5 Reasons Your Blood Sugar is High
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when it comes to trying to understand what’s causing your high blood sugars. In life with diabetes, it’s only natural that we experience high blood sugars now and then, but when those highs seem to be a total mystery or not the result of blatant carb-counting snafus, they could be the result of something in your diabetes management that needs some tweaking.
Here are 5 common reasons for consistently high blood sugars:
- Not enough background/basal insulin or oral meds: Whether you’re on a pump, pens or syringes, the number of units you’ve been taking for your background or basal insulin dose can change very easily throughout your life, sometimes without any clear reason. Usually, though, we go through phases of life that impact our background insulin needs such as increased regular stress, decreased activity, weight-gain, consuming more calories/carbohydrates or not getting enough sleep. All of the above are variables that could easily lead your body to needing just a wee bit more insulin in the background or a higher dose of your oral diabetes medications. If your blood sugar seems to be rising even several hours after you’ve eaten or while you’re sleeping, that’s a good sign your meal-time doses need some tweaking with the hep of your diabetes healthcare team!
- Not enough meal-time insulin: Your meal-time insulin doses can change just as easily as your background insulin doses because of gaining weight, less exercise, more regular stress, more food, etc. If your blood sugar is rising after every meal, and you’re constantly taking correction doses on top of your meal doses, that’s a good sign your meal-time doses need some tweaking with the help of your diabetes healthcare team! (By the way, that means your correction doses could need some tweaking, too!) Remember, just because your body needed a certain amount of insulin last year does not mean that’s the same amount of insulin it needs this year! Little tweaks in your doses can have a tremendous impact!
- Anaerobic exercise: We’re often taught in the doctor’s office that all exercise ought to lower our blood sugar but anaerobic exercise works different in the body than aerobic exercise. Anaerobic exercise is the category for things like weight-lifting, sprinting, spinning (sometimes, depends on the structure and intensity of the intervals), and CrossFit-like circuit training. Basically, every time you’re doing an exercise that requires you to start and stop (even running) which allows your heart rate to quickly go UP and DOWN, you’re working in an anaerobic capacity rather than an aerobic capacity; therefore your body is going to burn more body fat for fuel rather than glucose! Plus, your body is likely to produce adrenaline in response to some of those activities, which can also lead to higher blood sugars. You may find that simply starting your workout with an in-range blood sugar, without prepping with extra carbohydrates, is the easy fix to the highs you see during anaerobic exercise. If you continue to see those highs during your workouts, talk to your diabetes healthcare team about taking a small bolus of insulin prior to your workout to help prevent the consistent rise.
- Severe low blood sugars: How often is your blood sugar plummeting to 40 mg/dL or below during the day or the night? If this is a consistent pattern in your life with diabetes, then you’re probably also seeing your blood sugar sky-rocket an hour or several hours after that severe low. This is the result of your liver dumping glycogen (which is then converted into glucose) into your bloodstream in an attempt to save your life! Little does your liver know, you’ve always been downing carbohydrates to help raise your blood sugar, too, so you’re getting a double-whammy of glucose for that low! The fix? Take a closer look at what’s causing those severe lows and work with your diabetes healthcare team to prevent them from happening quite so often!
- Non-diabetes medications: Beware of medications that can easily lead to high blood sugars such as Albuterol (used in asthma inhalers), Meloxicam (anti-inflammatory), Prednisone (immunosuppressant), and many others! Visit Diabetes In Control for a complete list of non-diabetes medications that affect blood glucose levels in diabetics. If you think you’re on a medication that could be raising your blood sugar, talk to your healthcare team about either substituting a different medication for that drug or adjusting your insulin doses or oral medications to help counteract the unwanted changes in your blood glucose levels.