- High blood sugar levels are one of the first symptoms of diabetes.
- It’s possible to have high blood sugar even if you don’t have diabetes.
- The two best ways to keep your blood sugar levels healthy are staying lean and exercising regularly.
You’ve probably heard that high blood sugar levels can cause all kinds of health problems, including diabetes.
You might have also recently learned that your levels are high and want to know why and what you can do about it before having to turn to drugs.
Well, I have good news: you’re in the right place.
In this article, you’re going to learn what causes high blood sugar levels, how it affects your body and health, and what you can start doing today to lower your blood sugar levels naturally.
Let’s get started.
- What Is Blood Sugar?
- How Do You Measure Blood Sugar Levels?
- What Are Healthy Blood Sugar Levels?
- What Is High Blood Sugar?
- What Causes High Blood Sugar Levels?
- How Do You Lower Your Blood Sugar Levels?
- The Bottom Line on How to Lower Your Blood Sugar
Table of Contents
Blood sugar is the amount of glucose that’s dissolved in your blood.
When you eat carbohydrates, your body breaks them down into glucose, which is a simple sugar molecule that your cells process for energy.
Thus, your blood sugar levels at any given time are largely determined by how many carbs were in your last meal, and on how carbohydrate-rich your diet is on the whole.
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There are two basic ways you can measure blood sugar levels.
First, there’s a glucose meter, which you can find in most drugstores.
The process here is simple: you prick your finger with a small needle, put a drop of blood on a test strip, and feed it into the meter, which analyzes the blood and tells you your current blood sugar levels.
Second, you can take an A1C test, which measures how well your body has been processing glucose over the last several months.
It does this by analyzing how much glucose is attached to your red blood cells, because the more there is, the higher your average blood sugar levels have been.
Blood sugar levels are typically measured in milligrams per deciliter, or mg/dL.
For reference, 1 mg is 0.00018 teaspoon, and 1 dL is just 1/10th of a liter, so we’re talking about very small amounts of sugar here.
If you’re using a glucose meter, here’s what’s considered a healthy reading:
- Around 70 to 99 mg/dL when fasted (when you haven’t eaten anything for at least 6 to 8 hours).
- Less than 140 mg/dL 1 to 2 hours after a meal.
Your blood sugar levels will ebb and flow throughout the day depending on when and what you’ve eaten last, but those are good rules of thumb.
A healthy A1C reading is generally 5.7 or less, which means your blood sugar was, on average, under 120 mg/dL over the past 2 to 3 months.
If your A1C level is between 5.7 and 6.4, then you’re considered prediabetic, and if your level is at 6.5 or above on two separate tests (to verify the results are accurate), then you’re diabetic.
Scientifically speaking, high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, is defined as a blood glucose reading of over 130 mg/dL without eating beforehand, or over 180 mg/dL 1 to 2 hours after eating a meal.
What makes this condition insidious is the fact that it doesn’t necessarily produce immediate symptoms.
Your blood sugar levels have to skyrocket to over 240 mg/dL before you start to feel anything particularly noticeable like extreme thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, blurred vision, or other associated problems.
This is how people go for years with chronically elevated blood sugar levels without feeling any negative effects, despite inching closer and closer toward diabetes, and why more than 1/3 of American adults have have prediabetes but 9 out of 10 don’t know it.
If this condition isn’t corrected, it can lead to a whole host of serious illnesses including cardiovascular disease, blood pressure abnormalities, sleep apnea, low testosterone, metabolic syndrome, and cancer.
If it can’t, though, and blood sugar levels remain elevated for too long, that’s a sign that you’re becoming insulin resistant, which means that your cells stop responding to signals from the hormone insulin.
In case you’re not familiar with it, insulin helps carry glucose into cells to be used as energy. You can think of it as a “key” that “unlocks” your cells so glucose can enter and be turned into energy.
When your body becomes insulin resistant, though, it’s like the locks get changed and insulin can no longer shuttle the glucose in your blood into your cells for use. Thus, it remains in your bloodstream for longer than it should, which has adverse effects in the body.
This is why prediabetes is extremely harmful to the body and why, if it isn’t corrected, it turns into Type II diabetes.
The simplest ways to keep your blood sugar in a healthy range are twofold:
Reducing your body fat levels is one of the best ways to improve your whole-body insulin sensitivity because as your body composition improves, your cells become more responsive to insulin, allowing for the proper and healthy disposal of glucose.
Research shows that strength training appears to be especially good for this, and while high-intensity interval training can cause blood sugar levels to stay elevated for 1 to 2 hours post-workout, studies show that it lowers your average blood sugar levels over time.
Maintaining a healthy body fat percentage and exercising regularly are the only reliable ways to consistently have healthy insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels.
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High blood sugar is caused by various things, but it’s usually a symptom of insulin resistance, which can ultimately lead to Type II diabetes if not addressed.
A major part of living a long, healthy life is maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, and that mostly comes down to preserving your body’s insulin sensitivity (how well your cells respond to insulin’s signals).
The three most effective things you can do for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels are:
- Maintain a healthy body fat percentage.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Exercise regularly, and if you want bonus points, do regular resistance training.
Do those three things, and you should never struggle with blood sugar.