5 Biggest Diabetes Management Mistakes

Over seven years and millions of interactions on Diabetes Daily, we have seen many people make the same mistakes. Here are five of the most common ones along with potential solutions.

What mistakes are missing from the list? Share your experience in the comments and help spare your peers some difficult days.

Mistake #1: Thinking Only Food Impacts Blood Sugars

Carbohydrates, and to a lesser extent fat and protein, impact blood sugars. But food is just one of many factors.

  • Stress – whether it is caused by pain, a fight with a loved one, or intense exercise – increases blood sugars.
  • Activity typically lowers blood sugars, but many forms of exercise can also raise your blood sugar, such as strength-training and sprinting. Exercise that is causing negative stress on your body can also raise your blood sugar. Little known fact: if a 20 minute, pain-free walk regularly increases blood sugars and you haven’t eaten recently, call your doctor and ask for a stress test. This can be an early sign of heart disease. Something is causing that stress.
  • Sleep patterns can change your insulin sensitivity throughout the day. Not getting enough sleep can make you more insulin resistant and lead to higher blood sugars.
  • Hormonal changes can cause your blood sugars to rise and fall. These hormones could be from things like increased stress, growth-hormones, menstruation, and menopause.

As you learn about why your blood sugars change, it is critical to look at factors beyond food.

Mistake #2:  Guessing Your Blood Sugars

People are horrible at guessing their own blood sugars. The key problem is that the symptoms of high and low blood sugars are not always consistent. Are you sweating and hungry because of a low blood sugar or because it’s 90 degrees out and you skipped breakfast? Are you irritable because of high blood sugars or a friend said something that’s irritating? The symptoms of a low on an exercise bike could feel very different than the symptoms you experience when you’re watching TV. If you want to know for sure what’s going on in your body, use a blood glucose meter to test strategically. (See  Blood Sugar Testing 101: Why, When and What to Do.)

Mistake #3: Guessing Carb Counts

It is extremely difficult to guess how many carbohydrates are in portions of food. Studies have shown that we are lucky to be within 50% of the right answer. So it’s important to read labels and measure out foods until you get better at predicting how it will impact your blood sugars. This is especially true of foods that have hidden carbs. For example, many sauces are thickened with simple carbohydrates like corn starch. Even though it’s simply drizzled on your plate, that doesn’t mean there can’t be 15 grams of sugar in the sauce.

Mistake #4: Not Taking Responsibility for Your Own Success

Your medical team is important, but they can’t be there to make your decisions for you. You spend 99.99% of your time on your own. So take ownership of your diabetes. Learn what causes your blood sugars to change. Understand how your diet, medication, and activities fit together. Make sure that you are pushing your medical team rather than expecting them to push you. At the end of the day, this is your life to live.

Mistake #5: Embracing Extremes: Perfection or Failure

Diabetes is a marathon, not a sprint. Pushing too hard for perfection leads to burnout. Giving up altogether leads to certain disaster. Find a middle path: seek to improve your management processes, do the best that you can, and forgive yourself for being human. Nobody’s perfect.

What other mistakes should we put on the list?

Article Credit: Diabetes Daily

Photo Credit: SiamEye