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What are highs and lows?

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What are highs and lows?

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Recognise your highs and lows

You take your medication, follow your healthcare professional’s advice and are doing your best to manage your diabetes, but still experience highs and lows. Sound familiar? As you may already know, there are several factors that can cause changes in your blood sugar levels, such as your diet, how much exercise you take and the medications you are on – including insulins. But that’s not all…there are several factors that may be completely out of your control.

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Despite your best intentions factors out of your control, such as if you get ill or feel stressed, can also affect your blood sugar levels.

Food can rapidly affect blood sugar

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Stress & illness can cause the body to be less sensitive to insulin

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Physical activity tends to lower blood sugar

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Medication directly impacts blood sugar: dose, timing, interactions with non-diabetes medication

The changes in your blood sugar levels may not be your fault, which is why it’s important to discuss these factors with your healthcare professional. Even the smallest adjustments to your diabetes management may be able to help you better control your blood sugar levels on a day-to-day basis.

Take a look at the handy diabetes checklist to help you assess your highs and lows, and identify topics for discussion with your healthcare professional.

Symptoms of highs and lows

If your blood sugar level climbs too high, you may experience symptoms of hyperglycemia, which may include:1

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Increase in urination

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Increased thirst

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Increased heart rate

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Increased tiredness

Hyperglycemia can be caused by simple things, like eating too much food, drinking too much soda, getting too little exercise, not taking medicine appropriately, illness or stress.2 The best way to know for sure whether or not you have hyperglycemia is to check your blood sugar level.1

If your blood sugar level falls too low, you may experience symptoms of hypoglycemia, which may include:1

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Increased hunger

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Feeling sweaty

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Feeling shaky

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Feeling dizzy

While symptoms of hypoglycemia can vary from one person to another, there are some common signs you should be aware of. These symptoms of low blood sugar can include anxiety, weakness, confusion, shakiness, sweating, feeling tired, hungry or nervous.1 If you’re experiencing any symptoms of low blood sugar, you should take some fast-acting carbohydrate, for example a sugary drink or some sweets/glucose tablets, followed by some longer-acting carbohydrate, such as a piece of bread or biscuits. Once you have stabilised your blood sugar level, you should speak with your healthcare professional about what additional actions you could take.

How to treat hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia

Stabilising your blood sugar can make a big difference. Here are some things you can do when your blood sugar levels are too high or too low:

  • Work with your healthcare professional to adjust your meal plan or physical activity
  • Talk to your doctor about adjusting your medicines
  • Talk to your healthcare professional about what a high or low blood sugar level is for you and when you should call

If you are concerned, you can use our diabetes checklist

to help you to look at your highs and lows.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends the following blood sugar goals:1,3

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Ask your doctor what blood sugar range is right for you. The EASD recommend an HbA1c goal of 7% or less for many people with diabetes. Your blood sugar goal and HbA1c goal will be set based on you and your overall health.

Take control. Talk to your doctor at your next visit about how you can achieve stable blood sugar control. Your healthcare professional will be able to recommend adjustments that can help.

1. American Diabetes Association. Available at: http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/blood-glucose-control/checking-your-blood-glucose.html Date accessed: 10 April 2015.
2. Diabetes UK. Available at: http://www.diabetes.org.uk/FAQ/FAQ_2/. Date accessed: 9 April 2015.
3. Glycemic Targets. Diabetes Care 2015; 38(Suppl. 1):S33–S40.