High or elevated blood sugar occurs when the amount of glucose in your bloodstream is higher than normal. Glucose is a type of sugar found in foods we eat, and it’s essential for providing energy to our bodies for normal body functioning. Too much glucose, however, can be bad for our health and lead to significant health consequences over time.
Oftentimes what causes elevated blood sugar is due to either an issue with how efficiently our body’s organs are able to process glucose (impaired insulin sensitivity) or when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin (insulin deficiency). In either case, if too much glucose stays in the blood it can quickly become toxic, leading to a wide range of physical and behavioral symptoms.
It’s important to understand what causes elevated blood sugar so that necessary steps can be taken to ensure proper management and prevention of any long-term complications. In addition, knowing the factors and conditions that contribute to high levels of glucose in the bloodstream can also help people identify potential areas for lifestyle or dietary changes that may benefit overall health:
- Impaired insulin sensitivity
- Insulin deficiency
- Lifestyle changes
- Dietary changes
Causes of High Blood Sugar
High blood sugar is a condition that can be caused by a variety of factors. In some cases, it can be a result of a rare genetic disorder. In others, it can be due to lifestyle choices or illnesses that require the body to produce more glucose.
This article will explore the various causes of elevated blood sugar and the steps that can be taken to help manage it:
Eating Too Much Sugar
When too much sugar is consumed, the body attempts to process it responsibly, but it can be difficult to keep up with the demand. When this happens, the body takes what it needs and stores the rest in your liver as glycogen. As you continue to consume sugar over time, the level of sugar in your blood rises and can even cause a condition known as hyperglycemia.
Hyperglycemia occurs when there is too much glucose in your blood and extreme cases can even cause diabetes or other serious health problems.
In addition to dietary sugar from sugary snacks and drinks, carbs found in many processed foods can also have a direct effect on your blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose during digestion, releasing sugars into your bloodstream that must be managed by insulin for healthy regulation. Eating too many carbohydrates at once overwhelms this process and leads to an increase in circulating glucose levels throughout the body.
Regular physical activity is key for maintaining healthy levels of glucose (blood sugar). Physical activity improves insulin sensitivity, which helps cells respond more effectively during regular metabolic processes leading to increased utilization of types found circulating throughout the bloodstream.
Not Exercising Enough
Not exercising enough is one of the primary causes of elevated blood sugar levels. When you are inactive, your muscles and liver are not using glucose as they should leading to an increasing blood glucose level. Over time, it may eventually cause type 2 diabetes if these high glucose levels become chronic.
Regular physical activity is essential for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. People who are more active experience better weight management and improved insulin sensitivity, which means your body can better use the available glucose in your bloodstream. Exercise also helps reduce Body Mass Index (BMI), lower fat mass, increase lean body mass and reduce stress resulting in fewer cravings for sweet or unhealthy snacks and improved glucose control.
Medications are a common cause of elevated blood sugar. Many classes of drugs may contribute to an increase in blood glucose levels. Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, cortisone and hydrocortisone, can raise your blood glucose levels by inhibiting the production of insulin in your body. Similarly, steroids used for muscle building often have the same effect.
Beta-blockers and diuretics used to treat high blood pressure can raise your sugar levels and cause type 2 diabetes if taken in high doses or prescribed for extended periods of time. Some medications taken to manage mental health conditions may also interfere with your body’s ability to process sugar. The thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) are also known contributors to elevated blood sugar levels.
Medication interactions with food or other supplements can also raise your glucose levels drastically and should be monitored closely by both you and your healthcare team. If you suspect that one or more medications may be causing elevated blood sugars, discuss possible alternative treatments with your doctor as soon as possible; it may be necessary for you to lower doses or switch medications altogether in order to keep your diabetes under control.
Stress may be a significant factor in the development of high blood sugar. Stress hormones such as cortisol have been observed to temporarily raise glucose levels. In addition, stress can lead to unhealthy habits such as overeating and lack of physical activity, both of which contribute to higher blood sugar levels.
Stress can affect an individual’s glucose levels in other ways as well. The endocrine system is responsible for regulating a variety of hormones linked to responses to situations that cause emotional or psychological stress. These hormones include adrenaline, glucagon, and growth hormone, which can increase blood sugar levels in individuals who are constantly feeling stressed or anxious. In some cases, these hormones may cause “spikes” in blood glucose that go undetected until harm is done.
Managing everyday stress is essential for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels throughout the day and helping prevent long-term health problems associated with elevated blood sugar. Strategies such as
- relaxation techniques
- physical exercise or activity
- mindful eating
- support from family members or friends
can be beneficial for managing stress and preventing high blood sugar episodes due to it.
An illness like the flu, bronchitis, or an infection can affect the amount of glucose in your blood. During such times, your body releases hormones to help fight off illness. Unfortunately, these hormones also cause your liver to produce more glucose when you are sick and do not need the extra sugar. Additionally, a reduced appetite and decreased intake of food during an illness can lead to low blood-glucose levels.
