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How to Stabilize Your "Too High" Glucose Levels

Five ways to get your glucose levels under control. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Keeping an eye on your glucose levels, especially if you have diabetes, can be a matter of life and death. Glucose is a type of sugar you get from foods you eat and your body uses for energy. However, if your glucose levels are too high, you risk a slew of health issues including diabetic coma. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) generally recommends trying to stay within these blood sugar targets: Between 80 and 130 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) before meals. Less than 180 mg/dL two hours after meals. Dr. Jagdish Khubchandani, MBBS, Ph.D., a professor of public health at New Mexico State University tells Eat This, Not That! Health, "Nearly 35 million Americans have diabetes, but only some 27 million have been diagnosed leaving a large chunk of the population with diabetes that is undiagnosed. Also, more than 85 million adults have prediabetes. One of the problems we face in public health is estimating the undiagnosed individuals or those who have high blood glucose, but have not been able to get a blood test confirming their high levels of blood sugar," Khubchandani said. "People should be focusing on the S strategies in their life," he added while explaining ways to avoid high blood sugar." Here's Khubchandani's five tips for getting glucose levels under control.  Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Screen or Check Glucose Levels Often

female using lancelet on finger to checking blood sugar level by Glucose meter

Many people with high blood sugar are not aware that they have this problem. "It is critical that all adults get screened for blood sugar when they go for annual checkups or even otherwise. For overweight individuals, this is critical and is even recommended by professional health organizations." Khubchandani suggested that for certain groups of people, the risk is higher and they should ensure that they get screened. He listed age, race, family history of diabetes, obesity, sedentary lifestyles, high blood cholesterol or pressure as some risk factors to indicate people need screening for blood glucose. "Unless you know or check, you cannot control or take steps to manage high levels of blood sugar. As of today, nearly a fifth of those who have it, do not even know that they have high blood sugar," Khubchandani suggested.


Limit Sugars and Snacks

people snacking

"Sugar is the most common, unhealthiest, and most popular ingredients in the human diet. However, we should all aim to get less than 20% of our calories through sugary and starchy foods," Khubchandani said. "It's always good to replace breads, pies, cakes, and donuts with fruits and vegetables. Certain foods also have lower glycemic index (i.e. ranking of food items by their potential to cause increase in blood sugar) and should be used often such as nuts, beans, legumes, fiber rich fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low fat milk and yogurt, fish and some types of meats. One must also be able to understand types of sugars. There are two major types- simple and complex. Simple sugars cause sudden rise in blood sugar and are not considered stable sources of energy compared to complex sugars,", Khubchandani suggests. The difference between them lies in the number of sugar molecules they contain. Simple sugars can have one or two sugar molecules whereas complex sugars contain more molecules, are healthier, digest slowly, and provide stable sources of energy.


Stress, Smoking, Spirits

woman puts hands on head, stressed, busy at work

Many of the leading causes of death (e.g. heart disease and stroke) are related to stress. Khubchandani explained "stress can directly or indirectly burden our vital organs. We often do not appreciate how daily stresses of life increase circulating blood sugar and cholesterol. A variety of neurochemical and hormonal reactions in the body cause spikes in blood sugar during times of high stress". Many people turn to alcohol, drugs, or smoking to manage stress. "Such habits worsen blood sugar levels even if they temporarily help with stress," Khubchandani mentioned and highlighted the stress management, avoidance of smoking and drugs, or alcohol use can certainly help reduce blood sugar. "Even if people have to consume alcohol or spirits, they should watch out for high fat or sugar rich wines and alcoholic beverages as they can directly lead to high sugar levels"

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Sleep and Schedules

woman sleeping peacefully

Sleep is essential for rejuvenation of the body and sleep duration also influences circulating hormones that influence blood sugar (e.g. insulin and cortisol). Khubchandani suggests, "there is a healthy sleep duration for all individuals depending on age. High blood sugar and sleep have a bidirectional relationship with sleep influencing blood sugar levels and vice versa." People with short sleep or poor-quality sleep are more likely to have diabetes, high blood sugar and cholesterol, risk of heart disease and psychiatric problems. "Not just the sleep schedules, a schedule for diet, exercise, work, daily routine, and leisure are critical to maintain normal blood sugar levels," Khubchandani said alluding to high blood sugar risk for people who don't maintain sleep-wake routine, stable and healthy diet and exercise patterns, or work-life balance.

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Sedentary Lifestyles and Social Isolation

Thoughtful girl sitting on sill embracing knees looking at window, sad depressed teenager spending time alone at home, young upset pensive woman feeling lonely or frustrated thinking about problems

Blood sugar is related to the amount of physical activity and exercise we engage in. "People who work from home, have office-based work, spend a lot of time in front of electronic devices, or do not engage in the recommended levels of physical activity should know the risk of accumulating too much sugar and fat in the blood and body," Khubchandani said. He warned that even in people with diabetes, lower physical activity can worsen or prolong the duration of high blood sugar. "it is fairly simple, the number of calories we consume, needs to be spent and exercise is like medicine". Going outdoors, staying active, engaging in cardio can improve both physical and mental health in part by reducing blood sugar, cholesterol, and toxins in the body. "There can be added benefits of physical activity like meeting people, staying connected, socializing- all of these related to improved health," Khubchandani added while emphasizing that loneliness, stress, and social isolation can worsen health problems like high blood sugar or diabetes leading to earlier occurrence of diseases of heart, kidney, and brain.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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