Secrets to Play Better Golf
8 Tips to Avoid Blood Sugar Dips and Spikes
If your blood sugar levels are racing up and down like a roller coaster, it’s time to get off the ride. Big swings in your blood sugar can make you feel lousy. But even if you aren’t aware of them, they can still increase your risk for a number of serious health problems. By making simple but specific adjustments to your lifestyle and diet, you can gain better blood-sugar control.
Your body uses the sugar, also known as glucose, in the foods you eat for energy. Think of it as a fuel that keeps your body moving throughout the day.
Blood Sugar Highs and Lows
Type 2 diabetes decreases the body’s production of insulin, which is a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Without enough insulin, sugar builds up in the blood and can damage nerves and blood vessels. This increase of blood sugar also increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. Over time, high blood sugar, also known as hyperglycemia, can lead to more health problems, including kidney failure and blindness.
“Keeping blood sugar stable can help prevent the long-term consequences of fluctuations,” says Melissa Li-Ng, MD, an endocrinologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. Dr. Li-Ng explains that high blood sugar can cause a number of symptoms that include:
- Increased thirst
- Blurry vision
- Frequent urination
It’s also important to know that you can have high blood sugar and still feel fine, but your body can still suffer damage, Li-Ng says.
Symptoms of high blood sugar typically develop at levels above 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). “You can have high blood sugar that’s between 150 and 199 and feel perfectly fine,” Li-Ng says. Over time, your body can also get used to chronically high blood sugar levels, so you don’t feel the symptoms, she says.
On the flip side, if you’re not closely monitoring your blood sugar levels, they can drop too low. Warning signs of low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, include:
- Lack of coordination
Keeping Your Blood Sugar Steady
With certain strategies, you can help prevent spikes in your blood sugar levels, says Toby Smithson, RD, LDN, CDE,a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the founder of DiabetesEveryday.com.
Rather than focus on things you shouldn’t have, try incorporating the following foods and healthy habits into your daily routine:
Go nuts. Nuts such as almonds, walnuts, and pistachios contain healthy fat that slows the body’s absorption of sugar. But be sure to limit how many nuts you eat in one sitting because even healthy fats contain calories, Smithson says. Just six almonds or four pecan halves have the same number of calories as one teaspoon of butter.
Eat whole grains. Oat bran, barley, and rye are fiber-rich foods that contain beta-glucan. This soluble fiber increases the amount of time it takes for your stomach to empty after eating and prevents spikes in blood sugar. Remember, though, that these foods are still carbohydrates. “Whole grains will still raise your blood sugar, just not as quickly and as high as processed foods,” Li-Ng says.
Veg out. Packed with fiber, non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, cucumber, and carrots can also help prevent surges in blood sugar levels while providing essential nutrients.
Spice up with cinnamon. Cinnamon may do more than just add flavor to foods. A 2013 study published in the journal Annals of Family Medicine showed that cinnamon is linked to a significant drop in fasting blood sugar levels. Cinnamon may stimulate insulin secretions from the pancreas,” Li-Ng says. Although more research is needed, Smithson says there’s no reason why people with type 2 diabetes shouldn’t try to add cinnamon in their diets.
Be versatile with vinegar. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Community Hospital Internal Medicine Perspectives suggested that vinegar could help slow the absorption of sugar by the body. The research revealed that 2 ounces of apple cider vinegar improved fasting blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity. Although the potential health benefits of vinegar are still being investigated, Li-Ng often advises people with type 2 diabetes to take 1 tablespoon of vinegar with each meal, saying that any type of vinegar is good.
Don’t skip meals. It’s important to spread out your daily food intake, starting with breakfast. Consuming more food in just one or two meals a day causes greater fluctuations in blood sugar levels, Li-Ng says. “Three healthy meals a day with two nutritious snacks in between can help maintain stable blood sugar,” she says.
Don’t drink on an empty stomach. If you haven’t eaten, drinking alcohol can cause your blood sugar to drop up to 24 hours later. This happens because the body is working to get rid of it. If you want to drink alcohol, check your blood sugar first. It’s also important to eat before or while you drink. Another caution: Smithson says that symptoms of low blood sugar, such as slurred speech and dizziness, could be mistaken for drunkenness.
Plan ahead. Anticipate the unexpected and carry healthy snacks that can prevent your blood sugar level from dropping too low. Smithson recommends carrying granola bars with you as well as some quick-acting glucose tablets, also known as “sugar pills.”
Maintaining a steady blood sugar level is key, not only for your golf game, but for better health in general.