To manage diabetes effectively there is a lot to know. And even when you think you know a lot, something about diabetes will still surprise you. Here are five surprising things about diabetes – you’ll probably know some, but I’ll bet you don’t know all five.
Diabetes is a complicated medical condition for sure, but there are some simple things that we all need to understand but often don’t. Here are some things some people find surprising. You will probably know some of these, but maybe you’ll learn something new. The important thing is that knowledge or awareness is the first step. This helps equip you with the skills to manage blood sugar and offer less anxiety about things that can seem confusing. Ready…
#1 It’s Not Just Sugar That Affects Diabetes
Surprise Number 1 …. my client says “I avoid sugar and sweets but my blood sugar still spikes after I eat”- I’ll bet you know this one …..IT’S NOT JUST SUGAR. but all carbohydrates that effect blood sugar, right?
So in addition to sugar or sweets it’s fruit and juice or wine, grains (that includes rice, pasta, bread and beer), beans and lentils, milk and yogurt and starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn and peas. Sugar is part of total carbohydrate. So again, its not just sugar but total carbohydrate. Ok, let’s listen to surprise number 2…
#2 It’s Not Just Food That Affects Blood Sugar
Surprise number 2 – “My blood sugar goes up when I haven’t eaten anything” – clients often say this comparing their bedtime reading to a higher reading in the morning. Do you know why? Please remember that IT’S NOT JUST FOOD. There are many variables associated with rises and falls of blood sugar readings.
Often the overnight reading is associated with hormones that are excreted as part of our sleeping process. We are a soup of hormones and neurotransmitter chemicals that can affect our diabetes. Some things we can control, like getting enough sleep, some things we can’t, like menstrual cycles. But where there’s a pattern we may be able to adjust.
#3 Type 1 Diabetes Is Easier To Manage Than Type 2
Here’s a controversial one- surprise number 3- Type 1 diabetes is easier to manage than type 2 diabetes. OK let me explain. It’s true that nobody would choose type1 given the choice – it is often a long, long road- for me it’s almost 52 years.
But when it comes to managing diabetes for the long term risks to health we have two distinct advantages- #1 we cannot possibly just ignore it completely or pretend diabetes isn’t serious…. #2 we have much better tools for monitoring blood sugar levels and for correcting them quickly with insulin. This is my way of saying to those of you who have type 2 diabetes, take it seriously. And that sort of goes with my next surprise
#4 Medication Is Not Enough
Surprise number 4- Medication is not enough – even essential insulin isn’t enough – managing diabetes effectively must include lifestyle. Don’t believe me?
Here’s the giant book I studied before taking the exam for certified diabetes educator….the 2006 volume, in its introduction to type 2 diabetes medications, says straight up “Patients should be reminded that ANY drug treatment for type 2 diabetes is ONLY A SUPPLEMENT to lifestyle changes.”
This is why I spend all of my time with you about lifestyle- medication is not enough. OK…one more
#5 My Blood Sugar Goes Up After I Exercise
Surprise number 5…..”My blood sugar goes up after I exercise”- this is often surprising and it seems counterintuitive – I mean exercise increases insulin sensitivity to better respond to high blood sugar.
But, when you’re exercising you can deplete the glucose stored in your muscle cells, right, so then your muscle cells pull glucose from your blood, right, and when your blood sugar starts going down at that point your liver will release more.
Even when this happens, however, exercise is still worth it with all its beneficial effects with managing blood pressure, weight, mood, and stress.
One last piece of advice…..when your head is spinning around some blood glucose thing you can’t explain remember that it’s all about averages. I tend to focus too much myself on surprising out-of-target readings and not enough on the times’ things go exactly as planned. We could all spend a little more energy patting ourselves on the back.
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