- How to maintain blood sugar levels
- Maintaining blood sugar through diet
- Medication for high and low blood sugar
- Blood sugar supplements
- Exercises to maintain blood sugar
- What is a normal blood sugar level?
- Why should you test your blood sugar?
- When to test your blood sugar
- How to monitor blood sugar
Maintaining and controlling your blood sugar levels can feel like a balancing act.
If you have diabetes, you’ll likely experience both highs and lows over the course of a week. Or you might even have both on the same day.
It’s possible to have balanced blood sugars when living with diabetes, but it can take some trial and error to see what works best for you.
Keep reading to learn how to maintain your blood sugar levels.
How to maintain blood sugar levels
The sections below discuss how to main blood glucose levels through dietary changes, medication, exercise, and supplements.
Maintaining blood sugar through diet
If you have high blood sugar, here are three helpful tips to help you lower your blood sugar levels.
Avoid sugary drinks
Sweet drinks like soda, sweetened tea and coffee, and fruit-flavored drinks are very high in added sugar.
Liquids are emptied from your stomach very quickly, meaning the sugar from the drinks is available in your bloodstream way faster than eating solid food with carbohydrates or sugar.
Sugary drinks are one of the leading culprits behind spikes in blood sugar levels. One 12-ounce can of standard cola provides 33 grams of added sugar, which is beyond the daily recommendation of fewer than 25 grams of added sugar per day for women and close to the limit of fewer than 36 grams of added sugar per day for men.
Practice portion control with carbohydrates
Carbohydrates (carbs) are a type of nutrient your body uses for energy. You can find carbohydrates in foods like grains, fruit, legumes, vegetables, and some dairy products like milk and yogurt.
Many vegetables are very low in carbohydrates, but a few vegetables are considered starchy and raise your blood sugar more, like potatoes, winter squash, corn, and peas.
To practice portion control of carbohydrates and promote healthy blood sugar levels, try keeping your carbohydrate portions to a quarter of your plate, similar to the Diabetes Plate Method.
This method doesn’t require carbohydrate counting but helps you visualize your carbohydrate portions using a standard plate.
Eat a balanced diet
Eating the right foods can help maintain your blood sugar levels. Protein is one of the three main nutrients, along with carbohydrates and fat.
Unlike carbohydrates, protein doesn’t raise blood sugar levels. Eating protein with carbohydrates can promote more balanced blood sugar levels and help prevent blood sugar spikes.
Examples of protein include meat (red and white meat), poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and nut butter, seeds, legumes, and soy products.
Like protein, dietary fat doesn’t have a significant impact on your blood sugar levels and can make you feel full. Healthy fats are low in saturated fat, which is recommended when you have diabetes for your heart health.
Healthy fats typically come from plant-based foods like nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, and avocados, but they’re also found in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines.
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Medication for high and low blood sugar
High blood sugar
If your healthcare provider recommends medication to manage your diabetes, there are several options, including pills and injections.
Some of the most common diabetes drugs include metformin, sulfonylureas, insulin injections, and non-insulin injectables.
Some medications come with a risk of low blood sugar, such as sulfonylureas and insulin.
Metformin is a common drug to start with because it tends to be effective, isn’t expensive, and doesn’t cause low blood sugar.
You can try different medication regimens to find what works for you.
Low blood sugar
Glucagon is a hormone that helps raise blood sugar levels. You can get a prescription for a glucagon injection from your healthcare provider.
You use a glucagon injection like an insulin pen and inject it into the thigh, abdomen, or upper arm.
Blood sugar supplements
Some supplements might help improve insulin sensitivity and help lower blood sugar levels if you have type 2 diabetes.
Supplement claims aren’t always backed by research, so you should ask a trusted healthcare provider for guidance or do your own research before starting a supplement.
Some popular supplements for diabetes include cinnamon, berberine, magnesium, and vitamin D, among others.
Exercises to maintain blood sugar
High blood sugar
Exercise is a great way to lower high blood sugar. Exercising causes your body to use up extra glucose, which lowers your blood glucose levels.
The key to exercise is to find something you find enjoyable. Try to make exercise fun by doing things like walking with a friend, hiking, biking, swimming, dancing, or paddleboarding.
Activities like horseback riding and gardening are also forms of exercise since they can increase your heart rate and can build muscle.
Resistance exercise can also be helpful because it builds muscle, improving insulin sensitivity. Body weight exercises like pushups, squats, and lunges can build muscle, as well as using resistance bands.
Low blood sugar
If you’re prone to low blood sugar, you can still exercise, but you need to take some precautions.
You might need to check your blood sugar before you exercise. If it’s low, treat it until it’s normal before beginning your exercise.
Blood sugar levels typically fall after exercise or when you’re doing endurance activities that last more than an hour.
Be sure to eat enough carbohydrates before, during, and after exercising to prevent low blood sugar and maintain your glucose levels.
Pretzels, glucose gels, and dried fruit are all great choices to have on hand while exercising.
What is a normal blood sugar level?
In a person without diabetes, a normal blood sugar range usually falls between 70-140 mg/dL.
A normal blood sugar range for someone with diabetes can vary depending on many factors (patient age, other health conditions, etc.).
