Having high blood sugar can have serious consequences. It can lead to diabetes, which is a serious disease that affects over 30 million Americans. Another 84.1 million have prediabetes,
which can lead to a diabetes diagnosis within five years. If you have blood sugar is high, you can learn how to lower blood sugar to avoid diabetes and improve your health.

What Is Blood Sugar?

a hand is holding a monitoring to test the blood sugar

Blood sugar otherwise known as glucose, is the main sugar found in the blood. It’s also the main source of fuel for humans. Everything we eat turns into glucose, including the sugary, salty snacks that Americans like to consume. The body processes glucose through the endocrine system, which includes the pancreas, small intestine, and liver.  

After eating carbohydrates and protein, the pancreas secretes a hormone known as insulin. It sends any excess glucose to the liver as glycogen.  The pancreas also releases the hormone glucagon, which raises blood sugar when the body needs more glucose. The two substances, glucagon, and glycogen act together to keep blood sugar in balance.

However, depending on what you eat or problems with the pancreas, the body can produce excessive amounts of glucose, which results in your blood sugar is too high.


Blood Sugar Readings

To understand what high blood sugar is, you need to know what your blood sugar levels should be. Blood sugar readings can be normal, too low, or too high. If they are too high, then they are broken up into prediabetes levels, or Type 2 diabetes.

Normal Blood Sugar

A blood glucose meter or blood chemistry test can measure your blood sugar readings. With this device, you can take them before meals, which is a fasting blood sugar, and about two hours after you eat. Another one taken at least eight hours after your last meal is your fasting blood sugar. Most healthy people will have a fasting blood sugar of 80 to 99 milligrams of glucose per deciliter (mg/dl). About two hours after meals, their readings should run 80 to 140mg/dl. These figures show you how glucose is absorbed and stored by the body.

After eating, the carbohydrates are broken down into smaller parts. The body then absorbs the glucose from those carbohydrates in the small intestine. 

Low Blood Sugar

Some people don’t have issues with high blood sugar, but they deal with low blood sugar. Having low readings, which is known as hypoglycemia, is often a precursor to diabetes. Readings of 70mg/dl or below are low. Some of the symptoms for hypoglycemia are:

  • Shakiness or trembling
  • Fatigue
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating
  • Irritability
  • Hunger
  • Pale skin

High Blood Sugar

There are two categories for high blood sugar readings: prediabetes and diabetes. To be considered prediabetes, blood glucose readings can be 140 to 199mg/dl. This condition is also known as impaired glucose tolerance. Readings that are 200mg/dl or above are an indication of Type 2 diabetes.

Another test, an A1C test, is usually done to confirm that someone has Type 2 diabetes. If the A1C reading is 6.5 percent or higher on of them, than he or she may is diagnosed with the disease. However, an A1C reading of 5.4 to 6.7 percent is prediabetes, and normal A1C is 5.7 percent or below.

Symptoms of High Blood Sugar

If your blood sugar readings are too high, some of the symptoms you may experience are:

  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Headaches

If you have these symptoms and suspect high blood sugar, you should speak to a doctor  bout
it as soon as possible. Catching high blood sugar early can help you get better control of it and prevent the need for prescription medications to lower it.

Lowering Blood Sugar Levels

blood sugar tester with an insulin syringe and strips

If you have blood sugar readings that indicate that you have prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes, then you need to learn how to lower blood sugar. Several steps can help you get lower readings, which will make you feel better and reduce the risk of heart disease, strokes, renal disease, and blindness.

Purchase a Monitor

The first thing you should do after getting your readings back from your doctor is to purchase a blood glucose monitor. Unless you know your levels, then you won't know if you're efforts to lower your blood sugar are working. A blood glucose monitor and supplies, which includes test strips, lancets, and alcohol pads, are available at most pharmacies.

If you go online, you can look up offers for free monitors to get started testing your blood sugar. Testing it before meals in the morning, a fasting blood sugar can tell you if your levels are going down or up. Then you can take these other steps to lower your readings.

