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10 Causes of Blood Sugar Rises in Non-Diabetics [Non-Diabetic Hyper and Hypoglycemia]

Written by
Team Nutrisense
Reviewed by
Kara Collier
a person wearing CGM and looking at their glucose chart in the Nutrisense app

If you're not 'at risk' of diabetes, there’s a chance you have been overlooking your blood sugar. After all, why manage and pay attention to it if you don't have a reason to do so?

But no matter how healthy you are, blood sugar plays an integral part in how your body functions. In fact, you may experience hyperglycemia without even knowing it. Left untreated, chronically high blood sugar can lead to significant health problems.

Let's take a look at what non-diabetic hyperglycemia means for your health.

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Understanding Non-Diabetic Hyperglycemia and Prediabetes

Even if you're generally healthy, you can experience spikes and dips in your blood sugar. These are known as hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia. If you didn't already know, hyperglycemia is when your blood glucose levels are too high, while hypoglycemia is when your blood sugar levels are too low.

If you think you have any of the symptoms of high blood sugar listed below or if you're at risk for high blood sugar levels, it's essential to consult your doctor. A blood sugar test will help assess your risk and determine whether you need to begin a treatment plan.

Remember, while hyperglycemia can cause symptoms, it can also go unnoticed, so don't ignore the signs. A continuous glucose monitor is one way to take a closer look at your glucose levels in real-time, and using a CGM without diabetes can make it easier to identify these fluctuations.

Let’s dive in to 10 common causes and risk factors for high blood sugar. 

a list of signs and symptoms associated with non-diabetic hyperglycaemia

Remember, while hyperglycemia can cause symptoms, it can also go unnoticed, so don't ignore the signs.

10 Health Factors That Can Cause Blood Sugar Rises in Non-Diabetics

a doctor checking the results on a glucose monitor

1) Pancreatic Diseases [Pancreatitis, Cancer, or Cystic Fibrosis]

  • Diseases that are directly linked to your pancreas can cause hyperglycemia. Your pancreas is responsible for creating hormones and enzymes for digestion, along with producing insulin.
  • When your body doesn't produce enough insulin, glucose is left to build up in your bloodstream. That build-up of glucose is hyperglycemia.
  • If you're dealing with hyperglycemic symptoms, it is worthwhile to talk to your doctor to see if you should check on your pancreas as a possible factor.

2) Obesity and Related Weight Factors

  • Obesity is, simply put, an excessive amount of body fat.
  • The condition can lead to inflammation, which can cause insulin resistance.
  • If you suffer from obesity, work with your healthcare provider or a dietitian to create a meal plan and exercise routine to help you on your weight loss journey.

3) Cushing's Syndrome [Pituitary Gland and Associated Hormones]

  • Cushing's syndrome is a disorder that develops when your body is exposed to or consumes too much cortisol. Cortisol (also known as the stress hormone) is naturally produced in your body and is also found in certain medications.
  • Cushing's syndrome can develop because your body begins to overproduce cortisol. It can also happen because of certain medications that you may be prescribed.
  • Between 10-30 percent of people that have Cushing's Syndrome will develop an impaired tolerance to glucose.
  • Cushing's syndrome causes metabolic changes that make it more difficult for your body to regulate blood sugar.
  • Cortisol hinders the effects of insulin in your body. This results in an increased insulin resistance level.

4) Lack of Physical Activity [Not Using Energy Stores]

a person laying on a bed
  • Physical activity is a vital part of maintaining a healthy body. When you engage in physical activity, you use energy stores. Your energy is produced in the form of glucose by your body breaking down your food into sugars.
  • Getting regular exercise makes your body more sensitive to insulin up to 24 hours after a workout. Even small amounts of exercise can help to prevent hyperglycemia.
  • Try adding a little bit of movement to your day, like taking a walk in the morning or evening.

5) Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome [PCOS]

  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a hormonal disorder found in women in their 'childbearing' years who may have increased menstrual periods and excess androgen levels. This syndrome can also cause your ovaries to irregularly release eggs.
  • One of the causes of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is excess insulin. Excess insulin can cause insulin resistance, leading to difficulty managing blood sugar levels in your bloodstream.
  • Speak with your doctor about dietary changes and medications that may help lower your insulin resistance to combat the effect on your blood sugar levels.


