Hypoglycemia is the clinical syndrome that results from low blood sugar. The symptoms of hypoglycemia can vary from person to person, as can the severity as I’ve personally dealt with in the past when my severe low was accompanied with a seizure.
This was the first time this as ever happened to me since being diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic over 10 years ago now. While I don’t remember the seizure itself, lets just say we made it a memorable experience for the community as it happened at my sons fall soccer tournament. So what is a hypoglycemic seizure and what are the warning signs of having a seizure? Lets take a closer look!
What Is A Hypoglycemic Seizure:
So what causes a seizure? A hypoglycemic seizure may be triggered by injecting too much insulin, or failing to eat soon enough after using a fast acting insulin (exactly what happened to me); excessive use of alcohol, skipping meals,or exercising vigorously without adjusting insulin dosages or eating properly.
A seizure may also be triggered by oral diabetes medications that cause the pancreas to produce more insulin. Whatever the cause of the seizure, it needs to be treated as a medical emergency. To identify the onset of ahypoglycemic seizure,look for the following warning signs of seizures and symptoms:
- Feeling faint or too sleepy
- Feeling cold or clammy
- Unexplained emotional behaviors
- Uncontrollable crying
- Unaware of surroundings
- Changes in vision
- Loss of ability to speak clearly
- Loss of muscle control
- Muscle weakness
So we’ve all dealt with the symptoms, shaky, lethargic, confused, sweaty and the list goes on and on but what happens when we don’t realize or notice these symptoms? People who don’t have diabetes start to feel hypoglycemic when their blood glucose reaches 50- 55 mg/dl. In people who have diabetes, hypoglycemia can’t really be defined as a specific blood glucose level, because the point at which they feel “low” changes, depending on their usual BG level.
So, individuals who are not properly controlled can “feel low” at normal or high BG levels, and individuals whose blood glucose runs consistently in the low-normal range and have frequent hypoglycemia may not “feel low” until their BG falls to a dangerously low level. This has happened to me once and it was not fun. So lets take a look at what hypoglycemia unawareness is and what we can do prevent it!
Hypoglycemia Unawareness Causes:
Hypoglycemia unawareness is actually quite common. It happens to me and that’s why I am so grateful for my dexcom. Studies show that 17 percent of us with Type 1 diabetes suffer from some sort of hypoglycemia unawareness. Symptoms of a low blood sugar become less obvious after having diabetes for several years because repeated lows tend to impair the body’s release of stress hormones. As we are probably aware at this point, or maybe not if your newly diagnosed, the major counter-regulatory hormone that causes glucose to be released by the liver to raise the blood sugar is glucagon, but is reduced in most people who have Type 1 diabetes within the first two to ten years after diagnosis.
Drinking alcohol increases the risk of an unacknowledged low because the mind becomes less capable of recognizing what’s happening, the liver is blocked from creating glucose needed to raise the blood sugar, and free fatty acid (the backup to glucose for fuel) release is also blocked. These factors make symptoms milder and harder to recognize and personally after a couple trips to the ER due to severe low blood sugars…lets just say I’m not a fan of alcohol any longer.
Most of you already know that I love to exercise. My day starts out at 4am, early yes, but its the only time that I get to myself during the day. As a stay at home dad of 4, I consider this a small sacrifice for my sanity as well as to benefit my bottom line as a type 1 diabetic, my health!
What makes exercise so important? Well I think we all know the answer to that question as there are so many benefits including better control of our overall blood sugars. There is a list of exercises you can do, but lets take a closer look at how you can exercise safely for better control!
Diabetes And Exercise:
Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, diabetes and exercise should go hand in hand, at least when it comes to the management aspect of the disease. Not only can exercise can help you improve your blood sugar control, boost your overall fitness, it can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, provide more stable blood sugar readings, and help lower blood pressure ~ all risk factors that we face.
While exercise is great for us and the benefits are well documented, as diabetics it also poses some unique challenges. To exercise safely, it’s crucial to track your blood sugar before, during and after physical activity. You’ll learn how your body responds to exercise, which can help you prevent potentially dangerous blood sugar fluctuations.
Exercise And High Blood Sugars?
