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Structured Training Program Helps Diabetics Keep Blood Sugar in Control

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

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.

"This is not a quick fix; it's not easy," says Clarke about BGAT. "... This is not the McDonald's of improving glucose control. ... In order for it to be effective, you have to take the eight-week program, and there is homework that has to be done throughout the week. Without doing those sorts of things, you can't really improve your own awareness [of your blood glucose levels]. But once you've improved that awareness, it's something that seems to carry over for a long period of time."

Lois Exelbert, RN, MS, CDE, is a diabetes nurse educator. They use BGAT at the Diabetes Education Center at Baptist Hospital of Miami, where she is administrative director. She says it is extremely effective for helping individuals with diabetes recognize when their sugar levels are off, so they can fix the problem immediately in the short term and make changes to diet, exercise, and/or medication in order to prevent these ups and downs in the long term. Importantly, the program also teaches crucial safety strategies such as not getting behind the wheel of a car unless you've checked your blood sugar levels.

"The misconception is that everybody with diabetes is going to be subject to passing out from low blood sugar and just expect it," she says. "But not everybody has to have low blood sugar where they're passing out. ... It 's not an automatic function of having diabetes, and there's absolutely ways to prevent it."

One of Exelbert's patients, who prefers that her name not be used, has had type 1 diabetes for 27 years. She took the BGAT program in 1997 because she found, like many people who have had type 1 diabetes for several years, that she no longer experienced the obvious signs of low blood sugar, such as sweating and tremor. She found that the program was well worth the considerable effort and time required and recommends it to anyone interested in better understanding their disease and preventing long-term complications.

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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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