If you get a high reading when checking your blood sugar, is there a way to get the number down quickly?
Christy L. Parkin, MSN, RN, CDE, responds: Before deciding how to treat one episode of high blood glucose, it is important to figure out why the number is high. Some possible causes include eating a heavy meal, not getting enough physical activity, forgetting to take diabetes medication, and dealing with illness and stress.
Insulin is the medication that will bring blood glucose down the fastest. Someone who uses mealtime insulin can take correction doses to lower blood glucose. This requires a thorough understanding of when to inject, how often to give correction doses, and how much insulin to use. You will need to work with your doctor or diabetes educator to learn how to do this.
Apart from administering insulin, the fastest way to lower your blood glucose is to engage in physical activity. Exercise results in an increased sensitivity to insulin. It causes your muscle cells to take up more glucose, leaving less of it to circulate in your bloodstream during and after the physical activity (which means a lower blood glucose when you test). Frequent, regular exercise is very important to good blood glucose control no matter what type of diabetes you have. Research has shown that it is vital in warding off long-term complications like neuropathy, retinopathy, and heart and kidney diseases. Don't forget to check with a doctor, though, before making any major changes to your exercise routine. And, if you have type 1 diabetes and your glucose is 250 mg/dl or higher, check for urine ketones. You should not exercise if ketones are present.
While exercise is a great way to bring down your blood glucose immediately, remember that physical activity should be a part of your lifestyle, not just a tool for producing one good test result. Getting your recommended periodic A1C tests will help you and your doctor determine if your blood glucose control is on target. And when you use your meter to test at home and at work, be sure to look for patterns in the results. This can help you and your diabetes care team tell whether you need to adjust your diet, medications, or both. The most important thing you can do to manage diabetes well is to control your blood glucose, and exercise is a key step toward reaching that goal.