers. The content is provided for general information only. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely – you must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content. Although we make reasonable efforts to ensure that the content is up to date, we make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content is accurate, complete or up-to-date.