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Blood Glucose for Non-diabetics

Blood Glucose for Non-diabetics

For the more than 40% of adults in the U.S. who have diabetes or prediabetes, maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is a daily goal. Eating a carefully balanced diet and frequently testing blood glucose is an important part of managing diabetes and keeping prediabetes in check – or even reversing it. But what about nondiabetics? How concerned should we be about our blood glucose level on a daily basis?

Our blood sugar levels naturally increase after eating as food is broken down into glucose molecules that enter the bloodstream. In people without diabetes or insulin resistance, the pancreas releases insulin to help move the glucose to muscles where it can be used for energy and to the liver where it can be stored. For healthy people this process is extremely efficient. In fact, one study showed that 96% of the time blood sugar levels were normal or near normal for nondiabetic people.

But there are still steps you can take to help ensure that your blood sugar remains stable and well out of the diabetic range. If you consume too many processed carbohydrates and sugar, your body will need more insulin to break it down. Over time, the pancreas won't be able to keep up, and you could end up with insulin resistance or diabetes. But eating complex carbohydrates can help control blood sugar. The fiber found in foods such as brown rice and whole grains slows down digestion, keeps you feeling full longer, and helps avoid sugar spikes. On the other hand, when you consume too many refined carbohydrates such as pasta or juice, your body will release more insulin, which in turns stimulates the appetite control in your brain. That can lead to eating more sugar and processed food, which of course releases more insulin – and keeps a vicious cycle going. To keep blood sugar levels steady and help avoid diabetes down the road, stick to a healthy diet that emphasizes whole grains and minimally processed food.

Exercise improves the way your body uses insulin, so it's another way to help maintain normal blood sugar levels. Even modest amounts of activity (such as a 30-minute walk) helps increase insulin sensitivity and aids your muscles in using the insulin and breaking down the glucose in your body.

Managing stress is also important for maintaining blood sugar levels. When we're stressed our bodies release the hormones adrenalin and cortisol, which causes blood sugar to rise to counteract the impact. It’s a very effective system to counter the imbalance, but when stress is chronic it becomes problematic. Lack of sleep adds to stress and affects your body's ability to use insulin efficiently. Meditation, deep breathing, yoga, and cardiovascular activities can all help with both stress and sleep.

Of course, a blood glucose test should be a part of every adult's regular health checkup. For healthy adults with no risk factors, a fasting blood glucose or A1C test is recommended every three years. For those at higher risk, tests should be performed annually. Talk to your doctor to determine your risk level and the frequency of screening that’s right for you.

Finally, if you are healthy and taking appropriate steps to keep your blood sugar in normal ranges, don’t assume that more monitoring is better. Over the past few years, the advances in continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) systems have piqued interest in the wellness and fitness communities. These implantable devices make it effortless to monitor blood sugar levels throughout the day – without the need to do an annoying finger stick and pull out a test meter several times a day. That is a huge boon to diabetics, who often must test multiple times a day. But is it helpful to a nondiabetic person?

An online search will quickly lead to several "coaches" and influencers who insist that CGM is a super tool for better fitness and wellbeing – as well as keeping diabetes at bay. They claim that by knowing your blood sugar levels at any time, you can optimize it for peak mental or physical performance. But there are no credible studies to back up those claims. Furthermore, even ideal blood sugar ranges aren’t certain for a nondiabetic. A CGM system is also expensive, and it’s very unlikely that insurance will cover it for a nondiabetic. And right now, there just isn’t compelling evidence that it provides a real benefit for a healthy individual.

If you have concerns about your blood sugar levels or how you should be monitoring them, talk to your doctor. Knowledge is a very powerful thing, and being proactive about your health is the key to staying well! For help finding a doctor click here.


This article first appeared in the November 2023 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.

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