This is a guest post by Brian, author and owner of bestshoesfordiabetics.com, a site devoted to teaching people who have diabetes how to better care for their feet by wearing the right footwear, practicing better hygiene, and by better managing their normal blood sugar levels.
Back in my college days I went to the hospital a couple of times. I was under my parent health insurance plan and although I could have gone for annual checkups I never did. I had about with a tennis ball that sent me to the emergency room; I nearly lost my vision in one eye, but other than that I never even remember seeing a doc until I was on my own.
I think this resonates with many young twenty-somethings. College has us feeling as if we are on top of the world with little need to worry about anything.
The First Visit To The Doctor As An Adult
Eventually, after entering the working world and learning how much I was paying for my health insurance premiums it made sense to start going to the doc to make sure everything was ok. I was paying for this privilege after all.
After meeting my doctor for the first time we went through all the typically “get-to-know-you” stuff you have to go through with doctors and by the end of the visit my doc suggested we get a series of simple blood tests to see where I stood with cholesterol, blood sugar, and other basic conditions. It made sense so we went forward.
In my case everything turned out great. My cholesterol levels were healthy, blood sugar levels were fine and all other areas came back showing that I was perfectly healthy. Only after that visit did I realize however that the majority of my family had high blood pressure, cholesterol problems, and most of the older members of my family had high blood sugar issues and varying severities of diabetes. Basically I learned very quickly that I was prone to developing a problem in this area.
What Is High Blood Sugar Anyway?
After having a few talks with my grandparents and with my dad about what they have to go through I started doing some investigation into diabetes, what it is, how it starts, and how exactly it is diagnosed. This may be elementary to some of you but diabetes is not an on/off switch, it is a sliding scale of severity which can be measured. Essentially you can show signs for developing diabetes long before you technically have it. (Just added some diabetes management guidelines.)
The way diabetes is tested and diagnosed is initially with the fasting blood glucose test. When my doc suggested I get one as part of my initial blood work she added this test into the blood test instructions. I was initially told to not eat or drink anything after mid-night the night before my morning visit and as a result my blood sugar levels had time to normalize at a fasting level.
Normal blood sugar levels (levels for fasting blood sugar) are supposed to be between 80 and 100 mg/dl. For the purpose of this article I’m using the term “blood sugar” interchangeably with the term “glucose”. Diabetes diagnoses however are not typically given unless one’s fasting blood sugar levels are measured in the 120-125 mg/dl range or higher. That means there is a grey area called borderline diabetes, sometimes called insulin resistance, in which an individual has higher than normal levels of glucose in their blood stream even after a long fast. The levels however are not high enough to be considered diabetes so it’s a little hard for many people to understand.
Because diabetes runs in my family it was something that I wanted to dig deeper into despite the fact that I was given a clean bill of health. Type 2 diabetes doesn’t simply just happen, it slowly develops over time and I didn’t want this to happen to me as I got older.
If You Have Borderline High Blood Sugar Levels – Take Action NOW !
A diagnosis of borderline high blood sugar may be easy to brush off to the side but you shouldn’t. It is a warning sign for an even worse diagnosis in the future and reversing the progression is easier than you think, especially in the beginning.
Insulin resistance is the ultimate cause of glucose levels that creep higher and higher with every passing year. When you eat food and that food is converted in to glucose or blood sugar it then passes through the blood to the cells of the body for metabolism – the glucose is energy delivered straight to the cells. To convert that glucose into something that the cells can take in however insulin must be present.
When your body starts resisting insulin the blood sugar remains in your blood stream longer than it should. In an individual basis this isn’t an issue but over the course of many years insulin resistance can cause a deterioration of your body’s sensitivity to insulin and your problem gets worse.
Eventually fasting blood sugar levels are so high that the spiral effect of insulin resistance is irreversible and diabetes becomes a lifelong issue for you to deal with.
You can stop this from happening though. You have to act early and be very aggressive.
Excess body weight and low levels of physical activity are the primary drivers for poor insulin sensitivity and the resulting high levels of fasting blood sugar. There are other drivers such as certain foods which can help or hinder insulin sensitivity, foods which are high on the glycemic index which can cause short-term spikes in blood sugar, and a few select foods which can enhance insulin production but overwhelmingly these are minimal in comparison with weight and activity levels.
Steps To Lower High Blood Sugar Levels
If you find out that you have high levels of fasting blood sugar but are not yet to a point where you have been diagnosed with diabetes then you can quickly and definitively correct things by following these two simple steps:
- Eliminate Foods From Your Diet Which Are High On The Glycemic Index – Get yourself a list of the foods which are high on this index. There are many resources online and offline which can help you identify the problem foods. Once you have your list make sure you eliminate them from your diet without exception.
- Limit Portion Sizes Of Food – Do not worry too much about eating the right foods. If you stay away from high glycemic index foods you should be fine but do concern yourself with the amount of food you consume. The majority of people do not realize that the body is perfectly capable of living on far less food than we usually eat. Don’t starve yourself, just cut back on portion sizes.
- The Most Important of Them All – Start Adding Physical Activity to Your Everyday Life – Many people take this to mean start exercising a lot. You can do that but many researchers have found that adding small amounts of constant activity is just as good or better than working out aggressively every couple days. By adding 2-3 10 minutes walks to your day, parking in the back of the parking lot, carrying grocery baskets rather than pushing carts, walking the dogs rather than sending them into the back yard, and playing occasional sports rather than watching TV can have a dramatic effect on your insulin sensitivity.
Staying active is the number one way to decrease insulin sensitivity and bring high and borderline high levels of blood sugar back down into a safe and normal range. The activities you add to your lifestyle will also help with weight loss (Seeking tips for losing weight?) which will further improve your fasting blood sugar levels.
You don’t have to change dramatically; just enough. And you certainly don’t have to take a diagnosis of high blood sugar as a preemptive diagnosis of diabetes. In my case diabetes runs in the family but by following these steps I minimize my chances of ever developing the same condition my own relatives have dealt with for years.
Note from Regev: If you’re looking for a cheaper and healthier alternative to sugar for sweetening your colinary life, I’d recommend you to have a look on the Stevia plant. I wrote about it’s potential ‘side effects’ and benefits.