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Diabetes Knowledge

Diabetes vocabulary from A - Z

9/15/2021 by Julia Kral

Diabetes vocabulary from A - Z

There are a lot of fancy and complicated words that come with diabetes, and it’s hard to know what they mean. We have prepared a collection of the most important terms.


Acting Time is the total length of time the insulin is expected to effectively lower blood sugar.

Active insulin is insulin that is currently in the body working to lower blood sugar. Please note: In our mySugr Bolus Calculator 3.0 algorithm, this amount does not include any insulin that is working to account for carb intake. It also does not include basal insulin.



Basal insulin, also known as background insulin. This is the long-lasting insulin that covers your basic insulin needs, independent of meals, around the clock. Depending on the exact type of basal insulin, you might take it once or twice per day. Basal insulin is often one of the first forms of insulin prescribed for people with type 2 diabetes

If you’re on intensive insulin therapy, are using a form of basal/bolus therapy, or use an insulin pump, you might want to know more about basal rate testing.

Bolus insulin is rapid-acting or short-acting insulin that you inject for your carbohydrates (meal bolus) and/or to correct a high blood sugar (correction bolus) to bring your glucose value back into target range. Checkout our blog article to find out how the mySugr Bolus Calculator handles meal boluses and correction boluses differently.

Blood sugar: Big surprise with this one, right? You probably know this one already - or have heard a lot about it at least. The blood sugar value shows the concentration of glucose (sugar) in your blood. It’s typically measured in either mg/dL or mmol/L depending on what region of the world you live in. Knowing your blood sugar values is a key piece of the puzzle for your diabetes management.



Carbohydrate: Carbohydrates (or carbs, for short) are starches and various forms of sugar such as glucose, fructose, and sucrose. Food and drink with carbs are most directly responsible for raising your blood sugar levels. Unless you’re careful, many of the things you eat or drink contain carbohydrates – including some surprising ones! For more about carbohydrates, check out this recent article, “What are carbs and why should I care?” 

Carbs/Insulin Ratio defines how much insulin is needed to cover carbohydrate intakes. It can either be expressed in grams or in exchanges.



Diabetes type: 

The  main types of diabetes are:

  • Type 1 diabetes – characterized by loss of pancreatic beta cells due to an autoimmune reaction resulting in a failure to produce insulin and including latent autoimmune diabetes of adulthood.
  • Type 2 diabetes – characterized by combination of insulin resistance and beta cell failure and resulting in poor metabolism of glucose in cells. 
  • Gestational diabetes – characterized by high blood glucose levels developing and initially recognized during pregnancy, and usually subsiding after childbirth.

Learn more about different types of diabetes in this article.



HbA1c: A certain amount of sugar in your blood sticks to your red blood cells and the HbA1c test measures that value to provide an average blood sugar value for the past 8-12 weeks. You usually have this test done at the lab or from a fingerstick at your doctor’s office. According to the ADA, a reasonable A1c goal for many adults (except pregnant people with diabetes) is less than 7%. [1] While it is a very standard measurement, it’s important to know that A1c results are only part of the story.

Hyperglycemia can be defined as high blood sugar (anything higher than your prescribed target range). Depending on how long ago you were diagnosed, you may recognize some of these symptoms; frequent urination, unquenchable thirst, and feeling tired/sluggish. Long term, it’s high blood sugar that leads to scary complications related to diabetes such as nerve damage, eye problems, and kidney damage. Here’s more information about why high blood sugar is bad.

Hypoglycemia: Also known as hypos or lows, this means low blood sugar. Hypos are very uncomfortable and the symptoms can be different for everyone (and even different for individual episodes in the same person). These symptoms can include feeling shaky, sweating, blurred vision, intense and urgent hunger, dizziness, and confusion. Lows are urgent and important. Level 1 and 2 hypoglycemia is defined as glucose levels below 70 mg/dl and 54 mg/dl respectively [1]. Treating a low blood sugar can be as simple as consuming fast-acting carbohydrates (glucose tabs, juice, regular soda, etc.). Untreated lows can lead to unconsciousness in worst case situations.



Insulin Correction Factor: defines the expected decrease in glucose for each unit of insulin. 

Insulin increments are the amount in units defined by your injection method (pen, pump, etc.). They can be expressed in tenth units (0.1 U), half units (0.5 U), and full units (1U). 



