Hypoglycemia can decrease quality of life. It can also be harmful if its symptoms leads to a fall or other injury. In severe instances, low blood sugar can become a medical emergency.

Fortunately, low blood sugar is treatable. People with diabetes and those caring for them should learn to recognize hypoglycemia as soon as symptoms begin so that the condition can be treated properly and quickly.

What Causes Low Blood Sugar?

It’s normal for blood sugar levels to go up and down throughout the day. Within two hours of starting a meal, the typical blood sugar target for someone with diabetes is less than 180 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).

Before a meal, the level should be 80 to 130mg/dL. These targets may be different for you based on factors like age and other health conditions you may have.

  • Level 1: Your blood sugar is less than 70mg/dL but at least 54mg/dL. Negative effects may be starting.
  • Level 2: Your blood sugar is less than 54mg/dL. Immediate action is needed to reverse the low levels and their effects on your function.
  • Level 3: Your mental and/or physical functioning has changed so severely that another person needs to aid in your recovery.

People with diabetes who are treated with insulin or certain diabetes medications, such as oral medications that increase insulin secretion, are at highest risk for low blood sugar.

 In fact, a large global study of people with diabetes who take insulin found that 83% of people with type 1 diabetes and 46.5% of those with type 2 diabetes reported a low blood sugar event at least once over a four-week period.

People with diabetes experience low blood sugar when there isn’t enough glucose in the bloodstream to supply the body with energy. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Exercising, depending on the intensity and duration4
  • Taking too much of your diabetes medication (such as insulin)5
  • Not eating enough carbohydrates6 
  • Missing or delaying meals5  
  • Drinking alcohol5

How to Tell If Your Blood Sugar Is Low

Symptoms of hypoglycemia are different for everyone and can occur at different blood sugar levels. 

Early-stage symptoms of hypoglycemia include:

  • Increased heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling shaky or dizzy
  • Unusual hunger
  • Confusion or irritability

How to Raise Low Blood Sugar

If you are having symptoms of low blood sugar and have diabetes, you should test your blood glucose levels. If low levels are confirmed, you should treat it right away to prevent symptoms from becoming worse. 

Blood sugar can be treated, or brought back to normal levels, by ingesting rapid-acting carbohydrates. The recommended treatment approach is the 15-15 rule.

First, ingest 15g of carbohydrates that contain glucose. Options include:

  • Three to four glucose tablets
  • 4oz of any fruit juice or regular (non-diet) soda
  • Five to six pieces of hard candy
  • 1tbsp of honey, sugar, or jelly

Avoid choices that are high in fat, such as chocolate or candies with nuts. These types of carbohydrates may not be metabolized as quickly and can take longer to bring blood sugar up to safe levels.

Preventing Low Blood Sugar

Understanding the causes of low blood sugar and preventing those causes can help prevent low blood sugar. For people with diabetes, another key to prevention is frequently monitoring your blood sugar levels.

Even people with diabetes who closely track their levels can experience low blood sugar—sometimes as much as twice a week. So on top of monitoring your blood sugar levels, along with speaking with your doctor about possible medication side effects, prevention also includes keeping a fast-acting carbohydrate on hand.17

If you experience low blood sugar while sleeping, you can prevent it by:11

  • Not skipping meals during the day
  • Eating when you drink alcohol 
  • Having a snack before bed

Sourced from Health

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