In either extreme of too much or too little sugar in your bloodstream, it’s important that you take steps to bring your numbers to a safe range.
Medications such as corticosteroids and those that interact with insulin may also cause high blood sugar. Talk with your healthcare provider each time you start taking a new medication because some drugs can interfere with how well your body uses insulin or can affect how much glucose is poured into your bloodstream from other sources such as food or stress hormones. It is important for patients to tell their providers about any changes in medication so they can help keep their sugar numbers in check.
When it comes to diagnosing the cause of elevated blood sugar levels, it is important to talk to a doctor who can conduct tests to determine the underlying issue. Blood tests, glucose tolerance tests, and A1C tests are all common tests used to diagnose the underlying cause of elevated blood sugar levels.
Depending on the results of these tests, doctors may recommend lifestyle changes or medications to help manage blood sugar levels.
Blood Glucose Test
A blood glucose test is a type of medical diagnostic test that measures the level of sugar in your blood. Your doctor may suggest a glucose test if they suspect you have an elevated risk of diabetes or other health complications associated with high blood sugar. The test can also be used to monitor your current condition if you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes.
The main types of blood glucose tests are fasting plasma glucose, two-hour post-prandial, casual or random plasma and oral glucose tolerance tests. Each measures different levels of blood sugar as determined by the amount of time since you’ve last eaten. Results from these tests can help your doctor diagnose any existing conditions caused by high blood sugar or monitor your condition if you have a current medical concern affecting your levels.
The American Diabetes Association recommends yearly testing for diabetes and pre-diabetes, as well as ongoing monitoring if you’re currently experiencing symptoms associated with these conditions. If left untreated, uncontrolled high levels of sugar in the bloodstream can cause serious health problems including damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves and cardiovascular system.
The A1C test is a blood test used to diagnose diabetes and to measure a person’s average blood sugar level over the last three months. It measures what percentage of the total hemoglobin (red blood cells) in your blood is glycated (has glucose bound to it). The higher the proportion of glycated hemoglobin, the higher your average blood sugar levels have been during that period.
A1C test results help to identify those with pre-diabetes who should make lifestyle changes to lower their risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, as well as for those who have already been diagnosed with diabetes, as it helps them and their healthcare provider check how well their diabetes management plan is working. The American Diabetes Association recommends that everyone with diabetes receive an A1C test at least twice per year.
Results of an A1C test are reported as a percentage–indicating how much hemoglobin contains glucose. An A1C level of 5.7-6.4% is considered pre-diabetes, while 6.5% or above indicates Type 2 diabetes. Many doctors use thresholds higher than 6.5%, such as 7% or even 8% to diagnose diabetes because they may be better indicators of long-term complications from elevated blood sugars. Knowing your A1C result can help you better manage your type 1 or type 2 diabetes and avoid serious health problems related to high levels of glucose in the blood stream such as heart attack, stroke and kidney damage.
Elevated blood sugar is usually treated with lifestyle changes, medications, or a combination of both. Eating a healthy diet that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight are important components of a treatment plan for elevated blood sugar. Medications such as insulin, oral diabetes medications, and diabetes injections may also be included in the treatment plan.
Let’s explore these treatments in more detail:
- Lifestyle changes including eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
- Medications such as insulin, oral diabetes medications, and diabetes injections.
Diet and Exercise
The two most important things that people with high blood sugar can do to control their condition are changing your diet and exercising regularly.
When it comes to diet changes, it is important to limit your daily intake of carbohydrates, as these are converted into glucose in the body, which can then raise your blood glucose levels. To help manage this, it is recommended that you focus on eating whole grains instead of refined grains, substituting sugary foods or refined grains for lower glycemic index options like non-starchy vegetables, legumes and nuts. An adequate balance of proteins and healthy fats can also be helpful to keep your blood sugar in check.
By maintaining a regular exercise program—which should include both cardiovascular activities like walking or biking, as well as resistance training like weight lifting—done at least three times per week, you can help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the amount of insulin produced by the body. Weight loss through either diet or exercise helps reduce subsequent blood glucose levels if you have type 2 diabetes. However if you have type 1 diabetes (which cannot be managed through lifestyle changes alone) it is advisable to speak with your doctor before beginning any physical activity program.
Medication to treat high or elevated blood sugar is often prescribed in conjunction with lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise. Medications used to treat diabetes fall into different classes, depending on the reason for the elevation in blood sugar. Generally, medications will be prescribed to help the body use the insulin it produces better and/or increase insulin production. This can help reduce blood glucose levels and minimize risks associated with long-term diabetes management, such as heart disease and kidney failure. Common types of medications include:
- Biguanides (Metformin): Biguanides work by helping the body use its own insulin better in order to reduce how much glucose is produced by the liver while increasing cell uptake of glucose from food. They also slow down digestion of carbohydrate from food to prevent spikes in postprandial or after meals, glucose levels.
