Information, Symptoms, Treatments and Resources


Preventing Hypoglycemia


Keep low blood sugar at bay with this advice


Diabetes treatment plans are designed to match the dose and timing of medication to a person's usual schedule of meals and activities. Mismatches could result in hypoglycemia, also called low blood glucose or low blood sugar. For example, taking a dose of insulin or other medication that increases insulin levels but then skipping a meal could result in hypoglycemia. To help prevent hypoglycemia, people with diabetes should always consider the following:

Your diabetes medications. A healthcare provider can explain which diabetes medications can cause hypoglycemia and explain how and when totake medications. For good diabetes management, people with diabetes should take diabetes medications in the recommended doses at the recommended times. In some cases, healthcare providers may suggest that patients learn how to adjust medications to match changes in their schedule or routine.

Your meal plan. A registered dietitian can help design a meal plan that fits your personal preferences and lifestyle. Following your meal plan is important for managing diabetes. People with diabetes should eat regular meals, have enough food at each meal, and try not to skip meals or snacks. Snacks are particularly important for some people before going to sleep or exercising. Some snacks may be more effective than others in preventing hypoglycemia overnight. The dietitian can make recommendations for snacks.

Your use of alcoholic beverages. Drinking alcoholic beverages, especially on an empty stomach, can cause hypoglycemia, even a day or two later. Heavy drinking can be particularly dangerous for people taking insulin or medications that increase insulin production. Alcoholic beverages should always be consumed with a snack or meal at the same time. A health care provider can suggest how to safely include alcohol in a meal plan.

Your diabetes management plan. Intensive diabetes management — keeping blood glucose as close to the normal range as possible to prevent long-term complications — can increase the risk of hypoglycemia. Those whose goal is tight control should talk with a healthcare provider about ways to prevent hypoglycemia and how best to treat it if it occurs.

Your daily activity. To help prevent hypoglycemia caused by physical activity, healthcare providers may advise:
  • checking blood glucose before sports, exercise, or other physical activity and having a snack if the level is below 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)
  • adjusting medication before physical activity
  • checking blood glucose at regular intervals during extended periods of physical activity and having snacks as needed
  • checking blood glucose periodically after physical activity
If you find you need to check blood glucose numbers often, a smart phone app like Sugar Sense, for Android and iOS, can help you track your data and even show it in convenient graphs.
Published on April 4, 2016.

Source: National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. November 6, 2012

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