High blood sugar can have long-term consequences on your health, even for people who don’t have diabetes. If you have experienced it, you also know that it can cause unpleasant symptoms.
Hyperglycemia can cause symptoms like fatigue, extreme thirst, blurred vision, and frequent urination. Stabilizing your blood sugar and keeping it in your target range can help prevent these symptoms and the serious side effects that can arise from chronically high blood sugar levels.
Read on for tips on how to effectively lower your blood sugar quickly.
4 Effective Ways to Get Blood Sugar Back to Baseline
Hyperglycemia is a serious problem that can lead to a number of health complications if left untreated. While typically associated with diabetes, high blood sugar levels can also occur in otherwise healthy individuals. Here are some effective ways to quickly lower your blood sugar levels.
1) Take Prescribed Insulin or Medication
If you have diabetes, taking your prescribed insulin or medication can be a quick and effective way to lower your blood sugar. There are many types of insulin, but rapid-acting insulin may be your best bet when it comes to lowering blood sugar quickly.
Insulin helps the sugar in your bloodstream enter your cells to be used as energy. If your body doesn’t make enough insulin or use it effectively, high levels of glucose remain in the bloodstream. Talk to your doctor about how to use rapid-acting insulin when you have high blood sugar.
9 Tips for Stabilizing Blood Sugar Levels
Here are nine tips for stabilizing your blood sugar levels, plus some insights from the Nutrisense dietitian team on how to detect blood sugar imbalances.
Physical activity can help lower your blood sugar naturally, but the effect will depend on how you exercise and how long. Here are some types of moderate-exertion activities that can positively affect blood sugar:
However, there are some cases in which exercise can actually raise blood sugar, especially in high-intensity anaerobic training. It’s important to find the right balance for you.
When you exercise, insulin sensitivity is increased so that your cells are able to use your body’s available insulin to absorb the glucose in your blood. If there isn’t enough insulin in your bloodstream, your body begins to break down fat to let blood sugar into your cells instead, producing ketones.
If your blood sugar is 240 mg/dL or higher, use an over-the-counter test kit to check for the presence of ketones before exercising. If ketones are present, avoid exercising and call your doctor. Ketones can be an early sign of diabetic ketoacidosis, a condition that requires immediate medical attention.
3) Drink Water
Staying hydrated is crucial to maintaining normal blood sugar levels because water can help flush excess glucose from your system. Studies have shown that reduced water intake is linked to a higher rate of hyperglycemia.
The amount of water you should drink can depend on several factors, such as sex and activity levels. The Mayo Clinic recommends the following:
- For men: about 15.5 cups of fluid per day
- For women: about 11.5 cups of fluids per day
Keep in mind, however, that about 20 percent of your daily recommended fluid intake usually comes from food, and the other 80 percent should come from water and other beverages.
4) Breathing Exercises
There is some evidence that yogic breathing and diaphragmatic breathing exercises can help control your blood sugar. Deep breathing can also help lower cortisol, a hormone that is released when your body is under stress.
- Lay on your back with your knees bent and your head supported with a pillow.
- Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. This will allow you to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe in and out.
- Keep your lips closed and breathe in slowly through your nose. The hand below your rib cage should move with your diaphragm.
- Tighten your stomach muscles so that your stomach moves in, causing your hand to lower as you exhale. Through the exercise, the hand on your upper chest should stay in place.
Seeing Healthcare Providers to Lower Blood Sugar Levels
If your blood sugar is high because of a change in your routine, it may fall back to normal levels on its own. However, if you are unable to get your blood sugar back down to your target level or begin experiencing other symptoms, you may need to visit your doctor.
When You Should See a Doctor
If your blood sugar is high and you start to feel sick, have a blood sugar level reading of 300 mg/dL or higher twice in a row, or have blood sugar levels above your target range for a week, you should make an appointment to see your doctor.
If your blood sugar stays consistently high, the chances of worse symptoms or long-term consequences increase. Early symptoms of high blood sugar include:
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
- Blurred vision
- Feeling weak or unusually tired
When it comes to seeking treatment for high blood sugar, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If high blood sugar is left untreated, ketones can build up in your blood and urine, leading to a serious condition called diabetic ketoacidosis. The symptoms of this condition include:
- Fruity-smelling breath
- Dry mouth
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of consciousness
If you experience these symptoms, you should visit the emergency room right away. Diabetic ketoacidosis is a medical emergency and can be fatal.
Tips to Maintain Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
Whether your high blood sugar is linked to diabetes or is caused by other factors, there are some lifestyle changes you can implement into your routine that may help you maintain healthy levels.
A Lower Carb, High Fiber Diet With Adequate Protein
Because your body breaks down most carbohydrates into glucose, the amount and type of carbs you eat have a high impact on your blood sugar. Focus on consuming low glycemic carbohydrates, like legumes, vegetables, some fruits, and whole grains.
