It’s Tuesday, and I have made room in my schedule to do paperwork. Everything seems to be going great. It’s just about time to go home and I realize that during the second half of the day I barely got any work done.
I start thinking, “What happened?” I can’t remember so I decide to check my blood sugar – and wow, is it high! It has been 4 hours since I ate lunch, and I think I gave myself insulin to cover it. I wish I could remember how much I gave and the carbohydrates I ate, but my blood sugar is 254 mg/dl.
At this point, it doesn’t matter. Work will be waiting, and I decide to go home early and give myself some fast acting insulin. By dinner time, I was back to normal…114 mg/dl. I am going to be extra careful to watch for the rebound, but what happened earlier?
High blood sugars cause the body to slow down.
When sugar levels are high, blood thickening occurs which causes a reduction of oxygen in the brain, and this lessens responses to stimuli. In turn, chemical synapses don’t work adequately, reducing the brain’s ability to process information. Improper synapses functioning makes it harder to think and process data accurately. It impacts memory recall, attention, concentration, focus, and retention of external information, making learning difficult and in some cases impossible for the child or adult living with diabetes.
Imagine that each synapse in your mind is Olympic Gold Medalist swimmer Michael Phelps. Now imagine trying to swim in Jell-O®. Your mind is a Jell-O® filled pool that causes you not to be able to reach your full potential. Even Phelps can’t swim properly in a pool of Jell-O®. What would happen to Phelps is similar to what occurs when your blood sugar is too high.
When your blood sugar is healthy, your pool is filled with the proper chemicals and water. Blood sugars that are in a healthy range allow your synapses swim efficiently and finishing the race bringing the information stored in your brain where it needs to go.
The Jell-O® effect of high blood sugars also cause poor memory recall and prevents new data from assimilating into the mind properly, causing memory loss and poor retention. It hinders the growth of new cells in the brain and body. During high blood sugar levels, the body has a harder time fighting off infection by reducing the strength of the white blood cells to attack foreign antibodies in the blood stream.
It may feel safer to have high blood sugars compared to lows, but over time and in the “hear and now” it will cause issues with work and life in general.
Eliot LeBow, LCSW, CDE, is a diabetes-focused psychotherapist. His private practice, located in New York City and is also available via Skype. LeBow, who has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1977, treats the many diverse cognitive, behavioral, and emotional needs of people living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
All the advice included in this blog is therapeutic in nature and should not be considered medical advice. Before making any changes to your diabetes maintenance program, please consult with your primary physician or endocrinologist.