- Sulfonylureas: These medications work by stimulating pancreatic cells to release more insulin into your system for a longer period of time so that your body can use its own internal supplies better and keep your blood glucose levels under control.
- Dipeptidyl peptidase (DPP) inhibitors: These mediation helps your beta cells produce more insulin in response to meals improving the ability of your body to regulate its own insulin supply while decreasing appetite, weight gain, and triglyceride concentrations.
- Thiazolidinediones (TZDs): TZDs are designed to increase sensitivity of target organs like muscles and fat tissue which increases their ability to absorb glucose from circulating blood reducing high blood sugar levels overall.
Insulin therapy is a common treatment option for individuals with elevated blood sugar due to diabetes. During insulin therapy, an individual will receive regular doses of the hormone insulin to keep their blood glucose levels within a healthy range. It is important to understand that the goal of insulin therapy is not just to lower one’s glucose level, but also to make sure that it is balanced out by other hormones and chemicals in the body in order to create a stable environment in which cells can thrive.
The two primary forms of insulin are known as rapid-acting and long-acting types. Rapid-acting insulins begin working quickly and provide individuals with near immediate relief from high glucose levels. Long-acting insulins take longer to take effect, but stay active for longer periods of time than rapid-acting ones – thus helping maintain stable glucose levels for extended period of time without having to administer additional doses throughout the day or night.
Common types of insulin commonly used in diabetes treatment include NovoLog, Humalog, Basaglar, Tresiba and Levemir. It is important not only choose the right type of insulin but also an appropriate dosage regimen; as over/under usage can result in serious health complications like hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia respectively. As such, determining the right dosage should be done under medical supervision with your doctor or healthcare provider who will be able to guide you towards making an educated decision that best fits your lifestyle needs while also keeping your blood sugar under control effectively.
Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is an important step to prevent the onset of diabetes. Knowing the various causes of elevated blood sugar levels can help you make lifestyle changes accordingly in order to avoid them.
In this article, we’ll dive into the various ways to prevent elevated blood sugar levels:
Eating a healthy diet is essential for managing elevated blood sugar levels. It is important to include plenty of fiber-rich, low-glycemic carbohydrates, such as whole grains and fresh fruit and vegetables in your diet. Fiber helps slow down the absorption of glucose into your bloodstream and consequently, reduces your blood sugar levels.
You should also focus on eating proteins that are lean such as poultry, fish, beans, and nuts which will provide essential nutrients for regulation. Unsaturated fats such as avocados, olive oil and other plant based oils should be consumed instead of saturated fats like butter or lard. Reducing your sodium intake can also reduce the risk of diabetes because too much salt can cause high blood pressure.
To maintain balanced glucose levels it is important to regulate portion sizes; consuming fewer calories than necessary can lead to reduced energy levels without providing the body’s required nutrients. Eating regular meals throughout the day with intermittent snacks can also help regulate glucose levels by providing a steadier supply of energy rather than large spikes caused by over consumption or fasting. All these strategies should be implemented alongside regular physical activity in order to achieve optimal health outcomes.
Exercise is an important part of managing blood sugar levels. Regular exercise helps to increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin, which allows glucose to be more easily absorbed into cells. This is important for controlling blood sugar levels in people with diabetes and can also help reduce risk factors for heart disease.
The American Diabetes Association recommends that all adults with type 2 diabetes get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week (or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity). In addition, they recommend strength training at least two times per week, as this has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and body composition.
When engaging in physical activity, it is important to monitor your blood sugar levels before, during and after exercise by testing frequently with a glucometer or finger prick test. Eating a combination of carbohydrates and protein both before and after exercise can maintain stable blood sugar levels during physical activity. If you have difficulty controlling your blood sugar level through diet alone, talk to your doctor about adding medication such as metformin or insulin.
Stress is one factor that can cause your blood sugar level to rise. When you are in a stressful situation, your body releases the hormone cortisol, which prompts your cells to release glucose, a form of sugar that helps fuel your body’s response to stress. Over time, this can lead to elevated blood sugar levels and eventually, a diagnosis of diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Managing stress by taking breaks throughout the day, exercising regularly and participating in relaxation activities such as yoga or meditation are just some of the best ways to keep blood sugar in check. Additionally, talking with a therapist or other professional may be beneficial in managing psychological and emotional stressors. Identifying and controlling sources of stress is essential for prevention of high blood glucose levels and can help maintain health over the long term.
In conclusion, elevated blood sugar can have several causes and the best way to discover the root cause of yours is to visit a doctor if your levels are consistently elevated. Diabetes occurs when the body cannot produce enough insulin, leading to an abnormally high level of glucose in the bloodstream. Other potential causes can include:
- Genetic diseases such as Cushing syndrome, metabolic syndrome, prediabetes, kidney disease, liver disease and certain medications.
Treatment depends on identifying which of these is causing your elevated blood sugar levels. Working with your doctor to identify underlying conditions and taking measures to lower blood sugar level are required for maintaining optimal health.