If diabetes was theatre, long-acting insulin would be the stage manager, handling the behind-the-scenes work to make sure everything runs smoothly. Unlike rapid-acting and short-acting insulin, long-acting insulin (like Lantus and Levemir) takes 4 to 6 hours to reach the bloodstream and has the most impact around 10 to 18 hours after injection.Analogies aside, long-acting insulin is the insulin that controls your blood sugar when you aren’t eating, making sure to keep glucose levels steady throughout the day.
Out of all of the insulin types, long-acting is generally the easiest to master given that you don’t use it to respond quickly to changes in your blood sugar levels or in an emergency. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t factors that can affect your long-acting insulin dosage – there are. That’s why we’re going to talk about four events that have the potential to throw off your blood sugar to the point where you may need to adjust your long-acting insulin dose.
Obviously, if you think you need to adjust your long-acting insulin dosage, the first step you should take is to call your physician to discuss any lifestyle or health changes and how that might affect your diabetes. There’s never a substitute for having your doctor’s input.
With that said, it’s never a bad idea to be cognizant of the types of events that have the potential to drastically alter your blood sugar. Here are four that you might have never considered before.
1. Weight Fluctuations
Fluctuations in your weight will have an effect on how much long-acting insulin you’ll need to take each day. This is especially important to keep in mind if you’re starting a new diet or fitness regimen and plan to lose weight quickly. People with higher weights generally need more long-acting insulin, while people with lower weights will usually need less.
2. Long Illnesses
Illnesses can sometimes require changes to your long-acting insulin dosage. This usually happens when you come down with infections that last a week or more (like mono, the flu, or pneumonia), and they can throw off your blood sugar. When you’re at the doctor’s office for an illness, always make sure to ask your physician how it will affect your insulin regimen so that you can make adjustments, if needed.
3. Emotional Stress
Emotional stress can also play havoc with your blood sugar levels. Many times this can be corrected through adjusting short-acting insulin dosage, but in the event of a longer stressful or emotional event, adjusting long-acting insulin dosages might be necessary.
If you’re experiencing an unusually stressful period in your life (maybe your wedding is coming up, or you’re switching jobs, or moving across the country), you should talk to your physician and carefully monitor your blood glucose levels to make sure that they are staying within a healthy range. It might be worthwhile to schedule a few extra visits to your physician if you can squeeze them in, just to be safe.
4. Exercise Matters
Exercise and other physical activity can seriously affect the way your body processes insulin. If you plan on engaging in any strenuous physical activity, it’s important to make sure that you have plenty of rapid-acting insulin and sources of glucose on you. It’s especially important if you don’t normally get as much exercise, since sudden changes in exercise patterns can make a huge change in your body’s need for glucose.
Your regular dose of long-acting insulin may be fine on regular days, but may be too much or not enough on days when you need to walk around a lot, or are playing a game of pickup basketball after work. This is one of the reasons it’s important to always carry an emergency insulin kit with you.