A short online and in-person program can reduce episodes of severe hypoglycemia and stress from hypoglycemia and significantly reduce hypoglycemia unawareness, according to research presented at the American Diabetes Association’s 76th Scientific Sessions in New Orleans.
Hypoglycemia, typically defined as blood sugar below 70 mg/dl (although individual targets may vary), is a blood sugar level too low to fuel the body’s activities. Common symptoms include weakness, sleepiness, confusion, dizziness, hunger, irritability, sweating, and rapid heartbeat. Hypoglycemia unawareness is a condition in which a person does not experience the usual early warnings of low blood sugar, potentially causing unconsciousness or even death.
HypoAware is a modified version of Blood Glucose Awareness Training, which is generally provided in person over the course of six to eight weekly workshops. HypoAware is instead delivered in three 2.5-hour group sessions and two online modules, for a total of four weeks. To determine whether this brief in-person and web-based training program could reduce hypoglycemia in people with Type 1 and insulin-treated Type 2 diabetes, researchers in Denmark randomly assigned people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes in eight outpatient centers to receive either usual care or usual care plus HypoAware. The participants had an average age of 52, with 121 having Type 1 diabetes and 14 having Type 2 diabetes. More than 100 of the subjects had experienced hypoglycemia unawareness prior to the study.
Six months after the program had concluded, the HbA1c levels (a marker of blood glucose control over the previous 2–3 months) of participants had not changed. However, severe hypoglycemia was reduced by 35% to 37% in the HypoAware group, stress related to hypoglycemia was reduced by 20% to 30%, and hypoglycemia unawareness was reduced by 62%.
“It’s very much about understanding your body, it’s about awareness, it’s about understanding your own risky behaviors, as well as communicating with your environment,” said study author Frank J. Snoek, PhD. “I think we can be really pleased with the outcomes of this brief intervention.”
Limitations of the study include a relatively short follow-up period. The researchers soon plan to examine 12-month data to see if the intervention maintains its effectiveness after a year.
For more information, read the article “New Tool Reduces Impaired Hypoglycemia Awareness in Diabetes” or see the study’s abstract on the website of the American Diabetes Association’s Scientific Sessions. And to learn more about reducing hypoglycemia, see “Take a Bite Out of Hypoglycemia: 10 Proven Strategies for Cutting Down on Low Blood Glucose,” by 2014 AADE Diabetes Educator of the Year Gary Scheiner.
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Diane Fennell: Diane Fennell has been an editor at Diabetes Self-Management magazine since 2003. She is currently the Editorial Director. (Diane Fennell is not a medical professional.)
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