What's Your Diabetes IQ?
Whether you just received a diagnosis or you've had the disorder for years, there's always something new to learn about diabetes. The seven questions below will show you how much you really know.
1. True or False?
The best meal plan for individuals with diabetes is to follow the exchange lists.
False. These days, it's likely that you will be told to follow the plate method or the carb counting method. For the plate method, at each meal you fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables, one quarter with lean protein and one quarter with grains. It's popular and it requires less math than carb counting.
However, carb counting—a meal planning technique in which you keep track of all the carbs you consume and set a limit on how many you eat in a day—may be your best method if you want to be in tight control. "While the plate method is useful, carb counting is more precise," says Spyros Mezitis, MD, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
2. True or False?
If your blood sugar is low and you treat an episode of hypoglycemia with fast-acting glucose, you still should follow it up with a snack.
False. In the past, if your blood sugar dipped to 70 mg/dl or below, it was recommended you treat it by eating around 15 grams of a fast-acting carbohydrate, followed by a snack. Today, though, in what is called the "rule of 15," experts say to hold off on the snack to see if you really need it.
"Hold off on eating or drinking more carbohydrates for about 15 minutes, then test your blood sugar again," advises Mezitis. If, after 15 minutes, your blood sugar is still below 70 mg/dl, consume a food with 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrate. Keep doing this until your blood sugar is back in the normal range.
3. True or False?
When you treat an episode of hypoglycemia with a snack, it can be pretty much any sweet that you like.
False. The snack should contain about 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrate, according to Mezitis. If you eat a serving of a packaged food, it's important to check the label to make sure it contains 15 grams of carbs per serving. "A lot of yogurts, even though they are low in fat, can be high in sugar and have 35 grams of carbohydrate in a serving," says Mezitis. And if you eat a snack that contains fat as well as sugar, it will take longer for the sugar to be absorbed. For instance, if you eat chocolate, it will work more slowly than orange juice.
4. True or False?
You should never reuse a lancet when testing your blood sugar.
False. Many people reuse lancets because it's convenient and saves money. If you're generally healthy, it's okay. But if your immune system is compromised in some way, due to pneumonia, cancer, or kidney disease, for instance, you should use a new lancet every time you test.
The downside of using a lancet more than once is that the edge becomes blunted and can cause discomfort going in. If you are going to reuse the lancet, Mezitis advises you wash your hands before testing.
5. True or False?
It is crucial to run a control test every time you open a box of test strips.
False. You don't necessarily have to run a control test every time, says Dawn Noe, RD, LD, CDE, of the Cleveland Clinic. However, if you test your blood sugar and get a number that is wildly inconsistent with how you are feeling, then by all means you should run a test. "You also should check your blood sugar again right away," she advises. "Sometimes there may not be enough blood on the strip to get an accurate result." If you get a low reading but are not having any symptoms, you definitely need to test the box of strips.
6. True or False?
If you have type 2 diabetes, you can get rid of it by losing weight.
False. . "If you eat right, exercise, and take the appropriate medication, you can manage it well and reduce your risk of complications," says Mezitis. "However, you can't cure diabetes."
Both diet and exercise are key factors in keeping your diabetes in check, agrees Noe. When you make lifestyle changes, your diabetes will most certainly improve, she explains. Some individuals can manage their diabetes with diet and exercise alone, while others need medications to keep their blood sugar in the healthy range.
7. True or False?
You should always have a snack or have a sports drink before exercising.
False. Before you exercise, test your blood sugar. If it is below 100, have a snack. Test it again after you exercise, and if it is under 100, have another snack, advises Noe. A snack should contain about 15 grams of carbohydrate, which is the amount contained in six Lifesavers, she says. Always carry a carbohydrate source with you when exercising in case your blood sugar drops too low during exercise. You may want to consider having a sports beverage if you are exercising for an hour or longer. Otherwise, she stresses there's no reason to have one.
So How'd You Do?
Take 1 point away for each question you marked True. (All answers are False.)
If you scored 6 or 7: Congrats! You're knowledgeable about diabetes and probably vigilant about testing your blood sugar regularly, getting sufficient exercise, and you following a good diet. Keep up the great work!
If you scored 3, 4, or 5: Your knowledge of diabetes could use a little shoring up. Consider making an appointment with a certified diabetes educator (CDE) who can answer some of your questions and help you get on track with your care.
If you scored 1 or 2: If you haven't already lined up an appointment with a CDE or your health care provider, do so now. With such a scant knowledge of diabetes, your future health could be at risk. Take time to learn more about diabetes and you will be glad you did!
Neithercott, Tracey, "Diabetes Basics: Tuning Up Your Skills." Diabetes Forecast.
"Carb Counting." The American Diabetes Association.
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