Blood sugar levels fluctuate throughout the day, such as after eating meals and snacks. There are different blood sugar guidelines from different organizations, which are summarized below:
American Diabetes Association (ADA) blood sugar goals:
|Pre-meal:||1-2 hours after starting a meal:||Hemoglobin A1c (average blood sugar over the past 90 days):|
|80-130 mg/dL||Less than 180 mg/dL||Less than 7%|
American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) blood sugar goals:
|Fasting:||2 hour postprandial (after meal):||Hemoglobin A1c (average blood sugar over the past 90 days):|
|Less than 110 mg/dL||Less than 140 mg/dL||6.5% or lower|
Blood sugar goals for women with gestational diabetes are the most strict, as high blood sugar during pregnancy can lead to adverse outcomes in the mother and baby. Blood sugar goals for gestational diabetes are below:
|Fasting/before meals:||1 hour after a meal:||2 hours after a meal:|
|95 mg/dL or less||140 mg/dL or less||120 mg/dL or less|
The numbers above are guidelines for the general population and don’t take into consideration your personal health history. You should ask your healthcare provider what your blood sugar target range is.
Why should you test your blood sugar?
There are several benefits to checking your blood glucose levels. Let’s look at a few of the best reasons to monitor your blood sugar at home, not just at your regular diabetes check-ups.
Awareness of blood sugar trends, both high and low
Without checking your blood sugar regularly, you’re less likely to be aware of the times when your blood sugar is high.
While you can have symptoms when your blood sugar levels are very high, you generally can’t feel high blood sugar levels.
Some people might not be aware when their blood sugar is low or trending down. For instance, if your blood sugar is 100 mg/dL at bedtime and you don’t check it, injecting a bedtime dose of insulin could drop it too low while you sleep.
Know when to check for ketones
When your blood sugar levels are very high, your body can go into ketosis due to the lack of insulin available.
If you check your blood sugar and it’s very high, you’ll know to check for ketones to see if you need to seek medical attention for DKA.
Prevent and treat hypoglycemia
Hypoglycemia is when blood sugar falls below 70 mg/dL.
Low blood sugar comes with several common symptoms, but not all people are aware of when they’re experiencing a low.
Hypoglycemia unawareness is a condition when you can no longer tell when you’re experiencing low blood sugar.
Checking your blood sugar when you feel symptoms helps you better treat hypoglycemia.
If you monitor your blood sugar and it’s low, you’ll need to treat it by eating or drinking 15 grams of carbohydrates and re-checking your blood sugar in 15 minutes, repeating the process until your blood sugar is above 70 mg/dL.
Without checking your blood sugar, you wouldn’t know how it was responding to the treatment or if you needed to seek medical attention for a severe bout of hypoglycemia (below 54 mg/dL).
Adjust insulin doses
If you’re taking insulin to manage your diabetes, you might need to adjust your dose based on your blood sugar readings.
This is especially true if you’re taking mealtime insulin on a “sliding scale,” which is when you adjust your insulin dose based on your blood sugar before you eat.
You wouldn’t be able to accurately follow a sliding scale without checking your blood sugar at mealtimes!
Calibrate insulin pump therapy
If you’re using an insulin pump, you’ll need to monitor your blood sugar level often to make sure your insulin settings are promoting blood sugar levels within your goal range.
Some people choose to use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) with their insulin pump, but if you don’t have a CGM, you’ll need to check your blood sugar with a standard glucometer.
If you have an insulin pump, you’ll likely need to check your blood sugar at least four times daily, if not more.
Help make lifestyle changes to reach your blood sugar targets
Another benefit of checking your blood sugar is that it can help you identify things you can change about your lifestyle habits to promote good blood sugar control.
For instance, if you monitor your blood sugar after your largest meal of the day and keep a log of what you eat, you can better identify the types of meals that raise your blood sugar too much and those that are better for your blood sugar.
Checking your blood sugar on a day that you’ve exercised might also give you the motivation to keep exercising once you see how much it can help to lower your blood sugar.
You can experiment with different types of exercise to see which lowers your blood sugar the most.
When to test your blood sugar
Your healthcare provider will likely offer guidance on how often they’d like you to monitor your blood sugar at home.
In general, these are some of the best times to check your blood sugar.
|When to test||How to use the information|
|Morning/fasting||Get an idea of your baseline blood sugar before you eat anything/while you’re fasting.|
Adjust basal insulin dose.
|Before meals||Adjust mealtime insulin dose accordingly.|
Assess the change in blood sugar before and after a meal.
|Within 2 hours of eating||Assess how effective mealtime insulin dose is and make adjustments as needed.|
Track how your meals are impacting your blood sugar.
|Bedtime||Adjust basal insulin dose as needed, especially if you’re taking long-acting insulin morning and night.|
Assess changes in blood sugar from bedtime to the next morning.
|When you’re experiencing symptoms of low blood sugar||Effectively identify and treat low blood sugarSeek emergency medical care as needed.|
Adjust insulin dose as needed to reduce the prevalence of hypoglycemia
How to monitor blood sugar
To monitor your blood sugar, you’ll need a glucometer kit, which usually contains most of these elements:
- A glucometer
- Test strips
- A lancing device to prick your finger
- Carrying case for your glucometer supplies
- A blood sugar log or app
Be sure to check your blood sugar when your hands are clean, and always dispose of the needles in a biohazard container.
Follow the instructions in the manual of your blood sugar monitor and record the readings in a log or an app, being sure to specify the time you checked.
For even more helpful information, try to keep a record of your meals, medication schedule (such as insulin dosages), and activity so you can get a better picture of what is impacting your blood sugar.
There are many aspects of blood sugar management for those living with diabetes.
Diet, exercise, supplements, and medication are all different areas that you can work on to help maintain your target blood glucose levels in the body.
Be kind and patient with yourself as you work to figure out what works best for you because everyone is different!