People with diabetes make mistakes, just like everyone else. Below is a list of common diabetes management mistakes, and tips to help get you back on track.
1. Underestimating the benefits of exercise
Let’s face it, we all get lazy. It’s cold outside, or we don’t feel well. Days go by with no exercise. For people with diabetes, exercising is the difference between good management and complications. Exercise helps Type 1’s better use the insulin they take, and helps Type 2’s to decrease insulin resistance.
Plan for activity, and put it on your calendar. Short 10-15 minute walks or workout routines help lower blood sugar. Exercise in the morning to get it done. Get creative, and have fun.
2. Using food cravings to correct low blood sugar
Do you use foods that you crave to treat a low blood sugar, and then overdo it? Have you eaten a container of ice cream, or a big bowl of cereal to treat a low?
Try using glucose tablets, glucose gels, or juice boxes instead of food. You won’t be tempted to over-treat. If it happens at night and you don’t remember, speak with your HCP about correcting a nighttime low blood sugar. You could require less medication.
3. Missing doses of medication or insulin
When you’re busy, you can forget a dose of oral medication or insulin, which can wreak havoc on your diabetes management.
If you take oral medications, purchase a weekly medication dispenser, and pre-fill it once weekly. Set an alarm clock, or set the alarm on your cell phone to remind you to take your medication.
4. Snacking excessively
Snacking from the bag, and eating too many salty or sweet snacks can sabotage your diabetes management. Instead of snacking from the bag, use mini zipper snack-sized bags to portion snack amounts. You can grab the right amount to take with you when you go out. Keep tempting snacks out of reach, out of sight, or, best of all, out of the house.
There are many low carb packaged snacks on the market, like KNOW Foods cookies and bars.*
5. Forgetting to adjust basal rates
Forgetting to adjust your basal rates for days with no activity, or for holiday meals, can make blood sugars spike unnecessarily.
Adjust your basal rate whenever you have a change in your routine. Meet with your insulin pump representative or certified diabetes educator to learn how to adjust your basal rates, and when it is appropriate to do so. Basal rate testing is also a good idea to determine correct basal rates.
6. Failing to pay attention to blood sugar patterns
When we think of our blood sugar as only a number, we miss the point. Checking your blood sugar is not done so that you can give your doctor a good list of numbers to go by, but so that you can look at, and manage your own patterns.
You could cut your carbohydrates, take a walk, or take more medication if needed for a high blood sugar after a meal.
If you are having low blood sugar in the middle of the night, you may need your doctor to adjust your insulin dose. The point is, always use your blood sugars to adjust your self-management behavior.
7. Stacking insulin
Sometimes we forget how long the insulin we take stays in our system, and after eating a meal heavy in carbohydrates, we may be susceptible to stacking insulin, or repeated bolusing. Stacking insulin can lead to low blood sugar that can be hard to bring back up. Make sure you understand how long the type of insulin that you are taking stays in your system. That way you will know when it is safe to take more.
8. Not allowing enough time for pre-meal insulin to work
For some people, not taking insulin ahead of a meal, will lead to post-meal blood sugar spikes.
You can help to prevent these spikes by checking blood sugar earlier, and bolusing 15-30 minutes (depending on blood glucose levels) before eating. Some types of insulin (rapid, ultra-rapid) respond more quickly, so you may need to talk to your HCP about the right time for you to bolus based on your insulin.
9. Mixing up insulin pens
Mix up your insulin pens, and you end up injecting the wrong kind of insulin.
If your insulin pens are similar in color, use different colored ribbons, or make a red warning label. Write, “Rapid,” or “Basal,” to remind yourself which is which. Keep your pens in separate areas. Keep rapid in the kitchen, and basal in the bathroom.
10. Failing to be in charge of diabetes
When you have a chronic condition like diabetes, it’s easy to get burned out. The problem is, that’s when things get worse.
It’s time for a refresher, and a reason to take the reins back. Try a support group, or take an exercise class. Talk to a close friend or relative about your struggles. See your doctor if you feel depressed. Read magazines and books for new recipes, and ways to motivate yourself. See this list of things that helped one young woman cure diabetes burnout.
*Disclosure: KNOW Foods has previously sponsored Diabetes Media Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes ASweetLife. This is not an affiliate link.