A Guide to Managing Your Blood Sugar Levels
Blood sugar management is at the center of any diabetes treatment. As such, blood sugar levels are a crucial factor you should keep a close watch on if you’re living with diabetes or you’re prediabetic and trying to avoid contracting the disease.
The key to making sure your blood sugar levels are at bay is constant monitoring and discipline. This infographic will serve as a guide in managing your blood sugar levels, tackling various ways on how to lower blood sugar.
What is Blood Sugar?1
Blood sugar, or glucose, is the primary sugar found in the blood. The pancreas helps keep the body’s glucose levels in check by producing the hormone insulin and releasing it after a person has consumed protein or carbohydrates.
When the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the body can’t use it properly, diabetes occurs. In this case, the cells develop a tolerance to insulin, making it necessary for the pancreas to release more insulin to lower the body’s blood sugar to normal levels. Over time, the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin to keep up.
Managing Your Blood Sugar Levels2
Managing your blood sugar levels is the key to avoiding and keeping diabetes under control. Here are actionable steps you can take to do it effectively:
- Check blood sugar level
You can use a portable glucose meter (or glucometer) to keep track of your blood sugar levels. First, insert the test strip into the glucometer and prick the side of your fingertip with the lancet. Then, hold the edge of the strip to the drop of blood. The meter will display your blood sugar level after a few seconds.
- Follow a schedule
If your doctor has prescribed medication, stick to the schedule. This will depend on whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes and if you need to take insulin or other drugs.
You can use a pillbox if you tend to forget your medication. Place it in the kitchen or in the bathroom near your toothbrush to avoid missing a dose. If you’re taking insulin, keeping a journal containing your food intake and blood sugar information can help you be constantly reminded of the diet you need to follow.
- Treat low blood sugar
If you have symptoms of hypoglycemia, where your blood sugar level is lower than normal, immediate treatment would be to eat or drink 15–20 grams of fat-free sugary foods. Try glucose tablets or oral gel, fruit juice, regular soft drinks, honey, or candy. These fast-acting carbohydrates are easily converted to sugar when consumed, helping stabilize your body’s blood sugar levels.
If you’re on insulin medication, make sure to have a glucagon kit for emergencies. This contains glucagon for injection, which is a hormone that triggers the liver to release stored sugar and raise blood sugar during a severe hypoglycemic episode.
- Treat high blood sugar
If you have diabetes and notice signs of hyperglycemia or high blood sugar, test your blood sugar and call your doctor. Early symptoms include increased thirst or hunger, blurred vision, frequent peeing, and headache.
Your doctor may recommend increased water intake to help flush out excess sugar from your blood through your urine. They may also suggest exercise to lower your blood sugar levels. However, working out can make blood sugar levels go even higher under certain conditions, so make sure to ask what kind of physical activity is right for you.
Natural Ways to Manage Blood Sugar Levels2
Since contracting type 2 diabetes is more of a lifestyle choice, here are natural and practical ways to manage your blood sugar levels:
- Don’t skip meals
For people with diabetes, skipping a meal can lead to blood sugar swings. The result is either a blood sugar level that’s too low or too high. It may also increase your chances of binging on calorie-dense foods, which is bad for people with diabetes.
To prevent blood glucose spikes, experts recommend adopting a diet that involves a consistent amount of carbohydrates. Note that there is no expert-recommended standard carb intake for individuals with diabetes as people’s carb needs vary depending on their activity level, weight, health goals, and other factors. So, working with a doctor or dietitian can help you set specific targets.
- Manage your carb intake
When your body breaks down carbohydrates into sugars, insulin helps your system use and store them for energy. However, for people with diabetes, eating too many carbohydrates can cause this process to fail, triggering high blood glucose levels.
To keep your blood sugar levels normal, aim for a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet. Oatmeal, fruits, and non-starchy vegetables like spinach, carrots, dried beans, and legumes are some low-carb foods you can consume. Avoid processed foods like pretzels, white rice, and white bread, as they can raise your blood sugar levels because of their high-carb content.
