Diabetes can seem complicated and overwhelming, full of charts and devices and concerned-looking medical professionals. There’s talk of hormones and endocrine systems, of obscure organizations and dietary plans.
It all comes down to this: What it’s really about-the one, single thing it’s about-is lowering that sky-high blood sugar number.
That’s it. Everything follows from getting that blood sugar number down. It doesn’t matter how you got there, and it doesn’t matter what you did. What’s important, what’s critical for you right here, right now, is to lower that number.
Here are five simple ways to lower your blood sugar. The list doesn’t including the most obvious choices (medication) because you know them already. These are some methods you might not have thought about.
1. Stay on your feet
The simple answer that doctors give diabetics (especially type 2s) who want lower their blood sugars is to exercise. And it works!
But what if you’re not the exercising type? What if the sight of a treadmill or exercise bike or running shoes gives you the fits? That’s okay, too, actually. You might want to consider simply spending a chunk of each day on your feet. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, simple activities like sweeping the floor or dusting the shelves or taking the dog out for a walk are all healthy ways to stay active. You will burn calories, and you will move that blood sugar number down.
2. Drink water
Believe it or not, evidence suggests that staying hydrated can have an effect on blood sugars and whether or not people develop type 2 diabetes. Is the effect it a big one? We’re not sure yet. But a 3,000-person study cited in the New York Times showed that people who drank the most water-17 to 34 ounces a day-were 30 percent less likely to develop diabetes than those who drank less water.
Further research cited by the Times shows when your body is dehydrated, your kidneys go into panic mode. They retain water and release a hormone that raises blood sugar. So make sure to keep that water glass filled up. You’re reducing your chance of developing high blood sugars and possibly cutting long-term health risks!
3. Reduce stress
Anybody with type 1 diabetes will tell you that if you have a spike in your stress level, your blood sugar level will likely spike, too. But this advice works for type 2s and nondiabetics as well. As the American Diabetes Association puts it, stress causes your body to react aggressively. Glucose is dumped into your blood, giving you a source of quick energy.
But this doesn’t work for people with diabetes. Without the insulin to convert that sugar into a form your body can use, it simply piles up. And it causes-you guessed it-high blood sugars. Before you freak out, then, step back. Take a few seconds to settle down. Perhaps you could try some breathing exercises or meditation. Whatever you do, keeping yourself tranquil will help keep those blood sugar levels level.
4. Watch your weight
Diabetic hear certain bits of advice all the time. We’ve already covered the exercise one. Well, here comes another: Watch what you weigh. The bigger you are, the more challenges you’re likely to have with your blood sugars. For type 2s, weight is one of the main risk factors for developing the disease. Your body struggles to keep up with the bigger (and heavier) demands placed on it.
But no one says you have to lose hundreds of pounds at once. Yo-yo dieting can cause problems of its own. But you should know your weight, if you’re too heavy, you should work to lose some of those pounds. And according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, weight loss is good for a bunch of other things, too. It can lower your blood pressure (another major problem for many people with diabetes) and decrease your bad cholesterol.
5. Snack smarter
You already know that certain snacks won’t help your blood sugar levels. Candy bars and other sugary treats can send your blood glucose levels spiraling out of control. But that doesn’t mean you can’t snack at all.
Many kinds of vegetables-celery and broccoli for instance-have few carbohydrates and won’t raise your blood sugar very much. Certain kinds of fruits, mainly berries, have few carbs and a low glycemic index, which means that whatever kind of sugar they contain is absorbed into your body slowly.
And that’s just a start. There are a multitude of diabetic-friendly ways to snack. Eggs, olives, and string cheese all have small amounts of carbohydrate. Plentiful information on such snacks is available at the Diabetes Health website (diabeteshealth.com), and the sites of organizations like the ADA and the Mayo Clinic have valuable information and tips as well. Whatever kind of snack you pick, make sure it’s something that contributes to your health goals.
Let’s close with a word of warning. These suggestions should not replace insulin or any other diabetic drugs prescribed by your doctor. As a person with diabetes, you need a team of health-care professionals and an overall treatment plan. Type 1s will need to take medication for the rest of their lives (or until the arrival of a cure). Many type 2s will need medication as well.
While there are many practical, simple ways to keep your blood sugar down (or keep it from going higher), never turn your back on solid, scientifically proven treatments. You deserve the best care possible.