LDL Cholesterol: LDL stands for low-density lipoproteins. Often called the “bad cholesterol” because high LDL levels can lead to a buildup of plaque in your arteries making heart attacks and strokes more likely. LDL levels are largely genetic, but an unhealthy diet, being overweight, and not exercising enough are also contributing factors for unhealthy values.[4] 

Again, your doctor can prescribe a target LDL value for you. 



Maximum Bolus is the maximum amount of insulin to be delivered at one time. It is a safety measure against unintentionally large boluses being delivered.

Meal Rise:  Meal Rise, takes into account how much you allow your blood sugar level to rise after a meal (bearing in mind this is in addition to your target value). The new mySugr Bolus Calculator will only recommend additional insulin if your blood sugar rises even further. The default value is set to 75 mg/dl which is in line with international recommendations for postprandial (after meal) glycemic targets [1].



Offset Time Is the duration after a bolus has been given until it starts to significantly lower blood sugar levels. 



Target Range: Is the range in which glucose levels should stay while fasting. Individual target ranges might vary based on personal considerations but guidelines suggest a range of 80 to 130 mg/dl in non-pregnant adults with diabetes [1].  (Please note: the described parameters refer to mySugr BC 3.0 settings!)

Time in range (TIR): Continuous Glucose Measurement (CGM) systems measure glucose values on a minute basis. Time in Range is the time (expressed as a percentage), your glucose values are within the range of 70-180 mg/dL [1] over a period of multiple days. This allows a good assessment of your glucose management because a higher time in range automatically means less time outside of the target range meaning you have less hypos, less hypers or even both. A good HbA1c on the other hand could result from having a lot of hypoglycemias. This is one of the reasons why Time in Range is slowly becoming the new norm of assessing glucose control. [2]

Triglyceride: This is a blood lipid/fat value that consists of three fatty acid chains and glycerol – that’s where the name comes from. This value describes the number of triglycerides in the blood. Your doctor will have a recommended target value for you. High values over time can increase the risk of heart problems. A balanced diet, exercise, and proper weight management can help promote good triglyceride levels. Excessive alcohol consumption and a high-sugar diet, on the other hand, usually have a negative effect.[3]


Just a start

Of course, this is just a start. There are many more words and phrases that you’ll learn as time goes on. Hopefully, this short overview answers a few of your questions. Let us know if you’d like us to do more of this or if there’s a topic we should dive deeper into.


And more 

There are also a lot of non-traditional terms that people with diabetes are known to use. Some are very tongue-in-cheek, and some don’t need much explanation. Kerri Sparling at SixUntilMe has a wonderful collection of these Diabetes Terms of Endearment. Enjoy!

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[1] 6. Glycemic Targets: Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes-2020. Diabetes Care. 2020;43(January):S66-S76. doi:10.2337/dc20-S006

[2] Danne T, Nimri R, Battelino T, et al. International consensus on use of continuous glucose monitoring. Diabetes Care. 2017;40(12):1631-1640. doi:10.2337/dc17-1600

[3] Parhofer KG, Laufs U: The diagnosis and treatment of hypertriglyceridemia. Dtsch Arztebl Int 2019; 116: 825–32. DOI: 10.3238/arztebl.2019.0825

[4] Weissglas-Volkov, Daphna, and Päivi Pajukanta. “Genetic causes of high and low serum HDL-cholesterol.” Journal of lipid research vol. 51,8 (2010): 2032-57. doi:10.1194/jlr.R004739

Additional Sources:,blood%2Dsugar%2Dlowering%20medication.


The mySugr website does not provide medical or legal advice. mySugr blog articles are not scientific articles, but intended for informational purposes only.
Medical or nutritional information on the mySugr website is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult a physician or health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Julia Kral

Julia joined the Brand & Marketing department at mySugr in 2018. Holding a bachelor’s degree in health care management, she has been working in the health care and diabetes industry for the past 5 years. Living with type 1 diabetes herself, Julia is very passionate about making the life with diabetes better for other peers. 

She has been writing various articles for our blog, e.g. about the most important diabetes vocabulary.

In her free time, you will find her reading books, travelling the world with her backpack or visiting the latest art exhibitions in her home town Vienna, Austria.