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What to Ask Your Doctor About Insulin

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When should I take my insulin?

There isn’t one simple answer to this question. It depends on things such as:

  • The type of insulin you use (fast-acting, premixed, etc.)
  • How much and what type of food you eat
  • How much exercise you get
  • Other health conditions you have
  • The type of insulin delivery system (such as shots, pump, or inhaler) you use

Your doctor may want you to take insulin a half-hour before meals, so it's available when sugar from food enters your bloodstream. Find out exactly when during the day you need to take each of your injections, and what to do if you forget to give yourself an injection.

If I inject insulin, does it need to be in a certain part of my body?

Most people inject it into their belly, since it’s easy to reach. Your insulin shot will work fastest if you inject it into your stomach. (Be sure to stay at least 2 inches from the belly button.) You can also inject insulin into your arms, thighs, or buttocks.

Ask your doctor or diabetes educator to show you the right way to inject, including how to keep your needle and skin clean to prevent infections. Also learn how to rotate the injection site so you don't develop hard, fatty deposits under the skin from repeated injections.

Does insulin affect other medicines I take?

Some drugs can intensify low blood sugars caused by insulin. Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, even those you bought without a prescription.

What can I eat while taking insulin?

Ask your doctor for food recommendations to help your insulin work best. For instance, you’ll want to know how much to eat at each meal, which types of foods are best for you to eat, whether you need to have snacks, and when you should eat. If you drink alcohol, ask your doctor if that’s OK while you’re taking insulin, and what your limit should be.

What is my target blood sugar level?

Your doctor should tell you how often you need to check your blood sugar using your blood glucose meter. Find out your target blood sugar range before and after meals, as well as at bedtime. For most people with diabetes, the targets are:

  • 70 to 130 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) before meals
  • Less than 180 mg/dL 1 to 2 hours after the start of a meal

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