Quick overview of what we’ll cover in this blog post:
- What glucose management is and why it’s important
- How to optimize your glucose levels
- How to monitor your glucose levels
- Prioritizing for the future
What is glucose management?
You likely already know that glucose has to do with your blood sugar. To be more specific, glucose is the most abundant monosaccharide in our bodies and one of our primary sources of energy.
Though the term “monosaccharide” translates literally to “one sugar,” it is actually a type of carbohydrate –a simple carb. These are broken down by our bodies and released into the bloodstream as glucose.
Glucose management thus refers to our efforts to maintain a healthy balance of glucose within our bodies. This is particularly important for those living with or at risk of diabetes.
But managing your blood sugar levels does more than just prevent diabetes. In fact, glucose management is closely tied to our longevity.
Why is glucose management important?
It’s easy to think, “I’m not diabetic, so why should I be concerned with my glucose levels?”
Glucose is vital both for our normal bodily functions and for our longevity. It directly influences our energy levels and metabolism and helps us avoid age-related diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Further, it also influences how our body secretes insulin, which is directly related to our longevity.
However, to best understand the benefits of glucose management, it may be helpful to examine what happens when we don’t properly manage our glucose.
When our blood sugar is too high, we experience hyperglycemia. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, changes in vision, frequent urination, and excessive thirst. Hyperglycemia can severely damage your stomach, heart, kidneys, eyes, and even your blood vessels if left untreated, and can affect the way our bodies produce insulin in the long term.
Our blood sugar levels can also become too low, causing hypoglycemia, during which you may experience headache, nausea, excessive hunger, fatigue, dizziness, and an irregular heartbeat. You may also appear pale, with tremors and sweating. If allowed to worsen, hypoglycemia can cause fainting, seizures, and organ damage.
Lastly, there are glucose spikes, also known as reactive hypoglycemia. This typically occurs when we overcompensate by eating a heavy meal (packed either with sugars, carbs, or both) while our blood sugar levels are otherwise low, which causes our bodies to overcompensate in turn, leading to a fast rise in blood sugar followed by a fast drop. The resulting drop, sometimes called a “sugar crash,” is best explained as that post-Thanksgiving meal feeling when all we seem to want to do is curl up for a nap. Besides fatigue, sugar crashes also cause mood swings, increased cravings, dizziness and even tremors and muscle twitches.
But beneath the surface, your insulin sensitivity is also being affected, which is the true danger of glucose spikes. In fact, this is potentially the most important aspect of glucose management. The high levels of insulin circulating within our bodies after a glucose spike eventually alter how our pancreatic cells release insulin, which causes our bodies to become more resistant to insulin. This “insulin resistance” means that our bodies require more and more insulin to “put away” the same amount of glucose, leading to a dangerous state known as hyperinsulinemia, or a high concentration of insulin in our blood, which is a contributing factor in nearly all chronic diseases.
Optimizing Your Glucose
Like breathing, healthy blood sugar is something we can easily take for granted until complications arise. But breathe easy, as there are simple steps you can take to optimize your glucose levels from the comfort of your home.
Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels starts with a balanced diet. Of course, “balanced” means something different for everyone, but we can understand this as controlling the amount of carbs and sugar we consume, and conversely limiting the amount of glucose let into your bloodstream. This doesn’t mean you should cut carbs and sugar totally out of your diet, but it could mean trading in your lunchtime soda for a crisp glass of water, or skipping your usual morning muffin.
Exercising also reduces our overall blood sugar levels. Keeping your heart rate up by exercising encourages our body to use excess glucose towards energy.
- Low Stress
Though it might sound strange, our level of stress also influences our blood sugar levels. Just think, haven’t you heard someone use the phrase, “My blood is boiling, I’m so angry!” This is related to our fight-or-flight response: with greater stress levels (both physical and psychological), our body will prepare to “fight” against or take “flight” from the source of the stress by supplying us with fuel. Less stress can mitigate this biological response and reduce the amount of glucose (fuel) in our blood.
For some, glucose may be difficult to manage by lifestyle changes alone. Fortunately, Metformin has been shown to be an effective way to manage glucose in the long term. Not only does Metformin improve insulin sensitivity, but it also reduces glucose absorption, thereby reducing glucose concentrations.
If glucose spikes are particularly difficult to mitigate, Acarbose may be just the solution for you. Acarbose inhibits alpha-glucosidase enzymes, which are responsible for the digestion of carbs. When taken as needed with the first bite of a carb-heavy meal, Acarbose can reduce an impending glucose spike–and more importantly, the subsequent crash.
Monitoring Your Glucose
The benefits of healthy glucose levels may be difficult for us to see or feel in our everyday lives without the helpful analysis of your healthcare provider. This alone tends to dissuade some from dedicated glucose management (at least, until those side effects above start presenting themselves).
But for those looking to prevent diabetes, a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) could provide valuable insight into which areas of your lifestyle produce the best results, and which habits upset your glucose balance. For example, CGMs allow you to see if your current exercise routine is producing the results you’re looking for. They also let you see if certain foods are working for your diet so you can monitor and prevent glucose spikes.
Once you’ve worn your first CGM and established your baseline blood sugar levels, you can continue wearing a CGM over any two-week period (especially those in which your diet, exercise and lifestyle habits change) to track your progress in real time, set new goals, and ensure that your glucose stays at the most optimized levels.
For more information on CGMs, be sure to check out our CGM blogs.
And for more about glucose and how it can affect different aspects of your health and longevity, read up on all our glucose blogs.
Note: The above statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.