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Hypoglycemia, also called low blood sugar, occurs when your blood glucose (blood sugar) level drops too low to provide enough energy for your body's activities. In adults or children older than 10 years, hypoglycemia is uncommon except as a side effect of diabetes treatment, but it can result from other medications or diseases, hormone or enzyme deficiencies, or tumors.


Exercise and Hypoglycemia

What you eat and when also depends on how much you exercise. Exercise is an important part of staying healthy and controlling your blood glucose. Physical activity should be safe and enjoyable, so talk with your doctor about what types of exercise are right for you. Whatever kind of exercise you do, here are some special things that people with diabetes need to remember:


  • Take care of your feet. Make sure your shoes fit properly and your socks stay clean and dry. Check your feet for redness or sores after exercising. Call your doctor if you have sores that do not heal.

  • Drink about 2 cups of water before you exercise, about every 20 minutes during exercise, and after you finish, even if you don't feel thirsty.

  • Warm up and cool down for 5 to 10 minutes before and after exercising. For example, walk slowly at first, then walk faster. Finish up by walking slowly again.

  • Test your blood glucose before and after exercising. Do not exercise if your fasting blood glucose level is above 300. Eat a small snack if your blood glucose is below 100.


Signs and Symptoms of Hypoglycemia

You should know the signs of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) such as feeling weak or dizzy, sweating more, noticing sudden changes in your heartbeat, or feeling hungry. If you experience these symptoms, stop exercising and test your blood glucose. If it is 70 or less, eat one of the following right away:


  • 2 or 3 glucose tablets

  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) of any fruit juice

  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) of a regular (not diet) soft drink

  • 1 cup (8 ounces) of milk

  • 5 or 6 pieces of hard candy

  • 1 or 2 teaspoons of sugar or honey


After 15 minutes, test your blood glucose again to find out whether it has returned to a healthier level. Once blood glucose is stable, if it will be at least an hour before your next meal, it's a good idea to eat a snack.


To be safe when you exercise, carry something to treat hypoglycemia, such as glucose tablets or hard candy. Another good idea is to wear a medical identification bracelet or necklace (in case of emergency) that lets others know you have diabetes. Teach your exercise partners the signs of hypoglycemia and what to do about it.


SOURCE: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, 2002. Website:


Health Disclaimer - The diabetic diet information and advice offered above is intended as a general guide ONLY. If you have diabetes, please consult your doctor about the best way to handle your condition. Diabetes is a serious condition which requires personal, professional advice.