What to Do When Your Blood Sugar’s Too High

You know the best way to control your type 2 diabetes symptoms -- and prevent complications -- is to keep your blood sugar in check. But did you know getting older changes the way your body handles both glucose and insulin? To avoid health setbacks, it may be time to adjust the way you manage your diabetes.

Diabetes in Older Adults

Aging can affect how well you manage your diabetes. Some hurdles you may face include:

  • Lower mental energy and memory loss, which can make it harder to plan meals and remember to take medication
  • Changes in your body that keep medicine from working as well as it once did
  • Eyesight problems, which can cause you to make mistakes reading your blood sugar levels or taking the right dose of insulin
  • Medications you take for other problems interacting with your diabetes meds and affecting how well they work

By making a plan with your health care team and listening closely to your changing body, you can continue to live a healthy life.

Build Your Health Care Team

There are many medical professionals who can help you live well with diabetes, including:

  • Endocrinologists
  • Nurses
  • Registered dietitians
  • Pharmacists
  • Diabetes educators
  • Foot doctors
  • Eye doctors
  • Dentists

Your risk of depression goes up with both diabetes and age. Talk to a professional counselor or lean on your friends and family for support. Each can help you keep a positive outlook.

Watch Your Numbers

Learn how to check your blood sugar. Talk to your doctor about what your ideal readings should be so you’ll know when they’re too high or too low.

Your doctor should also give you an A1c blood test at least twice a year. This tells him your average blood sugar level over the last 2 to 3 months.

Diabetes puts you at higher risk of heart attack and stroke, so other numbers to keep tabs on are your:

  • Blood pressure
  • Cholesterol levels

It’s just as important to prevent low blood sugar as it is to keep it from going too high. Bouts of low blood sugar can double your risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia. When your thinking is off, you won’t be able to handle your diabetes well.

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Manage Your Medications

It can be hard to keep up with your medications while also keeping track of meal planning and other diabetes-related tasks. To stay on top of your day-to-day needs:

  • Make a list of everything you’re taking and what it’s for.
  • Stick to one pharmacy when you fill your prescriptions, so your records are all together.
  • Store meds in a pill organizer to help you remember whether you’ve taken your daily dose or not.
  • Use your phone’s alarm, a timer, or other device to remind you when it’s time to take your dose.
  • Make taking your meds part of your daily routine so it becomes a habit.

Eat Healthy Foods

Medication can do a lot to keep diabetes in check, but good nutrition sets the tone when it comes to healthy blood sugar levels. Your appetite may change as you get older, but you can still keep your diet balanced and make smart choices.

When you plan meals, stay away from refined sugar. Use this as a guide for the rest:

  • Fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, greens, or carrots.
  • Fill one-fourth of your plate with whole grains or starchy vegetables like whole wheat noodles, brown rice, or sweet potatoes.
  • Fill one-fourth of your plate with proteins like meat, eggs, or fish.
  • Add 8 ounces of dairy, like skim milk, and 1/2 a cup of fruit and you have a complete meal.

Exercise Daily

A little bit of physical activity goes a long way toward boosting your overall health.

Regular exercise can:

  • Keep you flexible
  • Improve your blood flow
  • Help with balance
  • Make your bones and muscles stronger
  • Lower the stress that raises your blood sugar

Being active can also help you lose weight. When you’re at a healthy weight, both glucose and insulin work better for you.

Make it a goal to do some sort of exercise for 30 minutes a day, 5 or more days a week. Walking is a great way to raise your heart rate and stay healthy. You can also get exercise by:

  • Doing yoga or tai chi
  • Digging and planting in a garden
  • Using resistance bands or light weights
  • Dancing
  • Swimming or doing water aerobics

 

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Listen to Your Body

It has ways to tell you something’s off. As you age, it’s important to heed these warnings. When you have type 2 diabetes, even small signs can be a clue that something bigger is brewing:

  • Leg pain, numbness, or sores that take a long time to heal might mean your arteries are becoming diseased.
  • Feeling shaky, sweaty, irritable, or confused can be a sign of low blood sugar.
  • Falling and breaking bones often could mean your bones aren’t getting enough calcium, possibly because of osteoporosis.

The good news is that staying on top of your diabetes will help you avoid -- and in some cases, reverse -- serious complications. Stay in tune with how you feel, and report any changes to your doctor.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on February 18, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

Chau, D. Clinical Diabetes, 2001.

American Diabetes Association: “Diabetes 101;” “Living Healthy With Diabetes;” and “Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD).”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Diabetes: What You Need to Know As You Age.”

American Geriatrics Society's Health in Aging Foundation: “Diabetes.”

The Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation: “Low Blood Sugar May Trigger Dementia in Those With Diabetes.”

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Tips for Older Adults With Diabetes.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Five Best Exercises for People With Diabetes.”

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