How High Blood Sugar Levels can Adversely Impact Your Health
Blood sugar, also called glucose, is the sugar that circulates in your bloodstream. After we eat, the body digests the meal into sugars, called glucose. The sugar will travel from the stomach to the small intestine, where it’s absorbed into the bloodstream. That signals the pancreas, an abdominal organ that aids in digestion and hormone regulation, to release insulin. Insulin helps glucose get transported into tissues to act as a source of fuel for the cells in your body. Any excess sugar that does not move into the tissues gets stored in the liver and muscles as triglycerides, a type of fat.
For some people, however, the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin to efficiently move all the glucose from the blood stream to working cells throughout the body, and this can lead to elevated blood sugar levels. The most common consequences of chronically elevated blood sugars are metabolic syndrome, prediabetes and diabetes. Whether you have diabetes, prediabetes or just want to cut your risk of a future diagnosis, you probably know it’s important to keep your blood sugar levels in check. High blood sugar levels can impact your health in a variety of ways.
Some high blood sugar symptoms are non-specific and can include:
- Blurry vision.
- Light headedness.
- Increased appetite.
However, the most common hallmark symptoms of high blood sugar or undiagnosed diabetes are:
- Polyuria: an increased urge to urinate, often at night.
- Polydipsia: increased thirst.
- Polyphagia: an increased urge to eat.
Effects of high blood sugar
Because blood circulates throughout the entire body, too-high blood sugar levels can have negative consequences for virtually every organ system and process. Below are eight ways that chronically high blood sugar levels can adversely impact your health:
- Cardiovascular disease.
- Sexual dysfunction.
- Cognitive decline.
- Bone and joint problems.
- Kidney disease.
- Vision problems.
- Digestive issues.
Lifestyle to follow to lower blood sugar
Because the majority of those with prediabetes will develop diabetes, it’s important to identify simple strategies to effectively lower blood sugar and our risk of developing these conditions. Below are some lifestyle changes you can make that can help bring blood sugar down.
- Exercise. Moderate intensity aerobic exercise for 150 minutes a week or 30 minutes a day can lower blood sugar by 20% to 22%.
- Lose excess weight. A weight loss of 5% to 10% of your total body weight can lower your blood sugar and risk of diabetes.
- Move more. In addition to exercising, it is recommended to moving around every 30 minutes and avoiding inactivity for long periods of time.
- Improve your diet. Limit saturated fats, sugary drinks, trans fats, fried foods, ultra-processed foods, fructose and red meat in your diet. Instead, increase consumption of foods such as fish, fiber, fruits, leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts and natural oils.
- Ask your doctor. For many people, lifestyle changes aren’t enough to bring down high blood glucose levels, and you may need medications to help lower your blood sugar. Talk to your health care provider about your specific needs and what would work best to keep your blood sugars at optimal levels.