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Exercise, Diabetes, and Weight Loss continued...

Keep in mind: Each type of exercise affects blood sugar differently.

Aerobic exercise -- running or a treadmill workout -- can lower your blood sugar immediately.

Weight lifting or a long period of strenuous exercise may affect your blood sugar level many hours later. This can be a problem, especially when you're driving a car. It's one of the many reasons that you should check your blood sugar before driving. It's also a good idea to carry snacks such as fruit, crackers, juice, and soda in the car.

Physical activity burns both blood sugar and sugar stored in muscle and the liver. If you use insulin or medications to simulate release of insulin, you need to be sure you closely monitor your blood sugar levels when you ramp up your exercising. Over time, as you exercise regularly and work with your doctor, you'll be able to reduce doses of medications and insulin.

Special Challenges With Diabetes on Weight Loss Diets

Both low and high blood sugar levels are big concerns with diabetes and weight loss.

Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) happens when you have more insulin in your body than your body needs. In its earliest stages, low blood sugar causes confusion, dizziness, and shakiness. In its later stages, it can be very dangerous -- possibly causing fainting, even coma.

Low blood sugar is common when people who take insulin or certain diabetes drugs lose weight because cutting calories and weight loss itself lower blood sugar levels. If you aren't working with your doctor and you haven't changed your insulin dosage or pills to match these new blood sugar levels, you could have too much insulin and not enough sugar in your body.

High blood sugar (hyperglycemia) is when your body's insulin level isn't enough to control blood sugar. It can happen when people on insulin or sugar-lowering medications don't take the correct dose or they don't follow their diet. Often people with diabetes who are losing weight and have low blood sugar will eat too much, rather than adjusting their insulin or medication, and end up with high blood sugar instead.

Getting Started

Losing weight is rarely easy. That's where a diabetes educator or a nutritionist can help. A diabetes educator or nutritionist can develop a program that fits you and your lifestyle -- a program with realistic goals.

A session with a diabetes educator or dietitian/nutritionist can cost from $60 to $70. Typically, insurance covers the first two visits but may not cover more, says Meneghini.

Reasonably priced support groups and classes are available, often through hospitals, to help with people with diabetes lose weight. Ask your doctor or physician assistant for recommendations.

There are also web sites with in-depth information on diabetes and weight loss, including:

  • The American Diabetes Association
  • The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)

The better informed you are, the better your decisions will be.

Control Your Blood Sugars

These symptoms can signal that your blood sugars may be too high.
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