If you are one of the millions of people who has prediabetes, diabetes, metabolic syndrome or any other form of “insulin resistance,” maintaining normal blood sugar levels can be challenging. Chronic disorders have swept through the U.S. and many other nations, reaching epidemic proportions and causing serious, but often preventable, side effects like nerve damage, fatigue, loss of vision, arterial damage and weight gain.
Elevated blood sugar levels maintained for an extended period of time can push someone who is “prediabetic” into having full-blown diabetes. Even for people who aren’t necessarily at a high risk for developing diabetes or heart complications, poorly managed blood sugar can lead to common complications, including fatigue, weight gain and sugar cravings.
Blood sugar is raised by glucose, which is the sugar we get from eating many different types of foods that contain carbohydrates. When we consume carbohydrates, the body breaks down them into glucose, which is then absorbed into the bloodstream. This glucose is then transported throughout the body and used for energy by our cells.
To help maintain normal blood sugar levels, it is important to control the amount of carbohydrates you consume and the timing of them. Eating smaller meals throughout the day, rather than large meals, can help control blood sugar levels. It is also recommended to choose carbohydrates that are high in fiber, as fiber helps to slow down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream.
In addition to dietary changes, physical activity is also crucial in managing blood sugar levels. Regular exercise can help the body use glucose more effectively and can also improve insulin sensitivity. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise program.
In addition to diet and exercise, managing stress levels is also beneficial for blood sugar control. Chronic stress can lead to increased blood sugar levels and can contribute to insulin resistance. Taking steps to manage stress, such as practicing mindfulness or engaging in relaxation techniques, can be beneficial for overall health.
Monitoring blood sugar levels regularly can help individuals understand their own individual response to various foods and activities. This can be done through home testing kits or regular check-ups with a healthcare professional. By monitoring blood sugar levels, individuals can adjust their diet, exercise, and stress levels accordingly to maintain optimal blood sugar levels.
What are Normal Blood Sugar Levels?
Blood sugar, also known as blood glucose, is an essential substance responsible for maintaining the well-being of our bodies. It is primarily responsible for providing energy to the cells and tissues in our body, as well as aiding in other important functions. Therefore, maintaining a healthy blood sugar level is crucial for overall health and well-being.
Normal blood sugar ranges are generally defined as levels within the following range:
- Fasting Blood Sugar: This refers to blood sugar levels taken after fasting for at least eight hours. Normal fasting blood sugar levels are between 70 mg/dL and 99 mg/dL.
- Postprandial Blood Sugar: This refers to blood sugar levels taken after a meal. Normal postprandial blood sugar levels are less than 140 mg/dL two hours after a meal.
- A1c Levels: A1c is a blood test that measures the average level of blood sugar over the past two to three months. Normal A1c levels are usually below 5.7%.
These ranges are based on the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, which are widely accepted as a standard for defining normal blood sugar levels. It is important to note that individual variations may exist, and blood sugar can vary depending on various factors such as age, gender, and overall health.
Signs of High/Low Blood Sugar
Even without measuring your blood sugar levels, there are certain clues that things might not be “normal.” How do you know if you’re not successfully managing your blood sugar levels throughout the day? Paying attention to these signs and symptoms is key to preventing complications from diabetes or identifying issues with your blood sugar levels.
Common signs and symptoms not to ignore that can signify diabetes and fluctuating blood sugar levels include:
- Frequent Urination
- Increased Thirst
- Unexplained Weight Loss
- Fatigue and Weakness
- Blurred Vision
- Frequent Infections
- Wasting away
- Slow Healing Wounds
- Irritability and Mood Swings
- Sleep Disturbances
Causes of Abnormal Blood Sugar Levels
Abnormal blood sugar levels, also known as hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia, occur when the body’s blood glucose levels are outside of the normal and healthy range. These abnormal levels can have severe health consequences if left untreated. Understanding the causes of abnormal blood sugar levels is crucial in managing the condition effectively.
Insulin resistance is a common condition where the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels. With insulin resistance, the body is not able to effectively use insulin to shuttle glucose from the bloodstream into the cells, leading to high blood sugar levels. Causes of insulin resistance can include obesity, physical inactivity, and certain medications.
Diabetes Mellitus (Type 1 and Type 2)
Diabetes mellitus is a group of metabolic disorders characterized by high blood sugar levels. The two main types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2.
- Type 1 Diabetes: Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. As a result, the body is unable to produce sufficient insulin to regulate blood sugar levels.
- Type 2 Diabetes: Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes and is characterized by insulin resistance. It also involves the body’s inability to produce enough insulin or respond properly to insulin. Type 2 diabetes is often associated with lifestyle factors such as obesity, poor diet, and physical inactivity.
