High blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, is common in people who have diabetes. A person’s blood sugar can be high when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, or if the body becomes resistant to insulin.
We spoke with Sonya Khan, M.D., a specialist in endocrine disorders, about ways to lower your blood sugar and why managing blood sugar is so important. Here are the tips she shared.
Know which type of diabetes you have
If you’re diabetic and your blood sugar is elevated, it’s important to know which type of diabetes you have.
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce insulin. It can only be treated with insulin given as an injection or delivered through an insulin pump. Lack of insulin can lead to a life-threatening condition called diabetic ketoacidosis.
If you have Type 2 diabetes, you can usually manage high blood sugar with diet, exercise and medication.
“High blood sugar can occur from foods you eat, but it can also be caused by certain medications, infection, stress or pain,” says Khan. “If your blood sugar is consistently elevated over 200 mg/dL, there might be something else going on. Reach out to your doctor or care team as you may need a medication adjustment.”
Drink more water
Drinking water and staying hydrated is important for managing blood sugar, also known as blood glucose.
“Water helps your kidneys filter out excess sugar through urine,” says Khan. “So, the more hydrated you are, the more urine production you’ll have, which flushes out sugar in the body.”
Always opt for water instead of sugary drinks, like soda and juice.
Monitor your carb intake
While Khan says there’s no scientific proof that a particular type of food can lower blood sugar, she stresses the importance of a balanced diet that includes adequate carbohydrates, unsaturated fat and lean protein. This can help keep your blood sugar levels in check.
“It’s best to meet your daily carbohydrate requirements with complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, lentils and legumes,” says Khan. “The fiber in these foods slows digestion. Try to limit white bread, potatoes and pasta.”
Be selective when consuming carbohydrates because your body turns them into sugar.
Avoid simple sugars, such as soda, desserts and candy.
Exercise is good for your health and can help lower your blood sugar.
It’s recommended you do at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. You can split this up into small amounts throughout the week. Aim for a full body strength training routine two times per week.
“When you exercise, your muscles take up the glucose and use it for energy,” says Khan.
When asked if there are ways to lower blood sugar quickly, Khan says a combination of hydration, exercise and a decrease in sugars and carbs could help.
Prevention is key to lowering blood sugar
One of the best ways to lower blood sugar is to take steps to prevent high blood sugar in the first place, says Khan.
“If you’re choosing the right foods and exercising regularly, you’re likely to maintain good control of your blood sugar,” she says. “Some medications like steroids can increase your blood sugar. Contact your team if you are started on this medication to see if you should begin monitoring your blood sugar and if medication to control blood sugar is indicated.”
Check your blood sugar often
It’s important to monitor your blood sugar, and you should speak with your doctor to determine how often you should check it.
“By checking your blood sugar regularly, you can detect hyperglycemia early, and it can be managed appropriately,” says Khan. “It’s the best thing our patients can do. It provides us with a lot of information, and we can look at trends over time and decide on appropriate therapy.”