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Knowledge is a Tool
When I was home for Thanksgiving a friend of mine took me to her Zumba class. She introduced me to a bunch of her friends. One of the ladies in class asked me what I do for a living. I proceeded to explain that I’m a dietitian who specializes in diabetes; I educate people living with prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, type 1 diabetes, and gestational diabetes. She said, “Oh my gosh, my husband was 37 the other day. His blood sugar is all over the place!” I’ll tell you what my suggestion was for her, but first let’s first discuss the type of diabetes her husband has, which is type 1.
Type 1 diabetes was previously known as juvenile diabetes. It’s typically diagnosed at a young age but it can also be diagnosed later on in life. Type 1 happens in about 5% of the population, making it much less common than type 2 diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, an organ in the body called the pancreas doesn’t produce any insulin at all. Everyone, diabetic or not, needs insulin. So when someone has type 1 diabetes, they need to give themselves insulin via a syringe, insulin pen or insulin pump since their body doesn’t produce insulin.
This woman was concerned about her husband’s low blood sugar of 37 mg/dL. Hypoglycemia, which is a blood sugar of less than 70 mg/dL, can happen with too much exercise, too little food, or giving yourself to much insulin. My suggestion to her was to get a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). This is a device that provides live readings and data about trends in blood sugar levels. A sensor is inserted under the skin, which checks glucose levels in tissue fluid. The sensor can stay in place for 3-7 days, but must be replaced. A transmitter sends information about the glucose levels via radio waves from the sensor to a wireless monitor, that’s about the size of a cell phone.
CGM therapy does not replace blood sugar testing. It helps provide a clearer picture of what’s going in between fingersticks. I usually suggest a CGM to adults living with type 1 diabetes as it allows people to see if their blood sugar is going up or going down, which can help prevent major highs and lows. If you have type 1 and are looking for tighter control, talk to your healthcare provided about CGM therapy. It’s a great way to see what’s going on in between all those fingerpricks.