What is blood sugar?
Blood sugar, or glucose, is your body's main energy source. We get glucose from the food we eat, and our blood carries it around to all the cells in the body to give them the energy to function. Glucose mainly comes from the carbohydrates we eat, though our bodies can convert protein and fat into sugar too if needed.
Glucose from protein is typically stored in the liver and doesn't enter the bloodstream, so eating protein-rich foods won't raise your blood sugar too much. Fats slow down the digestion of carbohydrates, which causes a delayed rise in blood sugar.
High blood sugar can be an issue because it usually leads to sugar crashes, which are no fun -- symptoms include fatigue, headaches and jitters. So, eat meals balanced with protein, fat, and carbs to avoid this.
How can I tell if my blood sugar is irregular?
Only a doctor can diagnose a problem with your blood sugar. But you may be wondering how to know if it's something you should get checked out. There can be two main issues with your blood sugar -- either it's consistently too high or too low. Even if you don't have diabetes, there are some signs that your blood sugar levels are not functioning normally.
Hypoglycemia is a condition in which your blood sugar is too low. Signs include an irregular heartbeat, fatigue, shakiness, and tingling or numbness in your face. If you consistently feel this way when you get hungry or between meals, talk to your health care provider.
Hyperglycemia happens when your blood sugar is too high and can happen to non-diabetics. Symptoms include frequent urination, increased thirst, and headache. If you think you're hyperglycemic and can't keep fluids or food down, call for emergency medical assistance.
What factors affect blood sugar?
You can guess that carbohydrate intake and insulin production are at least partly responsible for your blood sugar levels. But the list is much longer -- almost every lifestyle choice you make can affect your blood sugar. Here's just a partial list.
- Exercise can affect insulin sensitivity, leading to lower blood sugar for up to 48 hours.
- Alcohol intake increases insulin production, causing low blood sugar.
- Stress hormones like cortisol can raise blood sugar, because your body wants access to energy in order to escape what it perceives as a dangerous situation.
- Medications, especially statins and diuretics, can raise blood sugar. Statins are used to treat cholesterol, and diuretics for high blood pressure.
- Diet is a major player in blood sugar. Eating too many simple carbs at once can cause levels to skyrocket, while protein intake leads to a slower increase in blood sugar.
- Dehydration raises blood sugar, because with less water in your body the glucose concentration will be higher.
Other surprising factors can affect your blood sugar, like sunburn or gum disease, so if you're dealing with a blood sugar issue and can't figure out what's causing your spikes and dips, talk to a health care professional.
How is it different from diabetes?
You probably also know about blood sugar in the context of diabetes. Diabetes is a condition where there is too much sugar in the blood. Type 1 diabetes is a condition in which people are unable to make insulin, so they need to inject the hormone in order to keep their blood sugar levels stable. People with Type 2 diabetes, which usually occurs later in life, either don't secrete insulin or are resistant to it.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of High Blood Sugar Levels?
Signs of high blood sugar levels include:
- Losing weight even though your appetite has stayed the same: If there isn't enough insulin to help the body use glucose, the body breaks down muscle and stored fat instead in an attempt to provide fuel to hungry cells.
- Feeling tired, because the body can't use glucose for energy properly, a person may feel unusually tired.
- Blurry vision
However, the most common hallmark symptoms of high blood sugar or undiagnosed diabetes are:
- Polyuria: Peeing a lot, the kidneys respond by flushing out the extra glucose in urine. People with high blood sugar need to pee more often and in larger amounts.
- Polydipsia: increased thirst. Someone losing so much fluid from peeing often can get very thirsty.
- Polyphagia: an increased urge to eat.
What are the dangers of having high blood sugar levels?
The dangers of high blood sugar are that it can damage your heart, kidneys, and nerves. It can also cause blindness. Dangerously high blood glucose levels--over 300 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) --can cause life-threatening complications. Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) occurs mostly in type 1 diabetics but can occur in type 2 diabetics in some cases. In DKA, insulin stores are exhausted, and fats are broken down to use as energy. Ketones, byproducts of fat breakdown, build up in the body. Blood sugar and ketone levels rise, and acidosis develops, leading to the characteristic symptoms of DKA. Increased stress levels, illness and missing insulin doses can lead to DKA. Possible symptoms of DKA include.
Gastrointestinal Symptoms: DKA can cause abdominal pain severe enough to be interpreted as requiring surgery.
Respiratory Symptoms: People with DKA breathe deeply and rapidly, a condition known as Kussmaul’s respirations.
Dehydration: The first signs of DKA are often excessive thirst and frequent urination, which precede more serious side effects by one or two days.
Cerebral Edema: Cerebral edema, or swelling of the brain, occurs in around 1 percent of patients with DKA.
Lifestyle Interventions Can Help
The best treatments continue to remain diet and exercise and monitoring your levels.
Some ways to lower your blood sugar levels are by eating smaller meals more often, exercising for 30 minutes a day, and monitoring your blood sugar levels.
- Exercise. Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise for 150 minutes a week or 30 minutes a day can lower blood sugar by 20% to 22%. Employing this strategy alone can reduce your risk of diabetes by roughly 25%.
- Lose excess weight. A weight loss of 5% to 10% of your total body weight can lower your blood sugar and risk of diabetes by 55% to 60%.
- Move more. In addition to exercising, most doctors recommend simply getting up and moving around every 30 minutes and avoiding inactivity for long periods of time.
- Improve your diet. Increase your consumption of food with lower glycemic index such as fish, fiber, fruits, leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts and natural oils. Glycemic index is a measure of how quickly a serving of food elevates your blood sugar level. Sugary liquids like sodas have very high glycemic index ratings, while green leafy vegetables with lots of fiber that slows the movement of glucose from the food into the bloodstream are much lower on the glycemic index scale.
- Ask your doctor. For many people, lifestyle changes aren’t enough to bring down high blood glucose levels, and you may need medications to help lower your blood sugar. Talk to your health care provider about your specific needs and what would work best to keep your blood sugars at optimal levels.
Monitoring your blood sugar levels
It is very important to monitor your blood sugar levels. This can be done by using a blood sugar meter. A blood sugar meter is a small device that you use to test your blood sugar levels.
If you have high blood sugar, it is important to see your doctor. They can help you manage your condition and prevent complications. There are many things that you can do to control your blood sugar levels. Some of these things are eating a healthy diet, exercising, and taking your medicine as prescribed. With proper treatment, you can live a healthy and happy life.
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*These statement have not been evaluated by the food and drug administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.