Diabetes and Blood Sugar Control
There are more than 37 million people in the United States living with diabetes, and most are doing their level best to control blood sugar. One of the most interesting parts about diabetes is that it is a self-managed disease. What a person knows and the choices that person makes are critical to effectively living with diabetes.
This is not exactly breaking news for most diabetics. However, the findings of a study by Dartmouth College released in September of 2023 reveal that definite factors influence how well many people can control blood sugar – including age and experience with diabetes. These new findings could help diabetic physicians and medical teams better identify patients at a higher risk of experiencing challenges controlling their blood sugar.
A study using glucose monitoring devices
The study and its results, published in the journal Science Advances, revolve around data from a group of 137 participants, aged 2 to 76, living with diabetes (primarily Type 1), who all managed their blood sugar using a doctor-prescribed continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device.
More than 91,000 days of data were taken from these devices, providing an incredibly in-depth look at how diabetes management can vary by several different factors, such as age, seasonality (differences in warm and cold weather months), experience with managing diabetes, even differences in day of the week.
Temiloluwa Prioleau, Assistant Professor of Computer Science and one of the study’s co-authors, stated, “We’re looking for specific patterns that could potentially inform clinical guidelines and set the stage for targeted interventions.” Prioleau also pointed out that the majority of individuals involved in the study were living with Type 1 diabetes, so it’s unsure how the findings might relate to those with Type 2 diabetes.
What did the study show?
It’s been well established that seasonality can play a role in how effectively or ineffectively blood sugar is managed. The trend among people with diabetes is that they gain more control over their blood sugar in warmer weather months, during which physical activity outdoors is more attractive, and less control over blood sugar during the winter months when we all tend to become a bit more sedentary and eat a bit more of that calorie-rich comfort food.
The Dartmouth study’s findings were consistent with this trend that most diabetes physicians report seeing. But one of the more fascinating aspects of capturing such detailed data from CGM devices is that researchers were able to drill down things even further and gain insights into variations in blood sugar control that occur daily and weekly.
The work week is not grueling for diabetes management.
While we might long for the weekend after a taxing five days on the job, it turns out that diabetes management tends to be more effective during that busy work week. The study showed that glucose levels were likelier to stick within the normal range Monday through Friday between 9 am and 5 pm when the work or school routine is in full swing. This suggests that the consistency of a daily routine positively impacts blood sugar control. Conversely, blood sugar control trended downward on Saturday and Sunday, likely due to a lack of structure during the weekend.
Chalk one up for the older crowd
Another interesting finding concerned age and its relationship to diabetes management.
Co-author of the study, Prajakta Belsare, Assistant Professor at James Madison University who worked on the study while a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Computer Science, said, “We found that young adults in the 19 – 34 age range were less proficient at managing blood glucose.
She explained that this is probably partly due to the struggle that newly independent adults face in caring for their health concerns without the oversight of parents or caregivers.
Additionally, it points to the fact that individuals who have more experience managing diabetes are just better at doing it right. One doctor who treats diabetes patients pointed out that the study's most surprising finding from his perspective was that seasonal variations in blood sugar control, particularly around the major holidays, differ substantially depending on the patient's age and their general degree of glycemic control throughout the year.
“This underscores the fact that diabetes is essentially a self-managed disease and that individuals with less experience managing their disease require additional education and support around significant holidays to avoid hyperglycemia.
What were the most out-of-control holidays?
There were a few surprises here, too. The day after Thanksgiving wasn’t at the top of the list, but two other big celebrations were right up there. New Year’s Day and Christmas topped the list of days when blood sugar veered outside the normal range the most. Third on the list was Independence Day. Some consider this a surprise because the holiday occurs during the warmer months when people are outdoors. It is, however, a day full of backyard parties and BBQs, so it should come as too much of a surprise.
Any insight that can spot trends in diabetes management and help physicians target individuals who might need added assistance controlling their blood sugar is a significant milestone. The growing use of technologies like continuous glucose monitoring devices and new breakthroughs in diabetes research continue to shed new light on this disease that impacts so many people in the United States and around the world. The more we know about diabetes as a community, the better we’ll be able to treat it and prevent it in the future. The more you know about your specific condition, the more effectively you can control your blood sugar – even around those holidays. Good luck.
We hope you found this post informative and insightful. At Diabetic Warehouse, we’re committed to helping those with diabetes manage blood sugar with a complete selection of testing and treatment supplies at prices up to 65% less than those found at most pharmacies and suppliers.
Diabetic Warehouse is a trusted supplier of diabetes care products and accessories. To explore a complete range of products, including glucose meters and test strips, insulin syringes, pen needles, continuous glucose monitoring systems, and more, visit www.diabeticwarehouse.org.