Know Your Sugar

People with diabetes are not only at increased risk for heart disease, kidney failure and blindness, but simple routines such as walking down a hall can become dangerous for them, their co-workers and their families. It’s important for everyone to know the signs of low blood sugar.

Simple tasks like vacuuming a rug or working in the garden can literally be dangerous for a person with type 1 diabetes. Even light exercise can lead to severe low blood sugar or hypoglycemia.

John, a clinical social worker says, “Many of the patients I see who’ve had many serious low blood sugars have had serious consequences, such as broken bones, car accidents, near drowning.”

Jo Ann, who’s had diabetes for a decade, understands the terror of low blood sugar. Last year at work it sent her walking — dazed and confused — down a hallway.

Jo Ann says, “I ended up with a fractured shoulder and a fractured thumb on the other arm, and I was basically disabled for probably six to 10 weeks.”

Jo Ann went to the Joslin Diabetes Center, where clinical social worker teaches classes on low blood sugar awareness.

John explains, “The longer you have diabetes, the more likely it is that the traditional symptoms of the low blood sugar fade away.”

Family and friends take note: Diabetics who appear shaky, weak, sweaty, have a hard time concentrating or have poor coordination, may have dangerous blood sugar levels.

Jo Ann now checks her blood sugar up to 10 times a day and hopes no one ever has to call 911 for her again.

Besides frequent testing, Jo Ann carries glucose tablets with her at all times. In case her sugar is low, she can treat it right away. Family and friends of diabetics can help by keeping a supply of snacks handy.

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