Managing Your Type 2 Diabetes Carefully

In patients living with diabetes, a chronic medical condition that results in the accumulation of glucose, or sugar, in the bloodstream, awareness is the key to management. The cells of those with type II diabetes struggle to properly respond to insulin — which is a naturally occurring hormone produced by the pancreas that assists in moving glucose from the bloodstream to the cells. And in more advanced cases, patients’ bodies may have trouble producing a sufficient amount of insulin without medical intervention. If left uncontrolled, type II diabetes can result in dangerously high blood glucose levels and potentially incite more critical medical complications. However, knowing what causes spikes and drops in blood pressure and how to manage such factors can help people with type II diabetes anticipate spikes and declines and also help prevent the condition from becoming life-threatening.

Symptoms of Type II Diabetes

For those with type II diabetes, “your body isn’t able to effectively use insulin to bring glucose into your cells which causes your body to rely on alternative energy sources in your tissues, muscles, and organs.”[1] This condition can develop gradually and early symptoms are often not severe and are easily overlooked. Such symptoms typically include:

  • Itchy skin
  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Blurry vision
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of energy
  • Weight loss
  • Constant hunger

Nevertheless, as this condition progresses, symptoms may become more extreme or threatening. Left unaddressed, such symptoms can be deadly and individuals who encounter two or more of these symptoms are highly advised to seek out professional medical care. Patients who have dealt with elevated blood glucose levels over a prolonged period of time might experience:

Managing Type II Diabetes with Food

Although all individuals are encouraged to maintain healthy eating habits, doing so is especially important for those with diabetes. Certain foods have the ability to drastically alter blood sugar levels, specifically if consumed in excessive amounts. In particular, carbohydrates typically greatly affect blood sugar levels. In an attempt to reduce this, patients are urged to measure out precise portions of carbohydrates like pasta and rice. Carbohydrate portion control is especially crucial for those taking mealtime insulin, as this will help to ensure that the proper amount of insulin is being administered. For a higher quality carb option, there are various fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that are low in carbohydrates, but high in fiber — which helps to stabilize blood sugar levels.

Moreover, the consumption of balanced meals is of the utmost importance. Each meal should consist of a healthy mix of fruits and vegetables, starches, proteins, and fats. Additionally, coordinating mealtimes with one’s medication schedule is also rather critical. Diabetes medications administered in conjunction with an insufficient amount of food can result in hypoglycemia, or dangerously low blood sugar levels. On the flip side, diabetes medications administered in conjunction with excessive amounts of food can result in hyperglycemia, or extremely elevated blood sugar levels. And it is also advised that type II diabetes patients steer clear of sugar-sweetened beverages. Typically, high in calories and not very nutritious, sugar-sweetened drinks cause blood sugar to rapidly rise. However, in the event that low blood sugar is experienced, “sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soda, juice and sports drinks can be used as an effective treatment for quickly raising blood sugar that is too low.”[2]

Managing Type II Diabetes with Exercise

When an individual participates in a form of physical activity, their muscles utilize glucose, trading it in for energy. Following a consistent exercise regime may also help patients’ bodies to make more effective use of insulin. And together, these outcomes of physical activity can lower blood sugar levels.

Although more demanding workouts yield longer-lasting effects, mild exercises can also help to improve and/or stabilize blood sugar levels. Those looking to manage their type II diabetes through exercise should consult with a doctor to determine what type and duration of physical activity would best suit their individual needs and abilities. Furthermore, type II diabetes patients are encouraged to work with their doctors in order to create an exercise schedule that does not interfere with meal and medication times. And prior to exercising, individuals should speak with their doctors regarding what blood sugar levels are appropriate for them. Those who take insulin might be required to lessen their dose prior to exercise, as well as closely monitor their blood sugar following intense physical activity to avoid delayed hypoglycemia. Treatment and medications may also need to be adjusted if exercise regimes become more intense.

Exercise, especially if it is a new activity for the individual, can potentially lower blood sugar levels for up to a day afterwards. For this reason, those with type II diabetes — specifically those who take insulin or diabetes medication — are advised to check their blood sugar levels prior to, during, and after physical activity. Warning signs of low blood sugar might include feelings of hunger, lightheadedness, anxiety, confusion, irritability, shakiness, tiredness, etc. Moreover, dehydration can affect blood sugar levels, making it even more imperative that diabetic patients stay hydrated while exercising. It is also important that individuals with diabetes remain as prepared as possible for a run-in with low blood sugar levels — carrying small snacks, glucose tablets, and a medical ID bracelet on them at all times.

Managing Type II Diabetes with Medication

In cases in which lifestyle changes are not enough, medical intervention may be necessary. There are several medications, in addition to insulin injections, that can help to keep diabetes under control, but sometimes it takes combination in order to thoroughly treat diabetes. Such medications include:

  • Sulfonylureas, or oral medication which assist the body in producing more insulin
  • Meglitinides, or medications that encourage the pancreas to release insulin
  • Thiazolidinediones, or medications that heighten the body’s sensitivity to insulin
  • Metformin, or medications that can effectively reduce blood sugar levels, as well as improve the body’s response to insulin

However, medications taken for other medical conditions may also have an effect on blood sugar. Any problems should be immediately reported to one’s doctor and patients should approach new medications with caution — whether prescribed by a doctor or over the counter.

In Conclusion

Taking steps to carefully manage one’s type II diabetes can help individuals to avoid critical medical complications often associated with the condition. Diabetes can significantly increase one’s risk of developing a cardiovascular disease, so it is crucial that blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels are consistently monitored as well. Lifestyle choices like regular exercise and healthy eating will benefit overall health, and may help to control blood sugar levels. And if medical intervention is required, patients can work with their doctors to determine the best course of treatment, whether insulin injections or oral medications.

But no individuals living with type II diabetes should have to manage it on their own. With an immense wealth of knowledge on the multitude of approaches to managing diabetes and stabilizing high blood sugar levels, Dr. Beheshtian is an interventional cardiologist who has treated over 1000 patients, in New York and elsewhere. She is extremely well-informed and experienced regarding treatment paths for various types of cases, mild or complex. She also has extensive experience dealing with advanced cases that require intervention to save toes, feet or limbs.

Please feel free to contact Avicenna Cardiology’s office with any questions. Schedule a telehealth appointment or come in soon to see Dr. Beheshtian, who will work with you to create a care plan.

About the Author

Azadeh Beheshtian

Azadeh Beheshtian is board certified in cardiovascular disease and internal medicine by the American Board of Internal Medicine. She specializes in interventional cardiology and peripheral artery disease, with a focus on women’s heart health.