If you don’t have diabetes, why do you need to think about your blood sugar levels? It’s simple: Blood sugar problems don’t happen overnight. And, as your blood sugar rises, not only does your risk of developing diabetes increase, but so does your risk of coronary heart disease. There are things you can do now to keep your blood sugar levels within a healthy range.
10 things you can to do to maintain a healthy blood sugar
- Take a 30-minute walk every day. Come on, if you have time to watch Friends reruns, you have time for a walk. Strengthening your muscles makes them more receptive to insulin—and helps them use more glucose.
- Eat several small meals throughout the day rather than three large meals. You’ll avoid the blood sugar ups and downs that can come when stuffed or starving.
- Fixate on fiber. The more fiber in your diet—from whole grains, whole fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes—the slower carbohydrates are digested and the steadier glucose moves into your bloodstream. You’ll avoid blood sugar spikes and you may even find you lose a few pounds: fiber fills you up, but because it’s not digested, it doesn’t fill you out.
- Sprinkle some cinnamon on your high-fiber breakfast cereal, whole-grain toast or skim-milk cottage cheese. Cinnamon helps make insulin more effective while stimulating production of enzymes that burn up glucose.
- Start your day with a grapefruit. One study found that eating half a grapefruit with each meal for 12 weeks not only helped participants lose an average of 3.6 pounds, but reduced insulin and glucose levels after each meal, suggesting their cells were better at using both substances.
- Drink your milk. Even if you’re overweight, dairy foods can significantly reduce your risk of insulin resistance thanks to proteins and enzymes in milk that slow the transformation of food sugar to blood sugar. Turns out every dairy serving (think one cup of milk) can cut your risk of insulin resistance 20 percent!
- Get a good night’s sleep. There’s significant evidence that lack of sleep (less than six hours) plays havoc with your blood sugar levels and increases insulin resistance. But not too much sleep; more than eight hours isn’t good, either.
- Practice relaxation exercises. Whether it’s deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation or simply meditating in a quite room for 10 minutes, that’s all it took in one study from Duke University to improve blood sugar levels in 100 people with high levels.
- Take 1000 micrograms of the supplement chromium picolinate every day. A study in people with Type 2 diabetes found that adding the supplement to anti-diabetic medication improved insulin sensitivity and glucose control better than simply taking the diabetes drug alone.
- Lose some weight. It doesn’t take much: just dropping eight pounds in one year can make a difference!
© 2009 National Women’s Health Resource Center, Inc. (NWHRC) All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from the NWHRC. 1-877-986-9472 (tollfree). On the Web at: www.healthywomen.org.