Controlling Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes can be tamed by monitoring blood glucose levels, diet and exercise
Type 2 diabetes can be tamed by monitoring blood glucose levels, diet and exercise

With a bit of knowledge and dedication, type 2 diabetes can be tamed.

For those looking to grab type 2 diabetes by the horns, we’ve compiled a guide to help you get stuck in and understand your diabetes at first hand.

HbA1c or blood glucose testing?

There are two ways in which blood glucose levels can be monitored. An HbA1c test will usually be taken at intervals of 3, 6 or 12 months.

An HbA1c result gives a good guide to how well controlled your blood glucose levels are over a period of 2 to 3 months leading up to the test. This allows you to see whether you’re on the right track or how close to being on the right track you are.

Blood glucose testing tells you what your blood sugar level is at the precise time you test. As our blood sugar levels can vary considerably through a given day, single blood glucose tests alone are not so useful.

However, taking groups of tests together can be very useful for analysing which factors are affecting our sugar levels and by how much.

What can we learn from an HbA1c test?

The target HbA1c value for people with type 2 diabetes is 6.5% or 48 mmol/mol.

If you get an HbA1c result at this level or below, you’re on the right with your diabetes control.

If your HbA1c result is above this target, there is room for some improvement. You may need to incorporate a little more activity into your week, make some changes to your diet or your doctor may need to prescribe a different form of medication.

If there’s one criticism of HbA1c, it’s that it doesn’t always make it easy to work out which individual changes are the most effective for lowering your blood sugar levels or which parts of lifestyle are having a negative influence.

How can blood glucose testing help?

If HbA1c gives a general big picture of how well controlled your sugar levels are, blood glucose testing can help by filling in some of the detail.

As noted above, it’s best not take blood glucose results in isolation but to take groups of tests to build up a picture of what affects your sugar levels and by how much.

Target blood glucose levels for people with type 2 diabetes are: - 4 to 7 mmol/l before meals and when fasting - 4 to 8.5 mmol/l 2 hours following meals

Not everyone with type 2 diabetes is granted blood glucose testing supplies on prescription. If your doctor is not willing to prescribe testing supplies, you will need to consider whether to buy testing supplies.

Whilst testing supplies are far from cheap, they can often be very useful for those looking to get to grips with understanding how blood glucose levels vary following different meals.

Diet and controlling blood sugar levels

Making informed diet choices is one of the main ways in which we can help to control diabetes.

Blood glucose testing can be very helpful for reviewing how blood sugar friendly different foods are.

The key to finding out, is to take a test before eating and then 1 or 2 tests after eating, at intervals of around 2 and 4 hours after a meal. This method of blood glucose testing is known as pre and post prandial testing. By testing your blood sugar in this way, for a variety of different meals, you can deduce which meals are better for your sugar levels.

As well as seeing which foods are better for your sugar levels, you can also begin to work out what portions of a particular food type your body can tolerate without raising your sugar levels too high.

Exercise

Exercise plays a very useful role in type 2 diabetes. As we exercise, our muscles use stored glucose (glycogen), as well as glucose that is available in our blood, as fuel for the exercise.

Following a good session of physical activity, our muscles will then look to replenish their stores of glycogen and will therefore take in glucose from the blood following exercise.

Exercise should have a beneficial effect on blood glucose levels. To see the effect exercise may be having on your sugar levels, it can be helpful to test your blood sugar at the same time of day, say first thing in the morning, and see whether more active days are followed by a lower morning blood glucose reading.

Note that a number of factors can affect blood glucose levels so don’t be put off if your blood sugar levels do not fall significantly following exercise.

You may also wish to test before, during and after exercise to measure how your blood glucose levels are responding. Note that some forms of exercise may trigger your body to initially raise blood glucose levels but you should find your levels come back down after a moderate duration of exercise.

Weight loss and blood glucose control

Research indicates that a larger waistline can have a direct effect on insulin resistance. The larger our waistline, the more resistant to insulin our bodies become and therefore our blood glucose levels increase.

If we can lose weight and reduce our waist size, we can improve our sensitivity to insulin and thereby improve our blood glucose levels.

Medication

Medication is taken to help blood glucose levels from rising too high. Some of us may be able to keep our blood glucose levels in the right range without needing medication but the majority of people with type 2 diabetes do take some form of medication.

Whilst most people tend to move onto stronger medication, the longer they live with diabetes, it is not hugely uncommon for some people with type 2 diabetes to move onto less strong medication, or even come off medication, if they are able to make significant improvements to their blood glucose levels.

Join in on the forum

The diabetes forum has helped large numbers of people with type 2 diabetes understand and take control of their diabetes.

Join in and learn from others in the same position as you on the type 2 diabetes forum