Navigating a lifelong disorder like type 1 diabetes naturally comes with its share of common pitfalls. Given the nature of type 1 diabetes, most of these pitfalls tend to center around sugar and the damaging effects of mismanaged blood glucose levels. Being able to control blood glucose levels is a fundamental part of living with diabetes.
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To make the road a little less treacherous, below are 5 tactics people can use to overcome the most common pitfalls associated with type 1 diabetes.
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Understand How Food Affects Blood Glucose Levels
Type 1 diabetes or not, food affects everyone’s blood sugar. The key difference, however, is that people with type 1 diabetes aren’t able to naturally control the rise in glucose in the blood caused by eating food by delivering glucose to the cells to be used as energy. This results in dangerously high levels of glucose in the blood.
Different foods affect blood glucose levels differently. Specifically, carbohydrate-heavy foods typically cause levels to rise more than foods with fewer carbohydrates. Generally speaking, a meal with 50-grams of carbohydrates is going to more drastically affect blood glucose levels than a meal with 10-grams of carbohydrates. The type of carbohydrate in foods is also part of the equation. A fast-acting carbohydrate like pure sugar is going to more quickly spike blood glucose levels than a “slower” carbohydrate like sweet potato.
While carbohydrates are usually the main culprit, as determined in a 2013 study in Diabetes Care, fats can also affect blood glucose levels. It can take longer to show, starting to three hours after eating 30-grams of fat or more in one sitting, but the effect that too much fat can have on your levels can last up to six hours.
Other food-related decisions like skipping meals can also have an effect on blood glucose levels. Unlike eating food, skipping meals can cause your levels to drop. This can be equally as dangerous as having your levels rise too high, especially in cases of skipping dinner and having levels drop over the course of the night.
When you begin to understand how different food choices affect your blood glucose levels, as overseen by your doctor, you can dial in your treatment and make more educated decisions relating to what and when you eat.