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How to Reduce Blood Sugar

Natalie Stein
September 15, 2020
How to Reduce Blood Sugar

High blood sugar is more than something your doctor may be hounding you about. Blood sugar levels that are too high can be dangerous in the short-term and lead to complications over time. Still, with prediabetes and diabetes, there are many ways to help keep blood sugar under control.

What Is High Blood Sugar?


High blood sugar, or blood glucose, means blood sugar is higher than normal. In prediabetes, blood sugar is higher than normal, but lower than in diabetes. These are the cut-offs for normal blood sugar, higher-than-normal blood sugar in prediabetes, and blood sugar in diabetes.

Cutoffs for Normal, Prediabetes, and Diabetes Based on Blood Tests
A1C Test (Glycated Hemoglobin) Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG) Oral Glucose Tolerance Test
Normal
< 5.7%
< 100 mg/dl
< 140 mg/dl
Prediabetes
> 5.7% and ≤ 6.4%
> 100 and ≤ 125 mg/dl
> 140 and ≤ 199 mg/dl
Diabetes
≥ 6.7%
≥ 126 mg/dl
≥ 200 mg/dl

Having prediabetes means being at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes within coming years. Having diabetes, especially if poorly controlled, means being at risk for developing complications such as infections, heart trouble, diabetic neuropathy, kidney disease, and vision problems. That is why lowering high blood sugar is so important.

Long-Term Strategies for Lowering Blood Sugar


Choices that you make every day have the greatest impact on blood glucose levels. These are some strategies for lowering blood sugar.

Weight Loss

Are you among the majority of people with diabetes or prediabetes who are overweight or obese? If so, your work may be cut out for you. Losing just a bit of weight, as little as 2 lb., can dramatically lower blood sugar levels or reduce diabetes risk. If you want to lower risk more, aim to lose 5% of your body weight, or 10 lb. if you weigh 200 lb.

Small changes can help with weight loss. Ideas include taking two-thirds of your usual portion of foods such as potatoes, bread, pasta, and desserts; trimming fat fat from meat before cooking it; ordering vegetables or a salad instead of pasta or potatoes for a side dish; and swapping half your dessert for a piece of fruit. Over time, these changes can lead to noticeable results, and Lark has plenty more ideas about small changes that work.

Physical Activity

Getting active directly improves blood sugar control, and there is no wrong choice for how you choose to get active. Exercise classes, brisk walking, aerobics, water jogging, cycling, playing tennis, gardening, and carrying wood all count. The recommended amount is at least 150 minutes per week, but more is better. 

If you are not currently active, ask your doctor for guidance and be sure to start with small amounts to be safe. If you have diabetes, be sure to check blood sugar before and after exercising and to talk to your healthcare provider about other precautions.

Good Nutrition

Foods that raise blood sugar the most include sugar-sweetened foods, such as cookies, cake, ice cream, jam, pie, and sugar-sweetened beverages, as well as refined starches, such as white bread, rice, and pasta, crackers, and potatoes. Fatty meats and fried foods can also lead to higher blood sugar.

Reducing those types of foods and replacing them with more nutritious foods can reduce blood sugar. Vegetables, nuts, fruit, beans, fish, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains all have beneficial compounds that can lower blood sugar. Making good choices is simple when you let your Lark coach guide you.

Self-Care

Are you ready for some good news? Here it is. Taking care of yourself can help reduce blood glucose levels. Getting enough sleep, using stress management techniques, and maintaining relationships with the people you care about are all part of self-care and can help keep you healthy.

Monitoring

If you have diabetes, your doctor may have asked you to measure blood sugar levels one or more times daily. Doing so can keep you on your toes so you keep making good choices to lower blood sugar. Monitoring with Lark can also help gain insight into what may affect blood sugar, so you can make the best decisions for yourself as an individual.

Medications

Most people with diabetes are on insulin, oral diabetes medications, or both. You may be on metformin if you have prediabetes, too. These medications help keep blood sugar down, and skipping dose or taking them incorrectly can lead to high blood sugar.

How to Lower Blood Sugar Quickly

The above strategies help maintain lower blood sugar values over the long term, but what happens if you get a value out of range here and there? Even with good diabetes self-management, blood sugar can sometimes go out of range. If blood sugar gets high enough, the situation can be dangerous. The American Diabetes Association says that if your value is over 240 mg/dl, it is best to check urine for ketones to see whether you might have diabetic ketoacidosis [1].

Blood sugar level
Fasting hyperglycemia
> 130 mg/dl
Post-prandial (after a meal)
> 180 mg/dl
Risk for diabetic ketoacidosis
> 250 mg/dl
Risk for diabetic hyperglycemic hyperosmolar syndrome
> 600 mg/dl

These are some ways to lower blood sugar quickly.

  1. Drink water. Water dilutes the sugar in your blood.
  2. Check your medications. A skipped dose can lead to higher blood sugar.
  3. Exercise. Physical activity is one of the most effective ways to lower blood sugar. (Do not exercise if you have diabetic ketoacidosis, since that can be dangerous).

If you are ever unsure about how to handle your blood sugar or what a particular blood sugar reading means, it is best to contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Lark can help manage diabetes or prediabetes with coaching on key ways to lower blood sugar. The approach is to make small changes and build habits using behavior change principles. This friendly, knowledgeable coach is available 24/7 through your smartphone.

Written by Natalie Stein on September 15, 2020
Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health
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