Caring for someone with type 2 diabetes
Take care of your own health and well-being when supporting a family member or friend with type 2 diabetes.
If you have type 2 diabetes, your body gradually stops making enough
insulin and becomes less able to use the insulin it does make
effectively. With too little insulin, your body cannot absorb glucose
from the food you eat and your blood glucose levels rise and become
harmful to your health.
Understanding the connection between insulin, blood glucose and your average blood glucose levels over time – also known as HbA1c – is important for controlling type 2 diabetes.
HbA1C is a measure of your blood glucose levels over the
last two to three months. Your healthcare professional will perform a
blood test to measure your HbA1C and use this to set a
target blood glucose range for you.
If you have type 2 diabetes, every 1% drop in HbA1C reduces your risk of complications.
While it is very important to stay within the target HbA1C range determined by your diabetes team, it is normal for your blood glucose to fluctuate throughout the day depending on many factors. However, you should avoid letting your blood glucose levels remain above or below the healthy range.
High blood glucose, known as hyperglycaemia or 'hypers', damage your blood vessels. It can reduce the supply of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to your body's organs and nerves.
Controlling your high blood glucose levels will help you avoid complications like:
Low blood glucose, known as hypoglycaemia or ‘hypos’, occurs when blood glucose levels fall below 4.0mmol/L or 20mmol/mol.
High blood glucose is dangerous in the long-term, but low blood glucose levels can also impact your health.
The way you feel when your blood glucose level is low varies from person to person and may not be the same every time. You will soon learn to recognise your own early warning signs and how to take action.
If you experience any of the following symptoms you could be having a hypo:
Low blood glucose and its symptoms can be dangerous and you need to know what to do if they happen.
You can experience low blood glucose for many reasons, including if you:
Do not delay in treating your hypo. Ask for help as soon as you can
if you need it. Take some sugary food or drink as quickly as possible
if you are conscious and can safely swallow. Adults are advised to
take 15g of fast acting carbohydrate (unless instructed
The following are good options to treat a mild hypo:
Re-check your blood glucose levels after 10–15 minutes and re-treat as above if your blood glucose levels are still less than 4.0 mmol/l. If you are starting to feel better, eat your meal if due or have a small carbohydrate snack e.g. slice of bread, piece of fruit.
If you wake up and believe you have had a night-time hypo, the best way to confirm this is to check your blood glucose levels. If you are having a hypo, then treat it as described above.
Talk to your family and friends in advance about what could happen if your blood sugar goes low and in particular how they can help you if you have a severe hypo. If you have a severe hypo and are unconscious those around you will need to do the following:
For full information about managing and avoiding day and night-time hypos, talk to your doctor or nurse at your next appointment
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