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Focus on blood glucose

Millions of us have high blood glucose levels and many don’t know it. It is possible to have high blood glucose and experience no symptoms. Yet raised blood sugar is bad news for our health. It can accelerate the aging process, lead to type 2 diabetes and increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney failure. The good news is there are steps that can be taken to reduce high blood glucose levels.

What is blood glucose?

Everyone needs glucose in their blood to move their muscles and to enable their brain to work. This glucose comes from what you eat and drink. It can also be released into the blood from storage sites in muscles and the liver. However, the amount of glucose in the blood needs to be kept within fairly tight limits.

How is blood glucose controlled?

Under normal circumstances the body is very good at controlling the amount of glucose in the blood by releasing the hormone insulin which transports glucose out of the blood stream into cells where it is needed.

What can go wrong?

The amount of glucose in the blood can build up to unhealthy levels if the cells in our body become resistant to the effects of insulin. This can happen when a person gains too much weight and becomes obese. The body then finds it difficult to control the fluctuations in blood glucose that occur after eating meals containing carbohydrate.

Untreated or poorly managed Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes can also cause blood glucose levels to become too high.

How do I find out if I have high blood glucose?

If you are between 40 and 74 you can book an NHS Health check with your GP. Part of this health check will assess if you have high blood glucose.

How can I reduce high blood glucose?

If your GP has diagnosed high blood glucose it can be lowered by eating less of the following foods:

  • sugar
  • potatoes
  • rice, white bread and pasta
  • processed breakfast cereals
  • cakes, biscuits and confectionary

Which foods should be eaten instead?

The best diet for bringing high blood glucose under control is a lower carbohydrate diet emphasising the importance of eating vegetables, fruit, oily fish, nuts and olive oil. Also consuming milk, including plant milks such as Oat Drink can be useful as they add protein and micronutrients to the diet.

Foods containing complex carbohydrates can be eaten as the body takes longer to break these down to glucose which is then released more slowly into the blood stream. Foods containing complex carbohydrates include beans, pulses, lentils and wholegrain cereals such as oats, rye, pearled spelt and barley.

High blood glucose is a wakeup call

Finding out you have high blood glucose is a wakeup call because it may progress to Type 2 diabetes requiring further dietary restrictions and medication.

Eat regularly and avoid snacking

High blood glucose needs you to take stock of your diet and how you eat. Eating well needs to be a priority in your life to give your health the chance of improving. Eating three nutritious meals a day is important for controlling blood glucose and hunger.

Prepare and cook your own food

If you have high blood glucose you need to be in control of the type and amount of carbohydrate in your food. Cooking with fresh, wholesome ingredients will enable you to do this.

Exercise is important too

Regular exercise helps to maintain weight and gain muscle strength as well as helping to control blood glucose levels.