8 Ways to Control Your Blood Sugars

Monday, October 9, 2006 - 5:07pm

By Megan Porter, RD/LD

If you have type 2 diabetes, you are probably aware that you should keep your blood glucose within a healthy range to prevent diabetic-related complications. This can be a fairly daunting task, especially if you have just been diagnosed.

To get started, consult your doctor or diabetes educator to find out the blood sugar level you should be aiming for. Typically, when fasting, blood sugar levels should range from 80 to 120mg/dl. 2 hours after your first bite of food, an acceptable blood sugar level reading should be less than 160mg/dl. How can you keep your blood sugar levels within these ranges?

#1: Test blood sugars often

The more you monitor your blood sugars, the more you will know about what affects them. Many lifestyle factors affect blood sugar levels, including diet and exercise. Keep a written record of your blood sugar readings, noting pertinent information such as:

  • Date
  • Time
  • Whether the reading was taken before or after eating
  • If you exercised
  • If you took medication
  • How you are feeling.

When reviewing your records, look for patterns in blood sugar readings and adjust your behavior as necessary.

#2: Create a meal plan to control your blood sugar levels

Too many carbohydrates can result in poor blood glucose control. If you do not know how many carbohydrates to eat at meals, work with your doctor or diabetes educator to create a meal plan. Also, make it a habit to be consistent in carbohydrate intake and timing for meals and snacks each day. As a general rule, do not go longer than 4 to 5 hours without eating.

A standard serving that provides roughly 15 grams of carbohydrate include:

  • 1 medium sized fruit (about the size of a baseball)
  • 4-6 ounces of fruit juice
  • ½ cup legumes
  • 1 ounce of bread
  • ⅓ cup pasta or rice
  • 8 ounces of milk.

For more information on meal planning and blood sugar levels see the following article from TheDietChannel: Diabetes & Diet: Control Your Blood Sugar with Mini-Meals.

#3: Eat lots of fiber to help control your blood glucose

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that people with diabetes who ate 50 grams of fiber a day, particularly soluble fiber, were able to control their blood glucose better than those who ate less. Although fiber is listed under total carbohydrates on the Nutrition Facts Panel, the grams of fiber can be subtracted from the total grams of carbohydrates listed because the body does not break down fiber.

To increase your fiber intake:

  • Eat more vegetables
  • Leave the skin on fruits and vegetables
  • Choose whole grain products
  • Eat legumes.

Remember to increase your fiber intake gradually, and drink more water to avoid constipation.

#4: Leading an active lifestyle lowers your blood glucose

Being active lowers your blood glucose and improves your body's ability to use it. With regular exercise, like a 30-minute daily walking routine, the amount of insulin needed to control your blood sugar may decrease.

Physical activity also improves risk factors for heart disease and decreases the risk of heart problems, which are both major health concerns for diabetics. In general, it is a good idea to talk with your doctor about what type of physical activity and how much would be safe and effective for you.

#5: Take (and check) your diabetes medicine

Have you been taking the prescribed doses of your diabetes medication at the right times? Taking the right dose at the right time can have significant effects on lowering your blood sugars. Ask yourself these questions about your insulin:

  • If using insulin, do you have "spoiled" insulin?
  • Does your insulin look different?
  • Was your insulin exposed to very hot or cold temperatures?
  • Has your insulin expired?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, throw your insulin away. Spoiled insulin does not work correctly. Talk with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns regarding your medication's effectiveness, insulin timing, or dosage.

#6: Learn to manage stress - it can alter blood glucose levels

People with diabetes should be careful about their stress because it alters blood glucose levels. It does this in two ways:

  • When you are stressed, you may not take care of yourself. You may exercise less, eat more prepared/take-out meals, or forget to test your blood sugars.

  • Stress hormones may alter blood glucose levels directly.

There are many ways to de-stress. Some find stress relief through exercise, meditation, relaxation, or yoga. Learn what works for you.

#7: It is vital that diabetics get a good night's sleep

A significant percentage of type 2 diabetics have trouble sleeping. Research has linked glucose control and with both the quality and quantity of sleep. Lack of sleep is also associated with an increase in body weight. Be sure to rule out sleep apnea and depression if you are feeling tired all of the time

#8: Diabetics should use portion control to manage their carbohydrates

The only way to know whether you are eating the correct amount of carbohydrates is to measure your foods carefully. Pull out the scale at least once a month to check your portion sizes. Measuring foods portions gives you a visual map of what different amounts look like on a plate. Use measuring cups for foods like cereal, rice, pasta, and potatoes. Use a liquid measurer for beverages and soups.

For more information on portion control see the following article from TheDietChannel: Manage Your Diabetes with the "Plate Method".