6) Trauma [Head Injury, Severe Burns, or Surgery]

  • Trauma to the body, or a severe injury, causes huge stress responses. Stress raises cortisol levels which leads to insulin resistance.
  • Make sure to monitor your condition with your doctor as you heal, and focus on staying healthy and hydrated.

7) Severe Infections [Urinary Tract Infections, Pneumonia, or Acute Illnesses Like the Flu]

a person having a nap near the window
  • Severe infections can stress your body and can lead to higher cortisol production. Excess cortisol levels can create insulin resistance and prevent your body from adequately processing sugars.
  • If you're suffering or recovering from a severe infection, make sure you have a healthy, well-balanced diet. Also, consult with your doctor if you feel like you're not getting back to normal or having other side effects as you heal.

8) Certain Medication

  • Certain medications with corticosteroids or diuretics can lead to higher blood glucose levels. Others can create insulin resistance.
  • Thoroughly review any medications you are prescribed with your doctor to ensure your diet and lifestyle will work along with them.
  • Always make sure to read directions on your medications to ensure that you are taking them correctly.

9) Family History

an older person and a kid sitting near an open door
  • If your family has a history of diabetes or prediabetes, you may be prone to hyperglycemia.
  • Sometimes, women that are pregnant develop hyperglycemia from gestational diabetes. Pregnancy hormones can sometimes cause interference with your insulin, leading to insulin resistance.
  • Make sure that you talk to your family members and get your medical history from them. Pass this information to your doctors, so they know what to watch for when working to keep you healthy.

10) Diet [Excessive Amounts of Calories, Particularly Sugar/Carbohydrates]

  • Your diet plays a huge role in controlling your blood sugar levels. This is important for diabetics and non-diabetics alike.
  • Excess sugar consumption in perpetuity can cause your body to cease responding to the insulin it produces. Over time, insulin resistance will grow, and high blood glucose levels can occur more often.
  • Weight may not be the sole factor causing insulin resistance. Excessive sugar/carb consumption can still impact insulin sensitivity regardless of weight status.
  • Adjusting your diet and adding physical activity to your routine can help manage dietary causes of hyperglycemia.
  • Check with your doctor or a dietician to see if there are ways that you can create a healthier eating plan for your blood sugar levels.

How Is Glucose Tested?

As we discussed earlier, non-diabetic hyperglycemia occurs when there is too much sugar present in your bloodstream. Hyperglycemia is defined as someone with a blood glucose level of >126 mg/dL while in a fasting state and 180 mg/dL one to two hours after a meal.

Hyperglycemia can also be diagnosed using something called the oral glucose tolerance test. Here’s how it’s done:

  • When you’re in a fasted state, you’re given approximately 75 grams of carbohydrates in a syrupy drink.
  • Your blood sugar is tested two hours later.
  • A reading between 140-200mg/dL is considered "prediabetic," while diabetic levels are >200mg/dL.

One possible caveat of utilizing this test is the possibility of failing it if you’ve been following a very low carb or keto diet for a long period. You will see a temporary “physiological insulin resistance,” where your muscles prefer using fat over glucose for fuel.

But you can reverse this by reintroducing carbs into your diet—typically around 150 grams daily, for three days leading up to the oral glucose tolerance test.  Leaving hyperglycemia untreated can lead to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, nerve damage, and damage to your blood vessels, organs, and tissues.

Make sure to check in with your doctor or a registered dietitian regularly to make sure your diet and lifestyle habits are optimal for healthy glucose levels.

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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.

When you join the Nutrisense CGM program, our team of credentialed dietitians and nutritionists are available for additional support and guidance to help you reach your goals.

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Kara Collier

Reviewed by: Kara Collier, RDN, LDN, CNSC

Kara Collier is the co-founder and VP of Health at Nutrisense, one of America’s fastest-growing wellness-tech startups, where she leads the health team. She is a Forbes 30 under 30 recipient, frequent podcast guest & conference speaker.

10 Causes of Blood Sugar Rises in Non-Diabetics [Non-Diabetic Hyper and Hypoglycemia]

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