There are many factors in play when it comes to people maintaining good health, and it would require thousands of words to discuss them all. However, and with that established, keeping one’s blood sugar levels (also known as glucose) in a safe range is essential. This may come as a shock, but accomplishing this isn’t as easy as one may be led to believe. This era of fast-paced lifestyles, complete with an abundance of junk and high-fat foods, has decidedly made glucose control quite the challenge. The rates of diabetes have increased dramatically in recent times, and perhaps most sobering of all, many people with this condition don’t even know they have it!
At least not yet, and here’s the problem: When food is consumed, the body turns it into glucose, which in turn is stored in cells as energy. The pancreas is an organ that manufactures insulin, a compound that transfers glucose from the bloodstream into the body’s cells. When insulin isn’t performing this task properly, too much of this substance will accumulate in the bloodstream. Some of this excess glucose will exit the body through urination while some may remain behind. This not only depletes the fuel one needs for energy, but it also causes diabetes. Over time, untreated diabetes can lead to some nasty complications like heart disease, circulatory problems, kidney failure, nerve damage, visual problems including blindness, and can even result in needing limb amputations. While some individuals can inherit diabetes, a poor diet, quite common in today’s society, will also increase the odds of acquiring this disease. Thus, someone that never has his or her glucose levels checked or fails to control diabetes once it’s diagnosed runs a great risk of developing any combination of these unwanted problems.
When a person’s glucose levels are too high (generally over 200 milligrams per deciliter of blood), this is called hyperglycemia. Conversely, when the levels are too low (under 72 milligrams per deciliter), this results in hypoglycemia. This generally occurs in people with severe cases of diabetes where insulin levels dramatically fluctuate. Hypoglycemia can lead to seizures, loss of consciousness, and even death if not addressed. Since most people with either of these issues are already diabetic, maintaining glucose levels above 72 and below 200 mg/dl is prudent. In the case of those with pre-diabetes or no diabetes, maintaining safe glucose levels is necessary to avoid progressing to full-blown diabetes.
So, regardless of one’s diabetic status, how can blood sugar levels be kept in check? What steps can be taken to keep glucose at bay?
If you have a sweet tooth, stick with foods that are naturally sweet, such as fresh fruits. Cut out the candy bars, pies, and cakes. If you can’t live without candy, try sugar-free varieties, but be warned: too much sugar-free chocolate can cause gastric problems.
Similarly, switch to diet soda, but don’t go overboard. Studies have been conducted that claim too much diet soda increases hunger, which could bring one right back to Square One. Drink coffee and tea black or use artificial sweeteners instead of pure sugar.
Finally, in regard to food consumption, this can’t be stressed enough, but watch the carbohydrate content in what you eat. Starch turns into sugar in the bloodstream. As a result, high-carb foods such as breads and pastas can raise those glucose levels worse than a bowl of Captain Crunch. On the other hand, healthy carbs, such as found in fruits, vegetables, and grains are essential in keeping energy and supplying the body with vitamins and minerals.
Mellow out. Reduce stress. Stress has a negative impact on glucose levels.
Stay active. Exercise several times a week. Get that heart pumping with cardiovascular workouts, such as brisk walking or running. This is especially helpful for those who already have diabetes. Exercise also helps in keeping body weight down. A increasing number of children are being diagnosed with obesity and diabetes because they aren’t involved in sufficient physical activity. Moving your thumbs quickly over a joystick doesn’t count!
If you already have diabetes or have learned you are pre-diabetic, keep track of your blood sugar with a glucose meter and adjust your diet and activity accordingly if the readings are too high. In addition, get regular checkups and fasting blood tests with your physician.
If you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, talk with your physician before drinking alcoholic beverages. Alcohol can affect one’s glucose levels quite erratically, and when mixed with medications made to lower glucose levels, it can cause hypoglycemia.
Contrary to popular belief, once a person has been diagnosed with diabetes, it cannot yet be “reversed,” but it can be kept in control by adhering to the steps listed above. Likewise, for those who do not have diabetes, maintaining a healthy weight, good eating habits and adequate exercise will significantly reduce the risks of getting the condition later in life. In either case, the time to keep your blood sugar in control is now.