Diabetes Forecast

10 Ways to Prevent Low Blood Sugar

Worried about severe lows? Here are expert tips for avoiding hypoglycemia and staying safe

By Erika Gebel Berg, PhD , ,
10 Ways to Prevent Low Blood Sugar

Caspar Benson/Getty Images

1. Understand your medications.

Learning whether and how your diabetes medication can cause low blood glucose is critical for preventing hypoglycemia, a blood glucose level of 70 mg/dl or below.

2. If using a fast-acting insulin, pay attention to blood glucose levels one to two hours after injection.

This period is when the medication is at its peak potency and the risk for going low is greatest.

3. Avoid insulin mix-ups.

If you use more than one type of insulin, store vials or pens in different locations (away from sunlight and at comfortable room temperature). For example, keep your mealtime insulin in the kitchen and your long-acting insulin near your bed. Protective cases or labels of different colors and textures can also help you tell one type of insulin from another.

4. Know the symptoms.

Having a good working knowledge of hypoglycemia symptoms, including those you haven’t personally felt, will help you opt to treat rather than ignore the symptom.

5. Follow the “Rule of 15.”

Generally, treat a blood glucose level of 70 mg/dl or less with:

→ 15 grams of a fast-acting carbohydrate source, such as four glucose tablets, half a cup of fruit juice, or half a cup of regular soda.
→ Wait 15 minutes, test blood glucose.
→ If it’s still too low, eat or drink another 15 grams of carbohydrate, wait 15 minutes, and retest.

6. Carry a glucose source at all times.

Having glucose tablets or gel available means you won’t have to search for glucose while impaired by a low.

7. Wear a continuous glucose monitor (CGM).

In one study of 35 people with type 1 diabetes (average age: 43) and hypoglycemia unawareness, a CGM decreased episodes of severe hypoglycemia from an average of 8.1 per year to 0.6.

8. Get enough sleep.

Sleepiness was linked to severe hypoglycemia risk in one recent study, suggesting that addressing sleep disorders may help prevent lows.

9. Eat when you plan to eat.

The top reason people ended up in the emergency room for a severe low in a recent study was taking insulin and then not eating.

10. Pay attention to physical activity.

Whether you are working out in the gym or running errands, physical activity can lower blood glucose—for hours or even a full day afterward. Make sure to eat something extra or adjust insulin doses to accommodate activity.

Defeating the Lowest Lows



Take the Type 2
Diabetes Risk Test