If you’re experiencing diabetes, you know how important it is to control your blood sugar or blood glucose levels. When your blood sugar levels are too high, you may or may feel any symptoms. Nevertheless, not addressing the problem potentially causes serious medical issues down the line.
That’s why we are talking about high blood sugar (what it is, what causes it, and how to control it) in this comprehensive post.
Let’s dive in.
What Is High Blood Sugar?
Blood sugar (glucose) level is the quantity of sugar or glucose in the blood. Glucose (a sugar) comes from the foods we consume and is created and stored in our bodies. Think of glucose as the body’s fuel: It fuels the cells in the body and is transported to each cell via the bloodstream. When glucose enters your body’s cells, it gives you energy and supports your organs and tissues so that you can work, function, and be productive. Glucose fuels your muscles for physical activity and supports your ability to think clearly.
Hyperglycemia is the medical term for high blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels occur when the pancreas stops producing insulin (type 1 or 1.5 diabetes) or when the body’s cells become insulin resistant (type 2 diabetes). Insulin resistance means the body’s cells are not responding properly to insulin. Many people with type 1 and 1.5 diabetes experience a combination of problems: both inadequate insulin production and insulin resistance.
The body needs glucose in the bloodstream to gain entry into cells where it can be used for energy. Insulin is the key that unlocks the cells and allows glucose to enter. When the pancreas cannot produce insulin or the body’s cells are insulin resistant, glucose has nowhere to go, therefore, it accumulates in the bloodstream (high blood sugar). This means your cells are deprived of fuel. You will probably experience low energy. You may feel exhausted even when you wake up in the morning. You may have to push yourself to get through the day because you simply don’t have the energy you need to do your normal activities.
The brain is so dependent on glucose for fuel that people with diabetes often notice their thinking is not clear (brain fog). You may feel irritable with colleagues at work and your family at home. You may find it hard to stay awake and concentrate.
Having high blood sugar for a long time causes serious health issues if left untreated. Hyperglycemia may cause inflammation inside of blood vessels causes them to clog. Poor blood flow from clogged arteries causes heart disease, kidney disease, nerve and vision problems, and stroke (serious brain injury).
Blood sugar levels are considered high when they are above your target range (this target range should be provided by your healthcare provider).
What Causes High Blood Sugar Levels?
Managing diabetes is a balancing act as you need to monitor the medicines you take, the food you consume, and the amount of exercise and rest you get. If any of those are off-balance, your blood sugar levels can be off-balance too. However, those are not the only factors that affect blood sugar levels. Let’s dive in some more…
Lifestyle Risk Factors
- High-fat foods in the Standard American Diet cause insulin resistance and inflammation. Keto and other popular low carb diets also worsen insulin resistance and inflammation.
- Obesity: body fat makes cells more resistant to insulin.
- Lack of exercise: your body uses glucose to fuel itself and burns it off when active. If a person isn’t active, glucose more easily accumulates to unhealthy levels.
- High blood pressure: The higher your blood pressure, the higher your risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Smoking: According to the CDC, smokers are 30-40% more likely to become type 2 diabetics than non-smokers.
- Cholesterol and Triglyceride levels: lack of high-density lipoprotein or high triglycerides increases the risk for type 2 diabetes.
- Inadequate sleep
For a thorough overview of the lifestyle factors, download a free copy of the Guide to Overcoming Diabetes Naturally.
According to The American Diabetic Association, “diabetes does not seem to be inherited in a simple pattern. Yet clearly some people are born more likely to develop diabetes than others.” However, studies have shown that nutrition and lifestyle factors are playing key roles.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of High Blood Sugar Levels?
Signs of high blood sugar levels include:
Urinating in excess: Your kidneys respond to excess glucose in your blood by expelling extra glucose in urine. People with hyperglycemia need to urinate more frequently and in larger quantities.
Thirst: As a result of losing excess fluid from excessive urination, a person can become thirsty.
Unexplained weight loss: Weight loss while the appetite remains the same. When diabetes is out of control, glucose is unable to enter the body’s cells to be used as energy. As a consequence, the body breaks down muscle and stored fats to provide fuel to cells and this results in unintended weight loss.
Fatigue: Unusual fatigue since the body can’t use glucose for energy efficiently.
Diet Is More Important Than You Think in Managing High Blood Sugar
Diabetics have successfully managed to control their blood sugar levels by eating a low-fat, whole-food plant-based diet coupled with exercise. In particular, diabetics on low-fat, whole food plant-based diets have greater success with weight loss and blood sugar management than those who follow other diet plans and guidelines.
I’ve put together a free guide on how to overcome diabetes naturally. Check it out!
Check your blood sugar levels regularly. If your blood sugar is elevated you may feel thirsty, hungry, dizzy when you stand, or even nauseated. If your blood glucose levels keep rising, you may experience confusion. Treat this as an emergency and go to the hospital.
If you feel unwell and your blood sugar has been over 300 mg/dL twice in a row, your health care provider should be notified immediately.
For additional resources and tips, download the FREE Guide to Overcoming Diabetes Naturally.
Carla Hightower, MD, MBA is a physician, health coach, workplace wellness consultant, and speaker. She helps people heal themselves with food. Through wellness workshops and courses, she helps companies create healthy, energetic teams.
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