By Julia Austin
If you are living with diabetes then you know that managing it can be a full-time job. In fact, it often cannot be done alone. You often need to meet with a nutritionist, your general physician, an eye doctor and even a podiatrist on a regular basis. You have to take your diabetes into consideration with everything you do, and every plan you make.
You cannot travel without a supply of insulin, and you shouldn’t travel if you won’t have access to an insulin refill in the case of an emergency. You must keep your blood glucose meter charged at all times—not doing so could result in a medical emergency. As you can see, taking care of your diabetes requires a lot of organization, and it’s no surprise that people make mistakes with their diabetes all of the time.
Here are common diabetes management mistakes to avoid:
Not watching your carb intake
When you have diabetes you don’t get to guesstimate a number of carbohydrates in something, and you don’t have the luxury of ignoring nutrition labels. Carbohydrates turn into sugar, which affects your blood sugar. You need to ask questions at restaurants to get the information you need, and you have to read labels.
Failing to manage stress
Stress is a huge contributing factor to fluctuating blood sugar levels. Stress aggravates nearly any pre-existing condition out there, and diabetes is no different. But the problems caused by stress on diabetes are more immediate and can lead to noticeable symptoms within minutes of said stress.
Not managing your hormones
Unfortunately, changing hormones lead to changing blood sugar levels. If you are a woman, you especially should speak to your doctor about managing your blood sugar around your period, or during menopause. Don’t take any hormone medication before speaking to your doctor about how it will affect your diabetes management.
Not keeping your hands clean
Substances on your hands can affect your test results. Having sugar on your hands, in particular, can result in an inaccurately high result. Clean your hands before testing. Even if you don’t think they’re dirty, you can never be too safe.
Washing with cold water
Washing with cold water will result in a smaller blood sample. Hot water brings more blood to the surface of your skin and will help you get a bigger sample when you prick your finger. The warmer the water, the better, but don’t burn yourself.
Disinfecting with alcohol
You may like to disinfect your finger with alcohol before testing, in order to clean the area. While your idea is admirable, alcohol can result in an inaccurate and low result. Stick to washing your hands with simple soap and hot water.
Running and strength training
It’s hard to believe that exercise could ever be a bad thing, but certain types of exercise like running and strength training can increase blood sugar levels. That’s because these forms of exercise increase stress levels in the body. Talk to your doctor about healthy forms of exercise for you.
Forgetting to pack snacks
If you have diabetes you cannot afford to just hope the places you visit have snacks and good ones for your blood sugar at that. It’s important to pack more than enough snacks to manage your blood sugar any time you leave the house. This is particularly true when you go on road trips, and anything can happen on the road.
Not sleeping enough
Failing to get enough sleep, or keeping an irregular sleep schedule, can lead to insulin resistance. You should test your blood sugar even more frequently when you travel to different time zones since jet lag can interfere with your regular levels.
Failing to keep a journal
Any advice your doctor gives you in managing your blood sugar is based on average findings, but every body is different. It’s up to you to keep a journal and notice which foods and activities affect your blood sugar, and how. If you notice changes, bring these up with your doctor.
Ignoring test strip expiration dates
Spending money on test strips may be irritating, but that’s no excuse to use old ones. In fact, even test strips nearing their expiration date could produce inaccurate results. You should also be aware that some testing machines do not detect expired test strips, and may allow you to use them anyway.
Assuming your blood sugar
It’s good that you’re familiar with your body, and can mostly recognize when you have high and low blood sugar. But you should never use your guesstimates as fact. Keep in mind that some things like the temperature, stress, or your activity can produce effects in your body that feel like blood sugar fluctuations, but are not.
Using too small of a sample
Make sure you get a large enough blood sample to test. While pricking your finger is uncomfortable, if you know the blood sample is too small, you need to get more. Using some of our tips like washing your hands with hot water can help prevent this.
Squeezing out more blood
Do not squeeze your finger to get more blood onto the sample strip. In addition to pulling out blood, you’re also pulling out fluids that can affect your test results. If you need more blood, just prick again.
Failing to double test
To best understand your blood sugar levels, it’s important to test before and after meals, exercise and stress-relieving activities like meditation. Only testing before or after does not help you understand exactly how much of this food or that activity affects your blood sugar, and to what degree.