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How to Lower Blood Sugar

Learning how to lower blood sugar is critical to overall health. In the United States, it is estimated that 23.6 million people are suffering from diabetes -- this is about 7.8 percent of the population. What is most disheartening about this figure is that about 5.7 million people with diabetes have not been diagnosed. So they are living with uncontrolled blood sugar levels and this can be life-threatening.

What Is Blood Sugar?

Blood sugar is medically known as the amount of glucose in your blood. We get glucose from carbohydrates, which is our body's primary energy source. We also have a hormone known as insulin that works to help the cells in the body use glucose. The pancreas is the organ that releases insulin. Insulin is released when our body senses that the sugar (glucose) levels in our blood are increased. In people with diabetes, this insulin and pancreas mechanism either is not working properly or not working at all, depending on the type of diabetes a person has.

How to Lower Blood Sugar

Exercise

Exercise is actually one of the primary ways to lower blood sugar. Exercise should be done regularly, but there are certain situations in which you should avoid it. If you have ketones in your urine, do not exercise. It is important to keep an eye on your urine and blood sugar regularly. There are simple testing methods for each of these.

Diet

What and how much you eat also matters. If you are eating a diet high in carbohydrates, this could certainly be adding to your high blood sugar levels. A dietician can be helpful in changing your normal diet.

Medication

There are medications available to help as well. Those who are not producing insulin will have to replace it via insulin injections every day (usually more than once a day). Your healthcare provider will work with you on this. For those producing insulin but having issues with it, there are oral medications available, such as metformin, which are helpful to millions of Americans.

Why Should I Care About My Blood Sugar Levels?

In the early stages of high blood sugar that is not being controlled, you may experience:

  • Increased thirst
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Frequent urination
  • Weight loss
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue

When blood sugar is uncontrolled for a prolonged period of time:

  • Skin and vaginal infections
  • Decreased vision
  • Stomach problems
  • Slow-healing sores and cuts
  • Nerve damage

People with type 1 diabetes who are reliant on insulin but do not take it or who have triggering problems like infections, may also experience diabetic ketoacidosis, also known as DKA. Symptoms of DKA include fruity breath odor, confusion, shortness of breath, constant fatigue and flushed or dry skin.

Reviewed by Dr. Jennifer Monti, MD, MPH

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