Blood Sugar Highs and Lows

When you have type 2 diabetes, you want to avoid hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia. The words sound alike, but the two conditions are very different.

What's hyperglycemia? It means high blood sugar.

Blood sugar can run high when you eat too much. And "if you take diabetes medicine, you can get high blood sugar when you don't have enough medicine in your system," says Betsy Shilliday, PharmD, a certified diabetes educator at University of North Carolina Health Care. "Sickness and stress can raise your blood sugar, too."

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What does it feel like? You might be unusually thirsty or hungry. You could

pee more frequently, feel sleepy, or have blurred vision. Check your blood sugar if you notice these symptoms.

How do you treat it? Watch what you eat. "Don't overwhelm your body with extra sugar or starch," Shilliday says.

Get regular physical activity. A walk can help burn off the sugar. Drink plenty of water, too.

"If your blood sugar is in the 300s or 400s, call your doctor," she says.

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What's hypoglycemia? It's low blood sugar. Anything below 70 on your glucose meter is hypoglycemia. Some diabetes medicines can push your sugar too low. Eating less or exercising more than usual can cause your blood sugar to plummet, too.

What does it feel like? Hypoglycemia can cause blurry vision and hunger, but you might also feel dizzy, nervous, shaky, sweaty, and irritable. You could feel like your heart is racing.

How do you treat it? "If you're on diabetes medicine, carry glucose tablets with you," Shilliday says. Three to four tablets will bring your sugar up.

If you don't have tablets, drink half a cup of apple or orange juice, half a can of regular soda, or an 8-ounce glass of milk. More than that will push your sugar too high. Don't treat low blood sugar with cookies or cake.

Wait 15 minutes and check your blood sugar again. If it's not over 70, repeat the tablets or juice. "When your blood sugar is back up, if it's not near mealtime, have peanut butter crackers or half of a sandwich with some type of protein on it to keep your blood sugar up," Shilliday says.

Ask Your Doctor

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What's my target blood sugar?

What's my A1c (a measurement of average blood sugar levels over the past 3 months)? What should my goal be?

What are my cholesterol and blood pressure numbers? And what should my goals be?

Am I on the "key" diabetes medications (aspirin, cholesterol medication, and blood pressure medication)? If not, should I be?

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