How to Improve Blood Sugar Levels

Three Parts:Managing High Blood SugarManaging Low Blood SugarEducating Yourself

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. Nearly thirty million Americans are diabetic, which for them means a daily struggle to control their blood sugar or glucose levels.[1] Whether you are diabetic or have an unrelated glucose problem, it is important to learn about your condition and how to bring it under better control. There are ways, challenging though they be, to do this. You may need insulin therapy, you may need to improve your eating habits or exercise regimen, or you may, perhaps, need to change your lifestyle as a whole.

Part 1
Managing High Blood Sugar

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    Test your blood sugar. Testing your blood sugar is the first tool that you have in treating diabetes. This is usually done with an electronic meter. Following your doctor's instructions, you will have to use a small lancet on your finger to obtain a drop of blood several times per day. The blood is put on a test strip in the meter, which then gives you an accurate reading. Levels greater than 126 mg/dl before a meal or 200 mg/dl two hours after meals are hyperglycemic. It is also good to keep a regular log of your readings in order to get an idea of how your sugar levels fluctuate in response to diet and exercise.[2]
    • Some meters have spring-action lancets that make reading less painful. Other allow you to test from your arms, thigh, or hand.
    • Unfortunately, urine testing is less accurate than blood and not a usable method.
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    Take your insulin. Insulin therapy is a must for people with Type 1 Diabetes. People with Type 2 sometimes need it. Your medical team will help you determine if and what you will require for an insulin regime. In general, Type 1 diabetics start with two injections of insulin per day while Type 2 diabetics may need one per day to go with other medication like pills. In both cases the body builds up a resistance so that more insulin is needed over time. Insulin is also delivered in different ways. The easiest and most common method is by injection. However, there are also insulin pens and pumps.[3]
    • You should inject into the same area of the body in order to be consistent, but not the exact place.
    • Insulin delivery should also be properly timed with meals, so that it is effective in processing glucose.
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    Follow a nutritious diet. Good nutrition and lifestyle is a major aspect of diabetes management. Medical studies show that good diet, exercise, and weight loss can reduce fasting glucose levels in diabetics.[4] Part of this is knowing what to eat. The idea, in short, is to eat things that level your blood sugar rather than spiking it. Together with your doctor or nutritionist you should be able to make an appropriate meal plan.
    • Nutrition is the best way to control blood sugar levels because blood sugar is directly impacted by what you eat and when. Eating a healthy diet that is focused on blood sugar control is essential in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels and thus preventing or controlling diabetes.
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    Reduce intake of simple sugars. Simple sugars like cane sugar, honey, or corn syrups found in soda and processed foods are easily absorbed into the bloodstream and will raise your blood sugar levels. You will have to be vigilant with them. This does not mean that you can't eat sweets on occasion. A small piece of pie or a cookie now and then is OK, but you will have to plan for it. Make sure you are not overdoing sweets and getting off track.[5]
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    Eat complex carbohydrates. Doctors recommend that diabetics get 60% to 70% of their total calories from carbohydrates and non-saturated fats – especially complex carbohydrates like whole grains, brown rice, and oats. High-protein diets are not recommended.[6] Instead, opt for fiber-rich foods such as kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, broccoli, peas, almonds, apples, and pears. Fiber slows down the absorption of carbohydrates and will keep your blood sugar level. It will also make you feel full.
    • Many diabetics or people tying to maintain blood sugar levels think they need to completely avoid carbohydrates. This is not true. Complex carbohydrates are rich in fiber and thus, have a blood sugar stabilizing effect.
    • Educate yourself on how much you can eat during snack and meal times and how to space those meals out so that you can better control your levels of blood sugar.
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    Be especially attentive to starches. Try to limit the amount of starch that your body processes at a given time. Starches should not be chewed too much, for example, as this decreases particle sizes and increases the surface area of the food and access to digestive enzymes. Try to swallow soft foods such as rice and pasta whole.[7] Preparation also affects how rapidly starches are digested and absorbed. Toasting, freezing and then thawing, or the combination of both alters starches so that they are digested more slowly.[8]
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    Exercise regularly. Another pillar of diabetes and high blood sugar management is physical exercise. Exercise improves insulin sensitivity. Try attending a gym, walking on a regular basis, or simply be more active. Incorporate fitness into your daily routine by choosing walking over driving, or opting for stairs over the elevator. Swimming and exercise classes are also good options. Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program, however, because medicines may make your blood sugar dip too low; some exercises can also worsen diabetic conditions like diabetic eye disease.[9]
    • Exercise can cause your blood sugar level to drop for up to 12 hours. Check your levels before exercise and again afterward.[10]
    • Consider wearing a diabetic bracelet. Tell gym partners or coaches about your condition. Carry emergency phone numbers with you, as well.
    • Be attentive to any sores or blisters on your feet, particularly if you have diabetic neuropathy. Small sores can become infected.[11]

