Also known as blood glucose, blood sugar is the primary sugar present in your blood, and you absorb it from the food you eat. Although people often think of blood sugar as being negative, it’s actually vital to your body. Without blood glucose, your body would be unable to produce energy to power itself.
The human body has a natural control system to keep blood sugar levels in check. When levels become elevated, cells in the pancreas release a hormone called insulin. This natural chemical prompts cells in fatty tissue, the muscles and liver to absorb glucose and use it for energy production.
Health care providers measure blood sugar levels in either milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or millimoles per liter (mmol/L). After not eating or drinking anything for 8 hours, a normal blood sugar level is between 70 and 100 mg/dL (3.9 and 5.6 mmol/L). At other times, a typical blood sugar reading is 125 mg/dL (6.9mmol/L) or less.
Diabetes happens when a person’s blood sugar levels are persistently above normal range. There are two main types:
Type 2 diabetes is far more common than Type 1. In fact, 90% to 95% of people with the disease are Type 2.
Prediabetes is when a person’s blood sugar levels are higher than normal but have yet to reach the point where they have Type 2 diabetes. About 1 in 3 adults in the United States has prediabetes, but more than 80% have yet to be diagnosed with it. Individuals with prediabetes are at a greater risk for developing diabetes than people who don’t.
Insulin resistance is one of the main causes of prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes. It happens when the body cells don’t absorb blood glucose in the normal way when activated by insulin. When a person has insulin resistance, the pancreas increases insulin production to try to regulate blood sugar levels.
Some symptoms of diabetes include:
Keep in mind that other conditions can cause some of the above symptoms. As a result, it’s a good idea to see your medical provider if you experience any of the above potential warning signs of diabetes. It’s also possible to have prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes and not experience any warning signs until blood sugar levels become too high. Seeing your medical provider regularly and having routine blood work performed is generally the best way to monitor your blood sugar levels if you’re not diabetic.
Often, Type 2 diabetes is preventable. By making certain lifestyle changes, you can help promote better blood sugar control and lower your risk for the disease. Here are some things you can do.
Exercising for 30 minutes per day 5 days per week can help your body respond better to insulin and reduce the risk of diabetes. Exercise doesn’t have to mean visiting a gym. You can take a brisk walk at one of the many public parks in Arlington, TX, try water aerobics or do exercises in your apartment or home. Residents of Bethesda Gardens senior living community can also participate in our exercise programs.
A healthy diet can go a long way toward reducing your risk of Type 2 diabetes. Although dietary needs vary, most people benefit from a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. Cutting back on fat, sugar, processed foods and red meat is often beneficial as well.
Being overweight or obese is a major risk factor for diabetes. Fortunately, you don’t need to lose an extreme amount to positively impact your health. Losing just 5% to 10% of your current weight can make a difference. Regular exercise, portion control and a healthy diet can help you lose weight over time, and your medical provider can help you come up with a plan that works for you.
Even if you’re not at a high risk for Type 2 diabetes, discuss blood sugar control with your medical provider. They can provide you with tips and advice to help you remain healthy throughout your senior years.