If you have diabetes, you probably know you need to need to keep a close eye on your blood sugar level. The better you can keep your blood sugar level in a healthy target range, the more likely you are to enjoy good health and a long life. Understanding the factors that influence your blood sugar level is the key to controlling it — and a healthy blood sugar level depends on more than your diet. Let’s take a look at some of the things that influence your blood sugar level on a daily basis.
1) Your Workouts
It’s true, exercising regularly keeps you fit and healthy. Over the long term, regular exercise can do a lot to keep your blood sugar level in the healthy target range. When you exercise, your body uses glucose for energy. Physical activity — even light physical activity like housework or being on your feet for a long time — helps your body use insulin more efficiently, especially if you suffer from Type 2 diabetes. As a result, your blood sugar can drop when you exercise.
While exercise is great for keeping your blood sugar level down overall, if it drops too low at any point, you could experience hypoglycemia, a dangerous medical condition. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work out — far from it — but you need a plan to work out safely. Ask your doctor what kinds of exercises would be right for you and what time of day you should exercise — coordinating your workouts with your medication and meal schedules can prevent dangerous drops in blood sugar. Check your blood sugar before, during and after exercise and have food available during your workout in case your blood sugar drops.
Increases in your activity levels could mean you’ll need to make adjustments in your approach to diabetes treatment. Talk to your doctor about what changes in your exercise levels could mean. You may need to change your insulin dose or medication schedule.
2) Colds, Flus and Infections
An immune response occurring as a result of a cold, flu or other infection could cause your blood sugar level to skyrocket. Talk to your doctor and have a plan in place for what to do if you get sick. Your doctor will probably want you to check your blood sugar more often and drink more water — dehydration can affect your blood sugar level. Your doctor will give you instructions for when you should seek emergency care, such as if you have a high fever, vomit too many times or experience confusion.
3) Hormone Fluctuations
If you’re a woman, hormone fluctuations can have an effect on your blood sugar level. Hormonal birth control methods can cause increases in your blood sugar level, and your risk of complications and side effects increases if you use the pills for more than a few years. Women going through menopause may also have trouble controlling their blood sugar levels due to hormonal shifts.
Stress, whether physical or psychological, triggers a fight-or-flight response that causes a surge in stress hormones in your body. These hormones stimulate an increase in blood sugar that’s intended to give you the energy you need to escape from a predator or other threat. But the sort of ongoing stress that plagues so many of us these days could cause your blood sugar level to stay elevated in perpetuity.
Take steps to control your stress as much as possible. Meditation, journaling, avoiding people or topics that stress you out, learning to say no, asking for fewer responsibilities at work, eliminating stressful things from your environment, meditating — all of these things can lower your stress levels and make it easier to control your blood sugar level, too.
Diabetes medications like insulin can help you control your blood sugar level if diet and exercise alone aren’t enough to keep it within the healthy range. People with type 1 diabetes will need insulin no matter what, since their bodies do not produce it. Many people with type 2 diabetes find that they need insulin and other medications to control their blood sugar level.
Many people with diabetes also need to take medications for high cholesterol, high blood pressure or other medical conditions. These medications can influence your blood sugar level, just as the foods you eat influence your blood sugar level. Monitor your blood sugar after taking medication and adjust your insulin dose accordingly.
Managing your blood sugar level can help you live a long and full life with diabetes. While what you eat and when you eat it can have a profound effect on your blood sugar level, things like stress, activity levels, infections and even other medications you may be taking can influence it as well. Make sure you understand all of the factors that can influence your blood sugar, so you can be proactive about safeguarding your health.
Rodney Sewell is an acclaimed publicist and M.D. who takes pride in his work and writes about trending, health-related issues. Connect with Rodney on Google+.