Today at the crack of dawn I woke up to my phone screaming at me to wake up.
Not because I was running late to class. It was because my Dexcom G7 sensor was alerting me that my blood glucose levels were dangerously high.
I didn’t know what I was going to write for today’s column but as I was in a foggy daze dialing up my insulin pen to the correct dosage to bring my blood sugar down, I knew this was the topic for today’s column.
My life is simple … but complex. I have one goal 24/7, 365 days a year for the rest of my life. Whether I am awake or asleep, my one goal is to live in between the lines.
As I wake up to my 300 mg/dl blood sugar at 6 a.m. on a Monday morning, I think of the two things that’ll bring down those numbers; insulin and exercise. Today, I didn’t feel motivated to get up and put in my insulin and, I can assure you, I didn’t feel inclined to exercise. but I felt disciplined. I put a new needle on my pen, injected three units of insulin into my arm, laced up my shoes and went for a two-mile run in the crisp morning air.
As I was running I came up with my story and how my constant battle is living in between two lines.
My Dexcom screen shows a graph with three different zones separated by two lines. The bottom zone is an indication of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar); the worst feeling in the world. If my blood sugar goes below 85 mg/dl my phone notifies me that I need to act on the low. Anything under that line means I need to eat or drink sugar to bring my glucose levels back into a safe zone.
Hypoglycemia is generally caused by injecting too much insulin and it can feel like the world is collapsing around me. My first indication of being in a state of low blood sugar is I’ll start to feel very weak. My heart start to pound. My weakness makes it harder to stand or walk. If my blood sugar keeps dropping to numbers around 60 mg/dl-50m g/dl, my mind will start turning to mush. Forming thoughts and talking sensibly will start to become difficult. I’ll sweat profusely, get anxious and feel the need to eat everything around me. My hunger will not leave me alone.
If I drop below 40 mg/dl this becomes dangerous as I enter a state of severe hypoglycemia. My muscles and blood become void of necessary sugars. I could collapse causing severe issues — even death. If treated correctly, the state of severe hypoglycemia is very rare and should not occur. Most symptoms will be gone within 15-20 minutes from my experience.
Next, the majority of the graph indicates hyperglycemia (high blood sugars). If I get into this threshold my phone alerts me to inject insulin. High blood sugars are quite self explanatory; I simply have too much sugar in the system. This is caused by not putting enough insulin in when eating carbohydrates. Although I can’t feel extreme effects like I can with low blood sugars, it has all the long term effects I fear.
According to WebMD, long-term uncontrolled high blood sugar can bring upon heart disease, heart attacks, stroke, kidney disease, eye damage, skin problems and nerve damage which could result in amputation.
The sweet spot is in between the high and the low lines from 90 mg/dl-170 mg/dl. The sweet spot doesn’t allow much room for error but this is the safe zone of blood sugar regulation. This is the place I strive to be everyday for as long as possible. That’s the name of the game — just stay in between those two dangerous lines and you should live a healthy life. It is certainly easier said than done but it is something I try time and time again to do.
This is a struggle I face daily that I continue to learn from 24/7. The toll it takes on your body can get very exhausting but the other toll that goes unnoticed is on the mental side. That is a topic for another day.
For now, after dosing my insulin and going on a two-mile run, I have successfully brought my blood sugar to a consistent 100 mg/dl. No matter how frustrating a high or low blood sugar can be, I always try my best to learn, adapt and overcome that frustration. And if that doesn’t work, tomorrow is always a new day.
This morning I did what I’ve learned over the years and it worked out perfectly as I am now right in between the lines.
Header photo: This is my Dexcom G7’s six hour long graph showing how I woke up with high blood sugar and got it regulated by using insulin and exercising. (Luke Jackson/ The Reporter)
Write to Luke Jackson at email@example.com