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Can alcohol affect blood sugar readings in diabetics?

Answered by: Dr. Peter J. Watkins
Honorary Consultant Physician,
Kings College Hospital,
London

Q. My husband has high BP and sugar. He is on medication. Yesterday he got his blood sugar tested and the fasting result was 15.1 mmol/l. His doctor increased the medicine dose. His blood pressure is 150/98. My husband is a heavy drinker. He can finish nearly one and a half bottle of whisky. I feel the sudden increase in his blood sugar is due to alcohol though he feels that the effect of alcohol only stays in the body for 24 hours and could not have been there in his blood when he got it tested. Can you please clarify? He did not mention this to the doctor. Please suggest?

A.  A blood sugar level of 15.1 mmol/l does indicate poor control of diabetes, and the doctor was right to increase the treatment, although your husband should be aware that diet, and that includes alcohol, is at least as important as the tablets, and an appropriate amount of exercise is important as well. Alcohol does affect the control of diabetes, although its effect is very variable, and it would not affect the blood sugar level days later. Nevertheless, the amount of whisky you describe is very bad for health, whether someone has diabetes or not. Such a large quantity of whisky can also be particularly dangerous in a diabetic taking tablets. I would advise him very strongly to reduce this amount of alcohol substantially. The blood pressure reading at 150/98 is slightly high too, but would need to be checked before the doctor will decide whether or not treatment is needed. Reducing alcohol intake can also have a good effect in reducing blood pressure.

A.  A blood sugar level of 15.1 mmol/l does indicate poor control of diabetes, and the doctor was right to increase the treatment, although your husband should be aware that diet, and that includes alcohol, is at least as important as the tablets, and an appropriate amount of exercise is important as well. Alcohol does affect the control of diabetes, although its effect is very variable, and it would not affect the blood sugar level days later. Nevertheless, the amount of whisky you describe is very bad for health, whether someone has diabetes or not. Such a large quantity of whisky can also be particularly dangerous in a diabetic taking tablets. I would advise him very strongly to reduce this amount of alcohol substantially. The blood pressure reading at 150/98 is slightly high too, but would need to be checked before the doctor will decide whether or not treatment is needed. Reducing alcohol intake can also have a good effect in reducing blood pressure.

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