Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects how your body turns food into energy. According to the CDC, 1 in 3 people have prediabetes and more than 37 million Americans (11.3% of the population) have diabetes.

Because blood sugar in the body is not constant, people with diabetes must monitor their blood sugar levels to keep them within a target range.  

Knowing the signs of low or high blood sugar may help prevent serious complications.

  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) below 70 mg/dL can be dangerous and needs to be treated immediately. Symptoms of low blood sugar include shakiness, anxiety, confusion, nausea, drowsiness, combativeness, and ultimately seizures and coma. If the person with these symptoms cannot check their blood sugar, assume it is low and give them 15 grams of carbohydrates every 15 minutes until their blood sugar is above 70 mg/dL. Good sources include glucose tablets, 4 ounces of juice or regular soda, 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey, or hard candies, gum drops or jellybeans (check the label to see how many pieces provides 15 grams of carbohydrates).
  • High blood sugar (hyperglycemia) happens when the body has too little insulin or cannot use it properly. If not treated, hyperglycemia can lead to serious long-term health problems. Symptoms of high blood sugar are frequent urination and increased thirst. Exercise can help lower blood sugar, but it is important for a person with diabetes to talk to their doctor to find the safest way to lower blood sugar.

Managing diabetes

Regular blood sugar monitoring, diet, exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and managing stress are all important to managing diabetes.

  • Take your medication: Medications are often a key part of managing diabetes, so it’s important to take them daily as directed – even if you’re feeling well.
  • Check your levels: Use a blood glucose monitor daily to check your sugar levels, including in the morning, after meals and exercise, or anytime you’re feeling “off.” 
  • Eat right and exercise: Eating balanced meals and exercising for at least 30 minutes a day can have a big impact on improving your blood sugar levels, lowering your blood pressure, and more. Learn about adding nutrient-dense foods to your eating plan.
  • Manage stress: Stress spikes sugar levels. Deep breathing exercises are a great way to relax and keep your levels in check. Walking also lowers sugar levels and can help you de-stress during the day. 

People with diabetes should always have a medical ID with them to alert emergency medical personnel in case of an emergency when they can’t speak for themselves. These are usually worn as a bracelet or necklace.

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