Part 2
Managing Low Blood Sugar

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    Eat often. People with low blood sugar can benefit from frequent meals to ensure a steady glucose supply, otherwise they may become shaky, panicky, confused, or faint. Eating too sporadically can cause spikes in blood sugar, followed by lows. This sort of up-and-down creates a diabetic environment in the body. Plan to eat about about once every three hours, making sure that meals are small but satiating. You should also include snacks.[12]
    • Try carrying emergency snacks with you in case you experience a sudden sugar low. Nuts work great as a portable food, for example.
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    Avoid sugary foods. The best way to manage hypoglycemia is through a diet similar to that used by diabetics. Someone who is suffering from an extreme sugar low needs a quick boost. In such circumstances a modest amount of juice, candy, soda, or even sugar or honey will alleviate symptoms.[13] However, in general it is best as a hypoglycemic to avoid sugary foods, especially on an empty stomach. Simple sugars may boost your blood sugar, but they can lead to a quick crash and spark a vicious cycle of highs and lows. It is much better to maintain a steady balance.
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    Eat complex carbohydrates. Make sure to include foods that are low in simple sugars, rich in complex carbohydrates, and high in soluble fiber. Whole grains like oats, barley, and brown rice, starches like whole grain pasta or baked potatoes, and legumes like beans are all good choices. Fruit may also be a good idea for some, as its natural sugars do not require insulin.[14]
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    Get plenty of soluble fiber. As with diabetics, including soluble fiber in your diet is an effective way to make sure that sugars enter your blood slowly, gradually, and not all at once. Most complex carbohydrates and unprocessed grains contain fiber, as do vegetables. Make sure to load up on fibrous vegetables like broccoli, leafy greens, or green beans.
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    Eat protein, but not too much. Doctors in the past advised that hypoglycemics should eat high protein meals four to five times per day in order to keep themselves satiated and to avoid blood sugar highs and lows. However, recent research suggests that a high-protein diet may actually impair glucose tolerance – and hence is counter-productive.[15] It is a good idea to consult with your doctor or nutritionist to see what is best for you.
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    Exercise. Physical exercise is equally good for someone with low blood sugar as someone with high blood sugar. Again, though, you need to be vigilant. Exercise suppresses blood sugar levels, so you should make sure to snack beforehand. A banana with peanut butter or an apple and some cheese are sensible ideas, combining sugar with protein. If you exercise in the evening, consider having a snack before bed in order to stave off a hypoglycemic reaction.[16]

Part 3
Educating Yourself

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    Talk to a doctor. If you are here, you probably already know or suspect that you have a blood sugar problem. It is best to see a doctor, first of all. She will be able to assess you properly, give a diagnosis, and inform you about what is wrong. It may be diabetes, which is caused by a lack of (Type 1) or resistance to (Type 2) insulin in the body, a hormone that helps us break down glucose or sugar for energy. This lack of insulin leads to chronically high levels of blood sugar (hyperglycemia) that over time can damage the kidneys, nerves, retinas, cardiovascular system, and feet and legs.[17] Another potential issue is low blood sugar or hypoglycemia. The opposite of hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia can be hereditary or a reaction to diabetic medication.[18]
    • Consult with a registered dietitian when trying to regulate blood sugar (diabetic, pre-diabetic or not). Dietitians can create custom meal plans for you that accomplish your goals in a healthy and safe way.
    • In case you are diabetic, the doctor will also advise you on a plan to manage the disease through diet, exercise, and perhaps an insulin program. This will be the foundation for managing your blood sugar levels.[19]
    • Hypoglycemia can also be a serious medical condition and should be managed through diet and exercise.
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    Learn to recognize symptoms. Managing your problem will be a learning process. Part of what you can do is to recognize how high or low blood sugar levels manifest themselves in your body. There are certain things to look for. Do you sometimes feel dizzy, shaky, weak, or faint? These are all possible symptoms of very low blood sugar. Or, are you frequently very hungry or thirsty (polyphagia / polydipsia)? Do you urinate often (polyuria), especially at night? Does your urine smell sweet? Have you experienced weight loss? Any of these might indicate poorly managed high blood sugar.[20]
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    Learn more about your blood sugar problem. Diabetes and its related problems are chronic and life-threatening. There is no cure. It is absolutely in your interest to inform yourself as much as possible about the disease by talking to your doctor, reading on your own, and consulting other resources. There are many good sites online devoted to living with diabetes, for example. Try visiting the American Diabetes Association at or at to get started. These sites offer plenty of information, tips, food recipes, and general support.


  • Meet with a nutritionist if you are having concerns about controlling blood sugar levels. A professional will help you set up a custom diet that meets your personal goals. She can educate you on how to read a food label and provide a meal plan that guides you in making better food choices.

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Categories: Diabetes