Diabetes is an endocrine system disorder that occurs when the body is not able to produce enough insulin or does not respond properly to insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that lowers blood glucose levels. When blood glucose levels rise, it can lead to various complications such as nerve damage, blindness, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease. Hence, it is essential to understand the sweet science behind the rise in blood glucose levels and how it affects the body.
The science behind blood glucose levels rise
When we eat carbohydrates, they get converted into glucose, which is then absorbed into the bloodstream through the gut. The pancreas senses the rising levels of blood glucose and starts producing insulin, which helps the body’s cells to take up glucose from the blood and use it for energy. Insulin also signals the liver to store excess glucose as glycogen for later use. Thus, insulin plays a crucial role in regulating blood glucose levels.
Causes of blood glucose levels rise
1. Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance occurs when the body’s cells become less responsive to the effects of insulin, leading to higher blood glucose levels. Insulin resistance is one of the leading causes of type 2 diabetes, which accounts for about 90-95% of all cases of diabetes. The risk factors for insulin resistance include obesity, physical inactivity, aging, and genetics.
2. Lack of Physical Activity
Lack of physical activity can cause blood glucose levels to rise as exercise helps the body to use glucose for energy and increases insulin sensitivity. Hence, it is recommended to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
3. Overconsumption of Carbohydrates
Overconsumption of carbohydrates can lead to a spike in blood glucose levels as the body is not able to produce enough insulin quickly to handle the excess glucose. Hence, it is recommended to limit the intake of high-carbohydrate foods such as sugary drinks, pastries, and white bread.
Stress can cause blood glucose levels to rise as the body produces stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which stimulate the liver to release glucose into the bloodstream. Hence, it is essential to manage stress through relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises.
Effects of blood glucose levels rise
1. Nerve Damage
High blood glucose levels can cause nerve damage, known as diabetic neuropathy, which can lead to numbness, tingling, and pain in the feet and hands. It can also affect the digestive system, urinary tract, and cardiovascular system, leading to various complications.
2. Cardiovascular Disease
High blood glucose levels can lead to the buildup of plaque in the arteries, leading to atherosclerosis, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. It can also increase the risk of hypertension and dyslipidemia, which are additional risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
3. Kidney Disease
High blood glucose levels can impact the blood vessels in the kidneys, leading to kidney damage, known as diabetic nephropathy. It can lead to a decline in kidney function and eventually kidney failure. Hence, it is important to manage blood glucose levels to prevent kidney disease.
Management of blood glucose levels
Medications such as insulin, sulfonylureas, biguanides, and DPP-4 inhibitors can help manage blood glucose levels in people with diabetes. However, these medications may have side effects, and their effectiveness may vary based on individual factors.
2. Diet and Nutrition
A healthy diet and nutrition plan can help manage blood glucose levels by limiting the intake of high-carbohydrate foods and increasing the intake of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats. It is recommended to consult a registered dietitian to develop an individualized meal plan.
3. Physical Activity
Physical activity can help manage blood glucose levels by improving insulin sensitivity and reducing insulin resistance. It is recommended to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week.
Managing blood glucose levels is essential to prevent the development of complications associated with diabetes. Hence, it is important to understand the sweet science behind blood glucose levels rise and take appropriate measures to manage them effectively.
- American Diabetes Association. (2021). Standards of medical care in diabetes—2021 abridged for primary care providers. Clinical Diabetes, 39(1), 1-101. https://doi.org/10.2337/cd20-0085
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Diabetes. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/diabetes.html
- International Diabetes Federation. (2019). IDF Diabetes Atlas. https://www.diabetesatlas.org/upload/resources/material/20200302_133351_IDFATLAS9e-final-web.pdf
- Q1. What is the normal blood glucose level?
- Q2. What are the symptoms of high blood glucose levels?
- Q3. What are the risk factors for diabetes?
- Q4. What are the complications associated with high blood glucose levels?
- Q5. How can blood glucose levels be managed?
The normal blood glucose level ranges from 70-130 mg/dL before meals and less than 180 mg/dL after meals in people with diabetes.
The symptoms of high blood glucose levels include increased thirst, frequent urination, blurry vision, fatigue, and slow healing of wounds.
The risk factors for diabetes include obesity, physical inactivity, aging, family history of diabetes, gestational diabetes, and prediabetes.
The complications associated with high blood glucose levels include nerve damage, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, eye damage, and foot damage.
Blood glucose levels can be managed through medications, diet and nutrition, physical activity, and stress management.