This was one of the biggest hurdles for me when I was first diagnosed. My numbers would skyrocket after a workout or even during a gym session. The issue is that exercise triggers the body to release stress hormones, like adrenaline. Adrenaline tells the liver to release glucose, or cortisol which makes you more resistant to insulin, and since strenuous activity triggers an increase in these stress hormones, chances are (even temporarily) your blood sugars are often increased.
That being said different exercises affect us differently and we also know that we’re all very unique, and lets face it, type 1 diabetes effects everyone differently and no situations are ever the same. Our blood sugar response to exercise will also depend on our level of physical fitness and personal exertion. Generally speaking, 30-40 minutes of high intensity interval training will bring different results than an hour of running, doing the stair climber or even walking the dog so it will be important to closely monitor your blood sugars during exercise and see how these activity levels effect you.
As diabetics, glucagon plays a vital role in part of our overall management and as I experienced a couple weeks ago, it can save your life. As a type 1 diabetic, I’m very well versed on how this works (unfortunately), and why it is so important and how it can keep us out of emergent situations or in my case, help you come out of a diabetic seizure. So for all the newly diagnosed diabetics out there, young and old, what is glucagon? What is it so important that we should have it on us at all time, wherever we go? Lets take a closer look!
What Is Glucagon:
Glucagon is a hormone (like insulin) that is naturally made in the pancreas. The pancreas produces this hormone when the body needs to put more sugar (glucose) in the blood to be used for energy. Glucagon raises the blood sugar by sending a signal to the liver and muscles (where your body naturally stores glucose) to release glucose.
The difference between the two, is that insulin lowers your blood glucose (sugar) by helping your body use the glucose in the blood for energy. Glucagon raises your blood glucose (sugar) by causing the liver and muscles to release stored glucose quickly. Though glucagon helps raise the level of glucose in the blood, it is not considered a sugar.
In its simplest form per Lilly, one of the manufactures of glucagon kits:
Glucagon is a medicine that’s different from insulin. It’s used to treat severe low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Glucagon works by telling your body to release sugar into the bloodstream to bring the blood sugar level back up.
The Role Of Glucagon In The Body:
Glucagon plays an active role in allowing the body to regulate the utilization of glucose and fats.
Glucagon is released in response to low blood glucose levels and to events whereby the body needs additional glucose, such as in response to vigorous exercise.
When glucagon is released it can perform the following tasks:
- Stimulating the liver to break down glycogen to be released into the blood as glucose
- Activating gluconeogenesis, the conversion of amino acids into glucose
- Breaking down stored fat (triglycerides) into fatty acids for use as fuel by cells
Insulin And Glucagon:
Glucagon is usually given by injection beneath the skin, in the muscle, or in the vein. It comes as a powder and liquid that will need to be mixed just before administering the dose. Instructions for mixing and giving the injection are in the package. Glucagon should be administered as soon as possible after discovering that the patient is unconscious from low blood sugar. After the injection, the patient should be turned onto the side to prevent choking if they vomit. Once the injection has been given, contact your doctor. It is very important that all patients have a household member who knows the symptoms of low blood sugar and how to administer glucagon.
If you have low blood sugar often, keep a glucagon kit with you at all times. You should be able to recognize some of the signs and symptoms of low blood sugar (i.e., shakiness, dizziness or lightheadedness, sweating, confusion, nervousness or irritability, sudden changes in behavior or mood, headache, numbness or tingling around the mouth, weakness, pale skin, sudden hunger, clumsy or jerky movements). Try to eat or drink a food or beverage with sugar in it, such as hard candy or fruit juice, before it is necessary to administer.
Sage, Salvia officinalis, is a desert herb native to the Mediterranean. It prefers shallow, rocky soils and large amounts of sun. Cooks rely on this herb for its distinct flavor and aroma, and the herb also offers a number of potential health and medicinal benefits. So what are the associated health benefits with this amazingly, powerful herb, lets take a closer look and see how you can incorporate this into your healthy lifestyle!
Sage And Diabetes:
This wonderful herb may have other potential health benefits, including protecting against diabetes. Studies on laboratory animals published in the “British Journal of Nutrition” found that this paticular extract might be hypoglycemic, lowering the animals’ blood glucose by blocking release of stored glucose from the liver, a function the liver performs in response to a hormone called glucagon. The authors compared these effects to those of a common diabetes drug, metformin, and suggested that sage might be a useful preventive against Type 2 diabetes. However, studies on human subjects are needed to confirm its potential for this use.