Diabetes Forecast

5 Steps to Avoiding Hypoglycemia

How to minimize episodes of severe hypoglycemia

By Allison Tsai , , ,

Rae Danneman

1. Get help.

If you experience frequent lows, talk to your primary care doctor about adjusting your medication, or see an endocrinologist who will have more training with complex combinations of diabetes drugs.

2. Adjust targets.

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to glucose targets. It’s a good idea to look at your other health conditions and whether you live alone (more on that below) before deciding with your doctor on a goal. It’s better to keep targets slightly higher than normal than risk severe lows with too-strict glucose targets.

3. Stick to a routine.

Try to eat a similar amount of food at each meal and dine at the same time each day. Doing so will keep your blood glucose fairly consistent, which can help prevent hypoglycemia. Planning for exercise (and being aware of unexpected exercise), and adjusting meals and medications as needed, can also reduce your chances of hypoglycemia. Remember, exercise can make you go low hours later, so always carry a form of measured, quickly absorbed glucose, such as glucose tablets or gel.

4. Stay safe.

If you live alone, particularly if you’re 75 or older, it’s important to have a safety net. Ask a family member, friend, or neighbor to check on you every day. This could be a simple phone call, a text, or a knock on the door. Consider wearing a medical alert wristband or using devices that can warn your helper in case of emergency.

5. Get glucagon.

Have this injectable medication on hand—it raises blood glucose in an emergency. This is only useful if a trained friend or family member is present to give it, though.

Treating Lows: The 15-15 Rule

The “15-15 rule” is a memory aid that lists the steps for treating low blood Glucose. But it’s just a general starting point. Ask your health care provider how you should treat lows, including what glucose products to pick (tablets, gels, or liquids) and how much to use. Learn the best sources of fast-acting carbohydrate, such as sugary soda and fruit juice.

15 Grams
If you feel or suspect a low or if your glucose reading is less than 70 mg/dl, eat or drink 15 grams of a fast-acting carbohydrate source.*

15 Minutes
Wait 15 minutes for your body to absorb the glucose into your bloodstream.

Check your blood glucose. If the level is still less than 70 mg/dl, eat or drink another 15 grams of carbohydrate.

Repeat as needed until your blood glucose level rises above 70 mg/dl.

Depending on your activity level and the amount of insulin in your body, you also may need to eat a meal or snack to prevent another low.

*If your blood glucose is below 40 mg/dl and you’re conscious, it’s recommended that you eat or drink at least 30 grams of fast-acting carbohydrate.

Stay Safe While Living Alone!

Are you at risk for severe hypoglycemia? Find out here.

5 ways to handle hypoglycemia unawareness

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