- Drink water instead of sugary drinks
Keep your blood sugar within healthy limits while preventing dehydration by drinking enough water. In addition, it helps your kidneys flush out excess sugar through your urine. If you need to quench your thirst, stick to water and avoid juice or soda. You can also opt for unsweetened teas or other non-caloric beverages. Sugar-sweetened drinks will naturally raise sugar levels, increasing your risk of diabetes.
- Exercise regularly
Exercise triggers the uptake of sugar from your bloodstream into your muscles and organs. The more muscles you maintain throughout the aging process, the more insulin receptors you have and, thus, the more chances for your glucose levels to “sink.” Apart from controlling blood sugar and insulin levels, exercise also helps slow down and, in some cases, reverse the long-term effects of type 2 diabetes.
- Eat more fiber
Fiber slows down the rate that carbohydrates break down, helping regulate blood sugar levels. It comes in two types: soluble and insoluble. Of these, soluble fiber is the most helpful in controlling blood sugar. Legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are some sources of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber also helps in promoting a gradual rise in blood sugar levels.
- Maintain a healthy weight
Maintaining a healthy weight can help control your blood sugar levels. According to health authorities, too much fat tissue can make it hard for insulin to work properly, leading to blood sugar control complications. Eating a diet full of fruits and vegetables and getting enough exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight. A study has shown that a modest weight loss—or 5–10% of body weight—resulted in improved insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.
- Avoid eating large meals
Eating too much in one sitting can cause your blood sugar to skyrocket. As such, it helps to manage your portion sizes. Also, try keeping a food journal so that you can track your carb intake and even your mood. It’s also recommended that you talk to your doctor about a meal plan that’s right for you. This way, you’ll know which labels to consider when planning your diet.
- Consume more magnesium
Magnesium has essential functions in the body, including regulating blood sugar levels. Dark leafy greens, tuna, bananas, avocados, and beans are foods rich in magnesium. You can also opt for magnesium supplements, but if you already eat plenty of magnesium-rich foods, research says you’re likely to benefit less from supplements.
- Get enough sleep
Sleep helps reduce the amount of sugar in your blood. Hence, if you’re sleep-deprived, your sugar levels tend to spike. A study recommends having 7–9 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. This can be achieved by adopting a consistent sleep schedule and avoiding alcohol or caffeine before bedtime. In addition, it helps to turn off your devices for at least an hour before going to bed.
- Manage stress
When under tension, your body produces a stress hormone called cortisol that elevates your blood sugar levels. If you’re feeling stressed, try doing something to distract you for a few minutes, such as taking deep breaths, going for a walk, playing with your pet, or listening to a fun song. Engaging in yoga and regular exercise can also help lower your blood sugar levels by correcting insulin secretion problems.
- Try herbal extracts
Research has shown that herbal extracts may have a positive effect on controlling blood sugar levels. Certain herbs and plant derivatives, such as ginseng and prickly-pear cactus, have also been traditionally used to treat diabetes, showing promising results. Aloe vera, bitter melon, cinnamon, ginger, and okra are some natural remedies known to have anti-diabetic properties.
Keep Tabs on Your Sugar
There are several risk factors for diabetes. Although you can’t change certain aspects and elements—such as your genes or age—some actions can reduce your chances of contracting the disease, and you can start with proper monitoring.
Diabetes awareness also helps prevent the onset of the condition. Since diabetes is linked to heart problems, it would help to take an assessment test to determine your chances of developing coronary heart disease. Check out this Heart Disease Risk checklist to learn more!
Disclaimer: The information provided is for information purposes only and is not meant to be substituted for the advice given by a registered medical practitioner. This should not be used for diagnosing health problems or for self-medication. Boehringer Ingelheim shall not be responsible for any damages or losses arising out of access to or use of information provided.
Last medically reviewed on June 8, 2022