Blood sugar levels, or glucose levels, are an essential indicator of your health. High blood sugar levels can lead to diabetes. This chronic condition affects your body’s ability to produce or use insulin, a hormone that regulates glucose in your blood. Diabetes can cause serious complications like heart disease, kidney failure, nerve damage, and vision loss.
Fortunately, you can manage your blood sugar levels with diet and exercise, two lifestyle factors you control. Here are some tips on how to do that:
- Eat a balanced diet with complex carbohydrates, lean protein, healthy fats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Complex carbohydrates digest more slowly than simple sugars, which means they do not spike your blood sugar levels as much. Lean protein and healthy fats can help you feel full and satisfied. At the same time, fruits and vegetables provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber that can lower blood sugar levels and improve overall health.
- Avoid foods high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, and trans fats. These foods can raise your blood sugar levels quickly and cause inflammation. They can also contribute to weight gain, making it harder for your body to use insulin effectively.
- Drink plenty of water and limit your intake of alcohol and caffeinated beverages. Water can help you stay hydrated and flush out excess glucose from your body. Alcohol and caffeine can interfere with your blood sugar levels and insulin production. If you drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages, do so in moderation and with food.
- Exercise regularly and vary your activities. Physical activity can lower your blood sugar levels by increasing your insulin sensitivity and muscle glucose uptake. It can also help you lose weight, improve cardiovascular health, reduce stress, and enhance mood. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity weekly exercise, such as brisk walking, cycling, swimming, or dancing. You can also include some strength training and flexibility exercises to build muscle mass and improve your range of motion.
- Check your blood sugar levels regularly and consult your doctor for concerns. Monitoring your blood sugar levels can help you track your progress and adjust your diet and exercise plan. You can use a glucometer, a device that measures the amount of glucose in a drop of blood from your finger. Your doctor can advise you on how often and when to check your blood sugar levels and the optimal range. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any symptoms of high or low blood sugar levels, such as fatigue, thirst, hunger, blurred vision, sweating, shakiness, or confusion.
Managing your blood sugar levels with diet and exercise is possible and beneficial for your overall health and well-being. By following these tips, you can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes and its complications and enjoy a higher quality of life.
Reviewed by Matthew Hollie, MD
Matthew Hollie, MD, is a board-certified endocrinologist with special interests in diabetes and diabetes management.