Pairing your carbohydrates with foods that are rich in fiber and protein is a great way to help you manage blood sugar. Fiber is a crucial carbohydrate that isn’t digested or absorbed by the body and can help slow down the absorption of glucose in your blood.
It is mainly found in plant foods such as:
- Whole grains
"Consuming adequate protein can also help balance your blood sugar response. Protein is required by the body to help build and repair tissue, make hormones, and maintain organ function. It can also provide energy for your body without raising blood sugar." — Heather Davis, MS, RDN, LDN
Here are some good lean protein options to choose from:
- Fish and seafood
- Minimally processed red meats
Getting Better and Longer Sleep
Sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, and it can have an effect on your blood sugar. Regularly getting less than seven hours of sleep a night has been shown to increase insulin resistance, increase your hunger the next day, increase depression and anxiety, make it harder to maintain a healthy weight.There are a few things you can do that might improve your sleep, including:
- Going to bed and waking up around the same time every day
- Keeping the room where you sleep dark, quiet, relaxing, and cool
- Keeping a consistent bedtime routine that does not include screens, like showering, reading, or journaling before bed
Managing Stress and Anxiety
Stress causes your body to release cortisol and adrenaline, which both make it harder for your body’s insulin to work properly. Chronic stress can lead to insulin resistance, which makes it harder for your cells to use blood sugar as energy.Managing stress may help you keep your blood sugar at your target levels. Try the following tips to relieve stress:
- Including appropriate amounts of physical activity for your tolerance
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet
- Try deep breathing techniques, as mentioned above
- Avoid using alcohol or drugs
- Limit caffeine consumption
Daily Exercise and Hydration
As mentioned above, exercise and hydration are crucial to maintaining a healthy blood sugar. Exercise can lowers your blood sugar naturally by using glucose for energy, with or without available insulin. Drinking adequate water is also necessary to maintain blood sugar levels. Talk to your doctor about the amount of exercise and fluids they recommend for you based on your individual needs.
Side Effects of High Blood Sugar Levels
Consistent high blood sugar levels can have serious side effects. Here are a few of the potential consequences of high blood sugar.
Increased Risk for Heart Problems
Having consistently high blood sugar can increase your risk for heart disease. Over time, high blood sugar damages blood vessels and nerves that control your heart, which can lead to heart disease.If you have diabetes, you are more likely to develop high blood pressure. High blood pressure can increase the force of blood through your arteries, damaging their walls and further increasing your risk of heart problems.
Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)
When your blood sugar rises and the body doesn’t have enough insulin to process it, it starts to break down fat to use as energy, which produces ketones. Like we mentioned, diabetic ketoacidosis, or DKA, can be life-threatening, so it’s important to be aware of its symptoms.
Ketones are produced from fat and can be used as an alternative source of energy when glucose intake is low. Ketones are acidic molecules, so an increased level of ketones beyond a certain point can cause the blood to become more acidic which interferes with normal bodily functions.
The difference between a lower risk state of ketosis and higher risk state of ketoacidosis is a matter of the amount of ketones in the blood.
Over time, high blood sugar can injure nerves throughout the body. This can lead to nerve damage and a condition called diabetic neuropathy.
Diabetic neuropathy usually damages nerves in the legs or feet, but can affect other nerves as well. Depending on what nerves are affected, diabetic neuropathy can cause:
- Pain and numbness in the legs, feet, and hands
- Problems with your digestive system and urinary tract
- Pain, cramps, and muscle weakness in affected areas
Diabetic neuropathy affects as many as 50 percent of people with diabetes, but it can be prevented or slowed by consistent blood sugar management.
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that affects the eyes. Over time, high blood sugar levels can lead to blockage of the tiny blood vessels that send blood into your retina.
In its early stages, diabetic retinopathy may not have symptoms, but eventually you may develop:
- Spots or floaters in your vision
- Blurred or fluctuation vision
- Dark or empty areas in your vision
- Vision loss
Diabetic retinopathy can’t always be prevented, but maintaining healthy blood sugar levels and frequent eye exams can help prevent the most severe symptoms.
Engage with Your Blood Glucose Levels with Nutrisense
Your blood sugar levels can significantly impact how your body feels and functions. That’s why stable blood glucose levels can be an important factor in supporting overall wellbeing.
With Nutrisense, you’ll be able to track your blood glucose levels over time using a CGM, so you can make lifestyle choices that support healthy living.
Ready to take the first step? Start with our quiz to see how Nutrisense can support your health.
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Heather is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN, LDN), subject matter expert, and technical writer, with a master's degree in nutrition science from Bastyr University. She has a specialty in neuroendocrinology and has been working in the field of nutrition—including nutrition research, education, medical writing, and clinical integrative and functional nutrition—for over 15 years.