5 Tips for Blood Sugar Management

August 11, 2014 (Updated: August 16, 2018)
Lily Moran

Like most of my patients, you understand that you don’t want diabetes. No one enjoys monitoring their blood sugar, inspecting their feet and fingers for signs of gangrene, or the Metformin side effects like stomach upset and gassiness.

But too many of my patients don’t understand that diabetes develops along a path:

Uncontrolled Blood Sugar → Insulin Resistance → Pre-Diabetes → Diabetes

As a practicing physician, I check all of my patients’ glucose levels, because both skinny and fat patients can have glucose management problems. I test for elevated blood sugar and then check for two or more of these symptoms:

  • Extreme thirst
  • High levels of triglycerides (a fat found in the bloodstream)
  • Cravings for carbohydrates and sweets
  • Low levels of HDL (high-density lipoprotein), also known as good cholesterol
  • Repeated infections, including flu and yeast infections in women
  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Difficulty thinking, foggy brain
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Vision disorders
  • Repeated need to urinate
  • Sexual dysfunction in men

Three or more symptoms prompts a diagnosis of pre-diabetes. Pre-diabetes means that your body is ignoring insulin, a hormone that helps convert glucose into energy. Your body stores unused glucose as fat deposits.

People who eat constantly, eat more than they need to fuel their activity level, or who eat mostly refined carbohydrates from sugary drinks or prepared foods increase their risk of insulin resistance.

Once you’ve become insulin-resistant, the free-floating insulin and glucose in your bloodstream can damage your arteries. This is part of how diabetes increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.

How do you know if your blood sugar’s out of control? How do you get it back under control? Follow my five-step plan.

Five Tips for Prevention

1: Know Your Numbers (A1C)

Request a hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c) test from your physician. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), an HbA1c above 6 indicates diabetes, and scores below that are in the healthy range. In my clinic, I start advising patients to make serious lifestyle changes when we see an A1c of 5.5 or above. Preventing the damage from elevated glucose levels and heading off diabetes helps you maintain real wellness.

2: Exercise

Exercise improves insulin sensitivity, so it helps maintain healthy blood glucose levels while also assisting with weight management, heart health, circulation, and so much more.

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If you have not been exercising, start slowly – with simple walking, for example – and work your way up to more intense and longer workout routines.

If it’s tough to squeeze exercise into your day, here’s some good news: Two recent studies show that very short exercise sessions improve glucose management by reducing insulin resistance and other pre-diabetes markers. Both studies involve high-intensity interval training on stationary bicycles. In one, people in the study exercised three times weekly for 10 minutes at a time. During the 10-minute sessions, they increased intensity to “all out” — but only for 10, 20, or 30 seconds at a time. Even with this minimal amount of exercise — just 30 minutes total per week! — insulin sensitivity increased by an impressive 28 percent, and aerobic capacity improved as well. An earlier, related study had similar results.

3: Eat Smart

I recommend a whole food diet that avoids processed and prepared ingredients stuffed with sugar, refined flours, and artificial colorings and flavors. The Mediterranean diet is one great alternative which has been shown to have advantages to heart health and Alzheimer’s, as well as diabetes prevention.

Portion control is important as well. You should be eating roughly 2000-2500 calories per day, unless you’re engaged in serious athletics or physical work. Building your meals around calorie-light but nutrient dense vegetables is a good way to bulk up your meals without eating more calories than you really want.

4: Add Some Vinegar

Several studies have found that just two teaspoons of vinegar with a meal helps reduce blood sugar. Try making your own salad dressing with red wine, balsamic, or apple cider vinegar. Or simply mix the vinegar with a teaspoon or so of organic, raw honey and drink it before a meal.

5: Take appropriate supplements like curcumin and chromium

Curcumin supplements are another way to prevent blood glucose issues from spiraling into type II diabetes. Groundbreaking research, published in the American Diabetes Association’s publication, Diabetes Care, found that individuals with insulin resistance who took curcumin supplements (750 mg twice daily) for one year did not develop diabetes, while more than 15 percent of a control group who took a placebo were diagnosed with the disease.

Curcumin has an impressive track record when it comes to minimizing the effects of aging, while reducing inflammation and supporting heart and brain health.

In addition, look into glucose-management supplements. Recent research shows that certain natural substances can make a big difference in your body’s response to glucose. Berberine, chromium, Gymnema sylvestre, and alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), for example, help maintain healthy glucose levels and improve insulin resistance.

Millions of people are suffering with the consequences of high blood glucose levels and aren’t even aware that their health is at serious risk. If you find yourself relying on unhealthy carbs, caffeine, and sugar to get through the day and your weight is increasing, there’s a very real chance you may be suffering from insulin resistance. Now’s the time to make better choices and get control of your blood glucose levels.

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