Diabetes is a horrible disease to deal with, and it’s also one of the fastest growing diseases in the world. There’s a lot that’s been said about it, which is a good thing. It’s also a bad thing because people who aren’t diabetic read one article and think they know everything there is to know about it and diabetics in general.

insulin pin and insulin with syringe

Life doesn’t work that way; ask anyone who’s diabetic and I’m sure they’ll have a lot to say to you about it. Some of them might not even know all the things they should be checking into. It’s in that vein that I’m going to talk about 5 things most people, including diabetics, might not know about diabetes.

1. Although the high numbers are long term bad, the short term lows actually feel worse.

Most of time, when people learn that they’re diabetic, it’s because they’ve been noticing certain things going wrong with a certain part of their body or how they’re feeling. When they’re diagnosed, most of the time it’s due to having really high glucose, or blood sugar, levels (I hate the term “blood sugar” lol). If the number is too high many of these patients will be hospitalized until the numbers come down to measurable levels.

If you’re being affected by high numbers, it might take a while for you to know something’s going wrong. However, when the numbers are low hypoglycemia you’re going to feel it more almost immediately. Lows are different for everyone. Even though the American Diabetes Association says most people should shoot for a number between 80 and 120, I’m one of those people who starts having problems if my number falls around 100 or lower.

What happens? The “best” of it is that I just start feeling a little off. Lightheadedness is a common start, but it gets worse from there. As the number gets lower, you can start feeling dizzy, disoriented, lethargic (I’ll be mentioning this again) and, eventually, pass out. When it happens during the night, it wakes me up with either my heart pounding hard along with what I mentioned above. It might take me up to 10 minutes before I recognize that I’m in distress and need to check my numbers to see where I am.

Strange as it sounds, your glucose can fall quicker than it can go up depending on activity. This means that you might test your glucose and find yourself sitting around 160 which, though high, might be in the middle of the afternoon after you’ve eaten, then you go for a long walk or run, and within an hour find yourself sitting in the 40’s or lower, especially if it’s also hot outside. Hopefully you’ll recognize symptoms before it drops that low, but sometimes the heat and motion will mask symptoms until you stop moving.

Talk about feeling miserable! Not only do you have to find quick ways to get your glucose up, but you have to do it slow enough to avoid headaches and keep your body from going into shock. If you hit that lethargy point and you’re by yourself, without something to help you increase your glucose, you might be down for a couple of hours trying to find the energy to move; trust me, I’ve been there a few times.

This is the reason why it’s always recommended to carry around some hard candies or small bottles of juice. You won’t feel the highs but the lows… those you’ll feel, and you might end up needing some help if you’re not prepared.

2. It’s about more than “sugar” people!

I tend to like desserts, so I eat them as much as possible. “Possible” doesn’t mean I sit around gorging on cakes and pies all day; it means I eat them when I can and in moderation these days.

Obviously this means that diabetics for the most part don’t have to stay away from sweets or dessert. We also don’t have to totally stay away from sugar, even with the new recommendations for daily sugar intake. It’s irritating when someone discovers I’m diabetic and immediately starts trying to monitor my intake of sweets, or other foods I eat; I’m grown! lol

glucose level checking kit

Everyone who’s monitoring themselves has their own eating plan. Mine involves tracking calories via Fitbit, an application that tracks my daily steps and exercise, which I also use to track the amount of calories I consume during the day. As long as I stay under the recommended calories for the day, I can eat anything I want… in moderation. For all diabetics, it’s more about moderation than what we eat… even if we’re trying to lose weight (this part is true for everyone).

3. Hitting high numbers quickly also produces lethargy

I rarely experienced low numbers until I spent some time out of town, down south on a consulting assignment. Because of the heat and my trying to get more exercise in, that’s when the lows started coming more regularly. That’s when I learned more about the lethargy it could produce.

However, I actually started experiencing lethargy when I ate something that was particularly rich or high in carbs. I would feel the blood surging through my system, and usually within 30 to 45 minutes I’d have to take a nap. That part wasn’t initially all that bad until I had a couple of sessions where I’d sleep between 2 or 3 hours and when I awoke I couldn’t move. It took weeks before I got used to eating southern food, which was heavy in fats and salt, even though I’d grown up eating my mother’s southern cooking (though with way less fat).

Still, it’s what made me realize there were certain foods I had to stop eating, such as chocolate lava cakes (when I went cold turkey on; I could have cried), and waffles early in the morning. I also had to stop eating pasta and pizza early in the day; sniff!

These days, since my diet is better as far as calories are considered, I can get away with the occasional pizza or pasta for lunch, but I don’t eat a lot of it, just in case. Other people can get tired from eating lunch, but they can probably weather the effects better than diabetics can.

4. Depression can be worse for diabetics

I meet a lot of diabetics who are going through depression (I also have a page on Facebook for type 2 diabetes). I’ve been amazed at how many of them never knew that diabetic depression was a thing. I’ve gone through it in the past, and I’m glad to say I rarely have this issue anymore.

Depression is probably one of the few visibly symptomatic issues that diabetics exhibit, yet because they don’t know about it they’re generally powerless to do something about it. If someone is predisposed to bouts of depression to begin with, uncontrolled glucose readings will enhance the feelings. Diabetes can double the risk of depression, which then makes it hard to manage your numbers because you find it hard to care about.

This one is more prevalent if diabetics are having long term problems with controlling their numbers. If they’re having a bad day or two, they’re probably not going to experience depression related to diabetes. However, if it’s long term it could be diabetes related, which is when it’s time to seek assistance. Medication can help, as can therapy, but the best way to overcome this is to see if you can figure out how to get control of your glucose readings.

5. It’s better to be positive towards people with diabetes than trying to shame them

If most people think about it, most of the time only children can be shamed into behaving better. When it comes to taking care of oneself, no matter the affliction, trying to find ways of shaming someone into taking care of themselves rarely brings positive results.

Please, PLEASE, stop asking diabetics if they can “eat that”. Don’t try telling diabetics what they should or shouldn’t eat unless they ask or unless you’re a trained dietician… heck, even if you’re a trained dietician, and even if you work for a diabetes clinic, you might not know what you’re talking about (once again, personal experience with this one, although my issue at that time wasn’t regarding diabetes, though I was diabetic; long story).

Stop trying to get diabetics to only eat low fat or low sugar foods. Believe it or not, a lot of that stuff is worse for us (many of our systems can’t process sugar alcohols and eliminating fat from our diets doesn’t help if it’s good fat).

Encouragement works best; support works best. If you’re diabetic and you can offer information, that’s a good thing. If you’re not, stop trying. You can share something you read, but otherwise you’re not helping… unless you’re the one keeping candy around in case someone you know starts crashing.

There are a lot of things diabetics need to know to help them get control of their glucose levels. There’s a lot of bad things that can happen. They’ll hear about those from their doctors (or from articles like this one). Read this, then share it with them. It’ll be a good start to better communications and, possibly, a healthier life for all.

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