Chronically high blood sugar is dangerous for the body in a multitude of ways. Left unchecked, excessive blood sugar can lead to type 2 diabetes. That raises your risk of serious health conditions including heart disease, stroke, dementia, blindness, and a poor outcome from COVID-19. To prevent diabetes and prediabetes, keeping your blood sugar in a healthy range is key. Here’s how to do it. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
On a recent episode of the All Bodies Nutrition podcast, Dr. Gregory Hodell, a New York City-based endocrinologist who specializes in diabetes and prediabetes, was asked what a person should say to their doctor when they’re told they’re prediabetic and have weight to lose. “‘I’m willing and I want to hear what I can do to take care of my blood sugar,” he said, “And ‘I’m happy to hear about behaviors, because those are things that we know will improve my health, versus just saying, you need to diet and exercise.””
He added: “What I would say is, ‘Let’s talk about how I can find ways to move more. Let’s talk about maybe seeing a dietician and how I could pair foods. Let’s talk about if I have a lot of stress going on and I’m not sleeping well—should I be seeing a therapist? He said that fixating only on weight loss often isn’t helpful—it can lead to weight cycling (frequently and regaining weight), which can increase insulin levels and inflammation—and noted that more than 40 lifestyle factors are known to affect blood sugar . Here’s what we know about some of them:
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Exercise can lower blood sugar in two key ways, the American Diabetes Association says: It increases insulin sensitivity, so muscle cells are more able to take up glucose instead of allowing it to build up in the blood. And when muscles contract during exercise, they’re better able to process glucose regardless of whether insulin is available.
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Stress increases blood sugar in the body. It’s a variation of the primitive fight-or-flight response: When you’re stressed out, the body prepares itself for battle by ensuring enough sugar is available to use as energy if necessary. Insulin levels fall, adrenaline levels rise and the liver releases more glucose into the bloodstream. Levels of the stress hormone cortisol also rise, which makes muscle and fat less sensitive to insulin (meaning the additional blood sugar isn’t processed and hangs around). Chronic stress can lead to
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Poor sleep is another source of stress for the body, and making it a habit can wreak havoc with your blood sugar levels. “Even just one night of too little sleep can make your body use insulin less efficiently,” says the CDC. Not only does inadequate rest make the body more resistant to insulin, it increases circulating levels of cortisol.
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Of course, a balanced diet is important to blood sugar control—particularly one that’s low in simple carbs, refined grains, processed and fast foods, and foods high in added sugar like sugar-sweetened beverages. Once consumed, they’re quickly converted into glucose, which causes blood sugar levels to spike and crash, making you reach for more. And to ensure your health don’t miss these 101 Health Habits You Didn’t Know Were Deadly.