Even when you think you have your diabetes under control, you can still be at risk for an episode of high blood sugar. Such episodes can happen when you're sick, stop taking your diabetes medications, or consume certain foods or beverages. When blood sugar rises to a high level—generally above 250 mg/dl—this may constitute a "hyperglycemic crisis" or "hyperglycemic emergency."
The two main hyperglycemic emergencies are diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and the hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state (HHS). DKA happens more frequently in people with Type 1 Diabetes, but can also happen in people with Type 2 Diabetes; it is characterized by high blood sugars, increased acid in the blood, and symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. HHS happens more frequently in Type 2 diabetics and is characterized by very high blood sugars, dehydration, and confusion.
If your blood sugars are very high or if you have any symptoms of DKA or HHS, it is important to call your healthcare provider or 911 right away, as these conditions may be life-threatening and specific immediate treatment under the care of a medical professional is necessary. The following four tips for lowering your blood sugar are meant for blood sugars that are higher than the desired range, but which do not constitute a hyperglycemic emergency.
This is the most rapid and easy way to quickly lower blood sugar levels. However, specialized knowledge about administering insulin is needed so a healthcare professional's advice is usually recommended (see Caretalk's article on insulin injection advice). One size does not fit all: the same dose of insulin does not lower blood sugar by the same amount in every person, so an individualized approach is needed. Immediate life-threatening complications such as hypoglycemia might arise when using insulin without proper experience or supervision. However, with the proper precautions, insulin injections remain the most effective treatment available for hyperglycemia.
Exercise Lowers Blood Sugar Levels
Exercising is another effective way to bring down blood sugar levels. It helps make cells more sensitive to insulin, which allows them to use more sugar and leave less glucose in the bloodstream. Compared to insulin injections, exercise may take longer to lower sugar levels, but it remains the safer option when it comes to hypoglycemic risk. While exercise is a cornerstone in diabetes control and management, it is important to note that physical activity is not recommended when sugar levels are extremely high. In this case, insulin administration under medical supervision is the most appropriate action.
Avoid eating carbs for your Type 2 Diabetes
While hyperglycemic, ingesting foods heavy in carbohydrates will increase an already high blood glucose level. Therefore, you should avoid carb-heavy foods when your blood sugar is high. Check out these quick meal ideas for inspiration!
Another negative effect of high blood sugar levels is the dehydration that can occur afterwards. This often complicates the treatment, making it difficult to lower blood sugar levels back to their normal range. Remaining hydrated is a vital part of any treatment—it even helps insulin work more effectively.
Lowering blood sugar levels depends on many factors. Often, these are delicate situations where you should be sure to take precautions in order to minimize any risks that might occur. Be sure to consult your doctor with any questions to help avoid any such complications.