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Structured Training Program Helps Diabetics Keep Blood Sugar in Control

By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

April 20, 2001 -- People with diabetes must keep their blood sugar levels under control if they want to lead long, healthy lives. New research shows that completing a structured, organized program designed to help them understand when their blood sugar is too high or too low is an effective way to help diabetic individuals maintain the control they need.

Diabetes affects 15.7 million Americans, or about 6% of the U.S. population. It is a condition in which the body is either not making enough or isn't responding well enough to the hormone insulin, which is necessary to use the sugar in the blood.

If you'd like to discuss different ways to control diabetes, go to WebMD's Diabetes board moderated by Gloria Yee, RN, CDE.

There are two main types of diabetes. Type 1, which accounts for about 5-10% of cases, usually becomes evident in early adolescence when the body's own immune system, for reasons that are not well understood, attacks the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. These individuals must take daily injections of insulin in order to live.

Type 2 diabetes usually starts around middle age and is caused by the gradual wearing out of the cells that produce insulin combined with an overall reduced ability of the body to respond to insulin in the blood. Sometime type 2 diabetes can be controlled with diet and exercise, but often these individuals must also take medication and/or insulin injections.

Serious problems occur in diabetics when levels of sugar in the blood get too high or too low. Low blood sugar, called hypoglycemia, can occur as a result of taking too much insulin and causes a drunken-like state that quickly progresses to unconsciousness and death if not treated quickly by eating pure sugar or sugar rich food. High blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, is usually not immediately life-threatening but can cause damage to the organs of the body and circulatory system over time.

Keeping blood sugar at an optimal level, therefore, is crucial, and the Blood Glucose Awareness Training, or BGAT, program was designed to help diabetic individuals do just that. The designers of the program called it a biobehavioral intervention because it helps people with diabetes pick up on the subtle cues their bodies give off when blood sugar levels get too high or too low.

William Clarke, MD, and colleagues completed a study showing that the latest version of BGAT, called BGAT-2, helped 73 adults with type 1 diabetes improve their ability to detect when their blood sugars were too high or low.

The program also helped these individuals to worry less about the risks of their condition. Importantly, the benefits attained from completing this program were long lasting. Clarke is a professor of pediatrics at the University of Virginia Health Sciences Center in Charlottesville. The research is published in this month's issue of the journal Diabetes Care.

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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