Facts about blood sugar
- Food is broken down into blood sugar and acts as fuel for the cells in your body, much like gasoline in a car.
- If blood sugar levels are measured higher than normal, your doctor could diagnose you with pre-diabetes or diabetes.
- If you have pre-diabetes, proper control of your blood sugars can delay or prevent type 2 diabetes from developing. If you have diabetes, it is important to have proper control to prevent complications.
Complications of high blood sugar
- Cardiovascular disease: Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels in your heart and the rest of the body. When the blood vessels are damaged, blood pressure becomes harder to manage, and the risk of developing plaque in the arteries increases. When plaque develops in the arteries, it can reduce blood flow to major organs, and increase your risk of heart and vascular disease.
- Kidney damage: The kidneys have tiny blood vessels which help keep our body in balance. Over time, high blood sugar can damage these blood vessels, which can upset our body’s natural balance.
- Nerve damage: High blood sugar can also damage the nerves in your body, which can cause issues relating to sensation and pain. For example, if the nerves in the feet are damaged, a common injury to the foot, such as a blister, can be left unnoticed and becoming infected. Nerve damage to the feet or other areas can also cause feelings of pain, numbness, or tingling.
- Eye damage: The blood vessels in the eyes are also prone to damage from high blood sugar levels, and can lead to diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, and open-angle glaucoma. These conditions can lead to changes in vision or floating spots in the eye.
Improving blood sugar control
- Regular physical activity and exercise: Aim for 150 to 300 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise each week and resistance training a minimum of twice per week.
- Healthy eating: Aim to include high-fibre foods such as whole grains (whole grain bread, brown rice, bulgur, buckwheat, barley, and steel-cut oats), vegetables, and fruits. Avoid sugary foods and drinks, such as juices or pop.
- Medications: Speak to your doctor, pharmacist, or diabetes specialist to ensure your blood sugars are well controlled.
- Know your blood work: Ask your doctor to check your fasting blood sugar and HbA1c (average blood sugar) during your regular check-ups. For those living without diabetes, general guidelines for fasting blood sugar are between 4.0-6.0 mmol/L, and HbA1c (average blood sugar) is between 0.04 – 0.59, or 4% – 5.9%. For those living with diabetes, general guidelines for fasting blood sugar are between 4.0 – 7.0 mmol/L, and HbA1c (average blood sugar) is less than 0.07 or less than 7%.