Managing Blood Sugar Levels at University

Alcohol has an impact on blood sugar levels
Alcohol has an impact on blood sugar levels

Help your blood sugar levels keep up with your grades with our tips on blood glucose control at university.

It’s worth noting that our brains work better when our blood sugar levels are kept at the recommended blood sugar levels, so investing time into your diabetes through university could really pay dividends by the end of your degree.

Don’t be afraid of your blood sugar levels

National diabetes audits have consistently shown that teenage years are the worst years for our diabetes control.

This can mean that by the time we get to university, we would rather avoid seeing what our meters are telling us.

If this doesn’t apply to you, that’s great. If it does, then don’t despair, getting the basics right can help you on the way to getting better numbers.

Few of us go through our university years with perfect numbers so face those numbers and see what you can do to make step by step improvements.

Find time to record and or review your blood sugar levels

Set aside some time, say once each week or every 2 or 3 days, to go through you recent results.

Remember the point above not to be afraid of seeing too many highs or lows, facing these numbers is the first, and important, step to helping to improve these.

To help make sense of the numbers, add extra notes about whether you exercised, if you had a late night what you ate or drank on a particular day.

You can read more about recording blood glucose results and looking for patterns and download a free blood glucose diary.

Get into a routine

Establishing a daily routine can be particularly helpful for those of us on injections. If you’re going to bed and waking up at very different times from one day to another, it can make it more difficult to control diabetes.

Having a daily routine also makes making sense of your blood sugar numbers easier as it means there are less variables at play.

What affects blood sugar levels?

That’s easy, it’s carbs, exercise and insulin. Yes, these all can change our blood glucose levels but a number of other factors can affect us too. Our liver provides quite a steady drip feed on glucose into blood, which is the very reason we need to take background insulin to stop our blood sugar levels rising as a result.

Stress and illness also push our blood glucose levels up and not everyone knows that short sprints can also result in quite sharp upwards jumps in our blood sugar levels too.

Another less commonly recognised fact is that protein, as well as carbohydrates, can raise blood glucose levels. The blood sugar raising effect of protein is less pronounced but is more noticeable if you have meals with relatively little carbohydrate. So if you were wondering why a no carb fried breakfast sent your sugar levels up, now you know.

Alcohol

Alcohol has quite a pronounced effect on our blood glucose levels. Firstly, a number of alcoholic drinks contain carbohydrate, such as beer, lager and any drinks made with fruit juice. So if you have these drinks, you can expect your blood glucose levels to, without insulin, initially rise.

Above we said that our liver provides a steady feed of glucose into our blood but alcohol blocks the liver’s ability to do this. As a result, after drinking alcohol, our blood glucose levels will begin to drop as the effect of our background insulin becomes more powerful than our liver’s ability to raise our blood sugar levels.

What this means is that we need to be careful after drinking alcohol, particularly when sleeping after an evening of drinking. Many people on insulin will take some carbohydrate before bed following drinking alcohol, but those on a pump have the alternative option of reducing their overnight insulin.

People with type 1 diabetes have needed to be hospitalised suffering a severe hypo after drinking so take care to ensure your sugar levels don’t go too low when sleeping. Remember that physical activity increases our sensitivity to insulin for up to 48 hours as well so take this into account if you’ve been exercising earlier in the day or been active on the dance floor.

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