1. Having diabetes means that your body cannot use sugar properly. Normally, the amount of sugar in our blood is controlled by a hormone (messenger substance) called insulin, which is produced by the pancreas (organ). Insulin acts like a key and allows the sugar in our blood to enter our cells and to be used for energy production, or to be stored for later. Blood sugar is sometimes called blood glucose, but it means the same thing.
2. Type 1 diabetes means that your pancreas is not able to produce insulin and so your body does not have enough of it. This means that you have to replace the insulin by injecting it as prescribed by your doctor. Type 1 diabetes cannot be cured, but it can be managed very effectively.
Type 2 diabetes means that your body produces insulin, but your cells are not able to respond to it correctly.
Either way, people with untreated diabetes have blood sugar that is too high, and this can be dangerous. These are CHRONIC diseases, meaning that they are with you for life.
3. It is important to know what normal blood sugar levels are and to know what your blood sugar measurements mean. It can be problematic for your blood sugar to be too high (hyperglycaemia) or too low (hypoglycaemia).
Most people with diabetes should aim for sugar levels between 4 and 11 mmol/l after eating, and between 4 and 7 mmol/l if they have not eaten for 8 or more hours (e.g. overnight). Please check with your doctor or care coach about what your target range is as it can vary from person to person depending on several factors.
4. HbA1c is an important number that every person living with diabetes should know. It represents the overall control of your blood sugar over the past 3 months. It is an important way to assess your disease progression and management. Most people should aim for an HbA1c less than 7.0%, but again some people have different goals – please check with your doctor, nurse or care coach.
Achieving your goal HbA1c means that you are more likely to have a long, healthy and happy life!
5. If your blood sugar levels are uncontrolled (too high for too long), it can affect many different body systems and organs. This includes your heart, brain, kidneys, nerves, eyes and blood vessels.
The best way to protect yourself against this is to follow your medication and lifestyle plan as closely as possible. You can be in control of your own health!
6. Know the symptoms of diabetes (having these symptoms means that your blood sugar may be too high, and you need to check it ASAP!):
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent urination
- Blurred vision
- Extreme hunger
Remember that your blood sugar can be too high without any of these symptoms, so make sure to check your sugar as recommended by your doctor, even if you feel well.
7. Injecting insulin correctly is the cornerstone of managing type 1 diabetes. You need to know how to titrate the amount of insulin that you inject according to your blood glucose measurement and the amount of carbohydrates that you have eaten.
Please ensure that you find out your individual titration guidelines from your doctor and that you know these well.
8. It is important to test your blood sugar levels at home as often as recommended by your doctor. It varies from person to person, but some important times to test your sugar include:
- When you wake up in the morning
- Before and after meals
- Before, during and after exercise
- Before going to bed at night
Record your measurements and share these with your doctor. This is the best way to ensure that your insulin dose is correct for you, and the best way to avoid complications.
Written by Dr Jessica Hamuy Blanco | Health Window
Reference: Association AD. Standards of medical care in diabetes-2020 abridged for primary care providers. Clin Diabetes. 2020; 38(1):10-38.