If you have glucose intolerance, you may be very aware of your blood glucose levels. Or, you may be concerned about your blood glucose levels and mindful of your symptoms, but unsure of how to monitor them. Keeping track of your blood glucose values and ensuring you have normal glucose tolerance can be difficult, especially when glucose levels fluctuate throughout the day.
Diet, exercise, hormones, sleep patterns, meal timings, medication, and stress all have an impact on your glucose levels. If you are unsure of how these factors specifically affect you, it might be difficult to maintain optimum blood glucose levels throughout the day. But if you are glucose-intolerant, then it makes this process even more complicated.
A simple and effective way to monitor and manage your blood glucose levels is to use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). Maintaining optimal blood glucose levels is key to lowering your risk for long-term health issues, managing a healthy weight, and taking care of your body. This article will give you an overview of glucose intolerance, how it affects your body, and why blood glucose monitoring is vital to blood glucose management.
Glucose intolerance is a term that covers several metabolic conditions that cause abnormal blood glucose levels. These conditions include:
You do not have to have a diagnosis of diabetes to be glucose intolerant. However, being glucose intolerant increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Blood tests are used to distinguish a diagnosis between glucose intolerance and diabetes (see below).
Insulin resistance is when cells in your muscles, fat, and liver are less effective at removing glucose from your blood. To help get glucose into these cells and lower your blood glucose levels, the pancreas makes more insulin. This pancreatic response leads to high insulin levels in your blood and is called insulin resistance.
If your pancreas produces enough insulin, your blood glucose levels will stay in the healthy range or normal glucose tolerance. However, if there is not enough insulin, the extra glucose stays in your bloodstream instead of entering your cells. Over time, your cells may become more resistant to insulin. This can lead to a rise in both insulin and blood glucose levels. If blood glucose levels rise, this is known as glucose intolerance.
There are three types of glucose intolerance tests. They are all blood tests.
The results from these blood tests are shown in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or millimoles per liter (mmol/L).
Recommended blood glucose levels for diagnosing diabetes and intermediate hyperglycemia (prediabetes) by the WHO are as follows:
Impaired fasting glucose:
Fasting plasma glucose 6.1 to 6.9mmol/l (110mg/dl to 125mg/dl)
Oral glucose tolerance test <7.8mmol/l (140mg/dl) (if measured)
Impaired glucose intolerance:
Fasting plasma glucose <7.0mmol/l (126mg/dl)
Oral glucose tolerance test ≥7.8 and <11.1mmol/l (140mg/dl and 200mg/dl)
Type 2 diabetes:
Fasting plasma glucose ≥7.0mmol/l (126mg/dl)
Oral glucose tolerance test ≥11.1mmol/l (200mg/dl)
Within the scientific and healthcare community, the cause of glucose intolerance is unknown. However, a family history of diabetes and genetics are considered to play a significant role.
Risk factors that increase the likelihood of becoming glucose intolerant include:
Many people with impaired glucose tolerance will not display any symptoms at all.
If glucose intolerance is worsening or developing from impaired glucose intolerance to clinical diabetes, the following symptoms are most commonly described:
The treatment for glucose intolerance may differ depending on if you have been diagnosed with IFG, IGT, or type 2 diabetes. Treatment includes lifestyle interventions, but in some cases, medication may be prescribed.
The following lifestyle modifications are recommended:
Medication may be prescribed to help lower blood sugar levels. The most common medication prescribed is Metformin. Your doctor might also advise medication to control cholesterol or high blood pressure if these are additional problems that you have.
One of the most effective ways to reduce glucose intolerance is by using a CGM to understand and monitor your glucose levels. This will give you the data that you need to naturally lower your blood glucose levels.
If you follow a generic 'healthy diet', it may not necessarily be the healthiest for you, specifically. Your body is unique and responds differently to foods than the next person. Therefore, there is no way of knowing how each type of food impacts your glucose levels unless you are wearing a CGM and can observe what happens to your glucose levels in real-time. A CGM shows you how your glucose levels react to diet, exercise, medication, sleep, and stress. This allows you to develop a truly personalized nutrition plan and modify your lifestyle to reach optimal health.
Wearing a CGM will give you an assessment of your overall metabolic health and help you identify conditions such as insulin resistance and insulin sensitivity. Once you develop an understanding of how your blood glucose levels react to your diet and lifestyle, you can alter your nutrition and daily habits until everything is performing optimally.
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