Take Control of Your Blood Sugar: High Glucose Levels Can Lead to Chronic Health IssuesApr 20, 2022 08:51AM ● By KLAUDIA BALOGH
Knowing how certain foods impact my blood sugar has forever changed the way I eat. Take watermelon, for example. It is one of my favorite fruits, but after seeing how just one small bite nearly doubled my glucose levels, I now think twice before indulging. Even when I do, it’s not on an empty stomach or on its own.
Why does that matter? I’m not diabetic, don’t have insulin resistance, and as far as I can tell, I’m healthy, so why should I care about my blood sugar? And why should you?
A growing amount of research has found that dysregulated blood-sugar level is the underlying issue for myriad chronic diseases. From cancer and heart disease to diabetes and Alzheimer’s, abnormal blood-sugar levels can cripple people’s health and costs the nation $3.8 trillion in annual healthcare costs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The statistics are staggering: 6 out of 10 American adults have one chronic condition, and 4 out of 10 have two or more.
In some cases, genetics may make some people more susceptible than others to developing such health conditions, but lifestyle choices make the biggest difference. Blood-sugar fluctuations aren’t dependent only on food intake. Sleep, exercise, stress, certain medications, and even dehydration can impact glucose levels.
For easy interpretation, however, let’s use food as an example. Different types of food have varying impact on how much blood sugar will increase at any given time. Fats, protein, and fiber cause less severe glucose spikes, while starches, simple carbohydrates, and sugar-dense foods result in much higher and sharper increases.
What happens next on a cellular level is carbohydrates convert to glucose in the bloodstream. Recognizing that, the pancreas releases insulin to usher that glucose into muscles and fat cells either to get used or stored for energy. The higher the glucose spike, the more insulin is needed to avoid lasting elevated glucose in the bloodstream.
Wanting to take a nap or feeling sluggish after a heavy meal might sound familiar, as most people have experienced the highs and lows of a blood-sugar rush, often followed by a crash.
That crash is the result of blood sugar going from too high to too low and too fast. The normal range for a healthy individual is between 80 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) and 130 mg/dl. With glucose rollercoaster rides, however, it can go from as high as 180 mg/dl to 60 mg/dl in just 30 minutes.
If blood-sugar peaks and valleys are common, the body will become less efficient in pumping out insulin to help the cells properly absorb glucose. That can eventually lead to chronically elevated blood-sugar levels, insulin resistance, prediabetes, and then type 2 diabetes.
Not to mention, such extreme and chronic blood-sugar issues have been associated with not only physical but also mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and brain fog.
But this can all be prevented. The more you understand your body’s blood-sugar regulation, the more informed decisions you can make on a daily basis.
I’m a big believer in the you-can-manage-only-what-you-measure mentality, so it was a game changer for me to understand my blood-sugar levels.
For a long time, the only way I was able to measure my blood sugar at home was with a finger-prick blood test. It was inconvenient. Then I discovered continuous glucose monitoring (CGM), which allowed me to track my blood sugar 24/7 for two weeks at a time. CGMs gather blood-sugar data via a small flexible metal filament sensor that is inserted through your skin at the triceps or abdomen to measure glucose found in interstitial fluid. To get a reading, all you have to do is place your phone by the device on your arm, and it shows your blood-sugar level in an app.
Now I am fully aware of my own blood-sugar level and can take the appropriate steps to control it. I feel much better for it.
TIPS TO AVOID THE BLOOD-SUGAR ROLLERCOASTER
- Eat fats, vegetables, and protein before starches.
- Go for a 15-minute walk after a meal.
- Avoid sweets for breakfast.
- Eat dessert only after a whole meal.
- Eat whole fruits rather than juices.
Klaudia Balogh is a health and wellness writer for TOTI Media.