People with diabetes usually present high blood sugar levels. However, there is another condition in diabetics that turns out to be uncomfortable and often causes fear: hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar levels.
Hypoglycemia occurs in diabetic patients who use insulin as well as in those who are on oral medications. Therefore, it is important to analyze the patterns of physical activity, diet, and medication use that can lead to this situation.
According to the Mayo Clinic, hypoglycemia is a condition in which blood sugar levels are below 70 mg/dL. Among the most common causes of hypoglycemia are: high doses of anti-diabetes drugs, an insufficient diet, skipping meals, increasing physical activity without consuming enough carbohydrate-containing foods, drinking alcoholic beverages.
If you suspect you have low blood sugar levels or present episodes of hypoglycemia on a regular basis, first check your blood sugar and verify if its level is low. If your blood sugar levels are below 70 mg/dL, but above 50 mg/dL, follow the Rule of 15:
- Eat 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates.
- Check your blood glucose levels again in fifteen minutes. If the value remains below 70 mg/dL, repeat the same procedure with 15 grams of carbohydrates.
- Re-check your glucose levels 15 minutes later. If they remain below 70 mg/dL, repeat the procedure again with 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates.
- Repeat the previous steps until your blood glucose levels are above 70mg/dL.
However, the rule changes slightly if you’re blood glucose levels are below 50 mg/dL. In that case, follow these steps:
- Eat 20 to 30 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates.
- Check your blood glucose levels again in fifteen minutes. If they’re below 70 mg/dL, repeat the procedure with 15 grams of carbohydrates.
- Wait fifteen minutes to re-check your blood glucose levels. Repeat the previous steps until the value is above 70 mg/dL.
Some of the options you can take as 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates are:
- Glucose tablets (three tablets of five grams of carbs each—always check the label).
- 1 teaspoon of sugar or honey
- 4 oz of fruit juice
- 6 oz of regular soda
- 5 pieces of hard candy
Remember to consult your doctor or health care provider, and always mention if you've had symptoms related to hypoglycemia. This will facilitate determining the possible causes and making the appropriate changes in your treatment and lifestyle.
Source: Hypoglycemia and diabetes: How to treat low blood sugar (2008). Mayo Clinic Retrieved on January, 2009 from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hypoglycemia/DA00063.
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