Develop an Exercise Routine

Doing moderate exercises like swimming, walking, or riding a bicycle can help lower your blood sugar levels. While exercising, your muscles will need glucose to fuel them, so they will use what your body has stored. Along with lowering blood sugar levels, moderate exercise can also help you lose weight, which will also act to reduce your blood glucose.

Even though you may be tempted to do more strenuous exercises, be cautious with them. More strenuous workouts can temporarily increase blood glucose levels. Also, intense physical activity can sometimes cause the release of stress hormones which can also raise blood sugar levels.

Eat the Right Foods

Since the food you eat turns into glucose, you need to know which foods to abstain from and
which are good to eat. Generally, foods low in sugar, fat, and salt are okay, but you need to be mindful of eating too much starch in your diet. Refrain from eating processed foods, especially if they are salty, sugary, or made from refined flour.

Foods that are sugary or that have refined flour in them are known as simple carbohydrates, and you need to avoid them. Simple carbs quickly turn into sugar when your body processes the food you’ve eaten. So, after absorbing them, your blood sugar levels will show spikes if you take readings about two hours after you've had a meal. Complex carbohydrates, which includes most fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and low-fat dairy items, slowly break down in the body. The glucose that results from these foods is either utilized as fuel or stored for later use. These carbs, often called ‘good carbs, will usually not cause spikes
in your blood sugar levels.

Food Starches

Foods that are starchy, such as potatoes, corn, rice, pasta, and peas, should be eaten sparingly. Starches quickly turn into glucose when your body breaks down these foods, which can cause your blood sugar, in turn, to rise rapidly. Dieticians recommend that more than half your plate is non-starchy vegetables. Some healthy examples include:

  • Asparagus
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Kale
  • Mustard Greens
  • Spinach
  • Zucchini

Proteins

Protein is also necessary for the human body to function correctly, but it doesn’t need to be animal protein. Plant-based proteins are great because they not only provide the protein your body needs, but they include healthy fats and fiber as well. However, they vary in the amount of fat and carbohydrates they have, so read the labels carefully to choose the right ones.

Meat protein whether it is beef, chicken, pork, or lamb, varies in how much fat they have, especially saturated fat. To avoid saturated fats, choose the leanest meats you can find, remove the skin from chicken and avoid eating processed meats. Reduce the consumption of red meat and replace it with fish. The Omega 3 fatty acids in some fish have many significant benefits, so you should eat fish twice a week.

Drinks to Avoid

It’s also important to carefully select what you drink. To lower your blood sugar, avoid drinking sugary beverages like sodas, Kool-Aid, beer, and wine. Reduce your consumption of alcoholic beverages because many of them contain high amounts of sugar.

Also, avoid drinking fruit juices, even unsweetened ones. Fruit has natural sugars in them that can be healthy for you, but many fruit juices are heavily laden with added sugars that can quickly cause your blood sugar to rise. Since juice is already broken down into a liquid, its sugars enter your bloodstream much faster, which will cause blood sugar spikes.

Drink approximately six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day. Your body needs water to operate correctly, so that should be enough to stay hydrated. However, on hot days or when you exercise, you may need more water to replace any that you sweat out. You can also drink unsweetened tea or coffee.


Take Medicine as Prescribed

types of medicine pill

If you have high blood sugar and receive a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes, then you will probably be put on drugs to help reduce it. If so, take any medications as prescribed, and take classes about diabetes to learn about it and how to get better control of your blood sugar levels. Educating yourself can help lower your blood sugar to a level that will allow you to control through your diet. If you don't take the necessary steps to reduce your blood glucose levels, then you put yourself at risk for eye, kidney, and nerve damage.

If your fasting blood glucose levels are too high, then you can learn how to lower blood sugar. Dedicate yourself to starting an exercise routine, eating fresh, healthy foods, and taking any medications that your doctor prescribes to help reduce your blood sugar levels.