How To Take Control of Your Blood Sugar
Blood sugar, also known as glucose, is an essential energy source for all body cells, including brain cells. Your body requires a healthy, steady source of glucose. Taking control of your low or high blood sugar levels can contribute greatly to your health, energy level and overall well-being.
Early detection and treatment of diabetes can greatly decrease the risk of developing complications. The following symptoms of diabetes are typical. However, some people with type 2 diabetes have symptoms so mild that they go unnoticed, according to the American Diabetes Association.
Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia) Symptoms
The most common low blood signs include:
- Blurred or double vision
- Shakiness, sweating
- Confusion, abnormal behavior
- Rapid heartbeat
- Fatigue and weakness
- Numbness or tingling around the mouth
High Blood Sugar (Hyperglycemia) Symptoms
By recognizing early high blood sugar symptoms (hyperglycemia) such as the ones listed below, you can seek guidance and treatment.
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Blurred vision
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), to a great degree the global increase in diabetes, especially in developing countries, is the result of rapid increases in obesity, unhealthy weight gain and the lack of regular physical activity.
Maintaining normal body weight and avoiding the use of any type of tobacco are two key factors for blood sugar control. Untreated hyperglycemia can result in severe complications including diabeticcoma. Persistent hyperglycemia may lead to complications and chronic diseases affecting your kidneys, heart, blood vessels, nerves and eyes.
If you’re consistently experiencing a number of these symptoms for either low or high blood sugar, consult with your doctor for an exam and blood workup to help identify the cause. Like many people, you may have a very busy schedule, but this is not something to put on the back burner.
A Blood Sugar Control Action Plan
Gary Scheiner, M.S., is a certified diabetes educator and exercise physiologist has successfully managed his own diabetes since 1985. In his book, Get Control of Your Blood Sugar, he advises the following top tips:
- Careful food selection and timing
- Lifestyle tools such as exercise, stress relief, and a positive attitude
- Simple glucose tests and blood-sugar monitoring
- Medication when necessary
Careful Food Selection
People with diabetes have to take extra care to make sure that their food is balanced with insulin and oral medications (if prescribed), and exercise to help manage their blood glucose levels. This might sound like a lot of work, but your dietitian / nutritionist can help you create a meal plan that is best for you. When you make healthy food choices, you will improve your overall health and you may even prevent complications such as heart disease and some cancers.
Make it a point to eat a healthy diet with three to six daily meals that include servings of fresh fruit, vegetables, fatty fish, lean meats and whole grains. Reduce refined sugar, saturated fats intake, soda and tobacco use.
Exercise & Stress Relief
Activities like walking to work and parking further away in a parking lot can help increase your physical activity. If it’s possible to safely take the stairs at work or in your apartment building vs. taking the elevator, that can help increase activity levels. If you can’t manage four flights of stairs, try two and see how that works out.
Don’t force things, don’t expect miracles overnight, and most importantly, don’t give up. Remember, if you’ve lost muscle tone for whatever reason, regaining it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a slow process, so you need to be patient.
Slowly work your way up to 300 minutes of activity a week if weight loss is also one of your goals. Keep in mind that no one expects you to be a weekend warrior. In fact, that’s one of the worst things you can do.
Make a commitment to one or more of the following activities based on your current activities, age, health, schedule, and your physician and dietician / nutritionist’s input:
- Brisk walks, alone or with friends
- Tai Chi
- Jazz dance classes
- Ballroom dancing
- Latin dance classes
- Bike riding
- Flying kites with the kids (It’s fun!)
- Joining a mall walkers club
Finding an exercise buddy is not only more fun, it’s great motivation for both of you…sort of like an adult play date. You might also consider joining a gym and hiring a trainer.
Try B vitamins if you’re under added stress, or simply because they are water soluble vs. the fat-soluble vitamins that can be stored in the body. B vitamins help to support and increase the rate of metabolism, to maintain healthy skin and muscle tone. B vitamins can help enhance immune and nervous system function, promote cell growth and division, help combat the symptoms and causes of stress and cardiovascular disease. It’s a good idea to have your healthcare practitioner check your B levels the next time you have an exam and blood workup.
Sugar: Otherwise Known As…
Sugar goes by many names — glucose, fructose, dextrose and maltose — so read the food labels.
Other words to watch out for include:
- Cane juice and cane syrup
- Malt syrup
- Fruit juice concentrate and nectars
Skip the Added Sugar
Foods that contain added sugar deliver extra calories and precious little important nutritional value. Additionally, many foods containing solid fats (another no-no) also contain added sugar. Sugar and solid fats can set you up for potential health problems, such as:
- Tooth decay
- Blood triglyceride level increases that has been linked to heart disease risk
- Poor nutrition
- Unwanted weight gain
The American Heart Association guidelines say for most American women, that’s no more than 100 calories per day, or about 6 teaspoons of sugar. For men, it’s 150 calories per day, or about 9 teaspoons. The AHA recommendations focus on all added sugars, without singling out any particular types, such as high-fructose corn syrup. For detailed information and guidance on sugar intake limits, see the scientific statement in Circulation, Journal of the American Heart Association.
If you have a sweet tooth, or just want a good, safe sugar substitute to sweeten beverages or use in baking, you might try xylitol, which is a sugar-alcohol that tastes like sugar, but causes little change in blood sugar and insulin levels. Xylitol does not require insulin to be metabolized, and therefore is a very useful sweetener for diabetics. Xylitol scores a 7 out of 100 on the glycemic index. Stevia is also a good option for a natural sweetener that has zero effect on blood sugar or calories.
Early detection can surely decrease your risk of developing diabetes. The good news is that cutting down on sugar and getting control of blood sugar levels is easier than you think!