Prediabetes is a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. It often precedes the development of type 2 diabetes and is an important warning sign that lifestyle changes and medical intervention may be necessary to prevent progression. Causes of prediabetes include being overweight or obese, having a family history of diabetes, and being physically inactive.
Hormonal imbalances, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), can cause abnormal blood sugar levels. PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects women of reproductive age, leading to irregular periods, excess hair growth, and insulin resistance.
Excessive Alcohol Consumption
Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to abnormal blood sugar levels. Alcohol impairs the body’s ability to produce and use insulin effectively, leading to increased blood sugar levels. Binge drinking and heavy alcohol consumption are associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Certain medications, such as steroids, certain blood pressure medications, and certain antidepressants, can interfere with blood sugar regulation. These medications can cause high blood sugar levels in some individuals, particularly those who are already at risk of diabetes.
Stress and Emotional Factors
Stress and emotional factors can play a role in the development of abnormal blood sugar levels. Chronic stress can increase the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol, which can affect blood sugar regulation. Additionally, emotional factors such as anxiety and depression can also affect glucose metabolism and contribute to abnormal blood sugar levels.
Poor Diet and Nutrition
A poor diet and lack of proper nutrition can contribute to abnormal blood sugar levels. Consuming excessive amounts of sugar, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods can increase the risk of insulin resistance and contribute to higher blood sugar levels. Conversely, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help manage blood sugar levels.
Importance of Maintaining Normal Blood Sugar
Maintaining normal blood sugar levels is vital for optimal health. When blood sugar levels are too high or too low, it can have detrimental effects on the body.
High blood sugar levels, also known as hyperglycemia, can lead to various health problems, including:
- Increased risk of diabetes and its complications
- Damage to blood vessels and organs, such as the kidneys, heart, and eyes
- Fatigue and weakness
- Blurred vision and tingling in the hands or feet
- Increased risk of infections and delayed wound healing
On the other hand, low blood sugar levels, also known as hypoglycemia, can have the following effects:
- Shakiness, dizziness, and confusion
- Hunger and trembling
- Irritability and mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating and blurred vision
- Nausea and vomiting
How to Maintain Normal Blood Sugar
Most of the habits that help us maintain healthy, normal blood sugar levels are fairly obvious and simple to carry out. However, some might also surprise you, especially if you think it will be tough to start managing your blood sugar better.
Small changes in your diet, exercise routine and sleep schedule can wind up making a big difference when it comes to blood sugar management. Let’s look at some of the best ways to help get you on the right track to reaching and maintaining normal blood sugar levels for life.
Eat a Low-Processed, Anti-Inflammatory Diet
A healthy diet plays a crucial role in maintaining normal blood sugar levels. Avoid processed foods high in added sugars, unhealthy fats, and artificial ingredients. Instead, focus on eating whole, unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
Tip: Look for foods that have a low glycemic index (GI), which means they cause a slower rise in blood sugar levels. Foods with a high GI, such as sugary drinks and white bread, can cause spikes in blood sugar levels, leading to weight gain and increased insulin resistance.
Switch Up Your Carbs and Sweeteners
Carbohydrates are an important source of energy for our bodies, but it’s important to choose the right kinds. Complex carbohydrates, found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, are digested more slowly and help maintain normal blood sugar levels.
When it comes to sweeteners, choose natural options like stevia or monk fruit extract instead of artificial sweeteners like aspartame or sucralose. Artificial sweeteners have been linked to increased blood sugar levels and weight gain.
Get Regular Exercise
Exercise is not only beneficial for weight management but also plays a crucial role in maintaining normal blood sugar levels. Regular physical activity helps increase insulin sensitivity, enabling cells to absorb blood sugar more effectively. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, along with strength training exercises.
Tip: Include both cardiovascular exercises, such as walking, jogging, or swimming, and strength training exercises, such as weightlifting or bodyweight exercises, in your workout routine.
Chronic stress has been shown to significantly impact blood sugar levels. High levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, can increase insulin resistance and make it harder for cells to absorb blood sugar. Incorporate stress-reducing practices into your daily routine, such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises.
Get Enough Rest
Getting enough sleep is crucial for overall health, including blood sugar management. Lack of sleep can lead to increased blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night, and prioritize creating a healthy sleep routine.
Tip: Avoid screens before bed, create a relaxing bedtime routine, and make sure your bedroom is dark and cool.
In conclusion, maintaining normal blood sugar levels is crucial for overall well-being. By understanding the normal range for blood sugar levels and implementing strategies to regulate them, individuals can reduce their risk of developing diabetes and other health problems. By following a balanced diet, engaging in regular exercise, managing stress, monitoring blood sugar levels, and seeking professional guidance, individuals can optimize their blood sugar control and lead a healthy life.