How Does Too Much Sugar Affect Your Body
Chances are you already know that eating too much sugar isnât good for you. Yet youâre probably still overdoing it. Americans average about 270 calories of sugar each day, thatâs about 17 teaspoons a day, compared to the recommended limits of about 12 teaspoon per day or 200 calories.
Sugary drinks, candy, baked goods, and sweetened dairy are the main sources of added sugar. But even savory foods, like breads, tomato sauce, and protein bars, can have sugar, making it all too easy to end up with a surplus of the sweet stuff. To complicate it further, added sugars can be hard to spot on nutrition labels since they can be listed under a number of names, such as corn syrup, agave nectar, palm sugar, cane juice, or sucrose.
No matter what itâs called, sugar is sugar, and in excess, it can negatively affect your body in many ways. Hereâs a closer look at how sugar can mess with your health, from head to toe.
The Best Foods To Eat To Help Avoid Or Lower Your High Blood Sugar
While theres no such thing as a hyperglycemia diet per se, your eating choices still play an important role in regulating your blood sugar levels.
First, know you cant just cut all carbs or avoid foods with sugar to prevent blood sugar spikes. After all, healthy foods such as fruits and veggies also contain carbs and sugar. The value of carbs differs according to their complexity, and sugar in food is different from blood sugar.
- White bread, pasta, and rice
- Packaged and processed snacks, such as chips, pretzels, cookies, and candy
- Foods high in saturated fat, such as hot dogs, bacon, and sausage
- Foods high in trans fats, like margarine and certain packaged baked goods
- Foods that can raise your cholesterol, like liver, red meat, and full-fat dairy
Tracking your carb intake, especially if you have diabetes, is also critical for avoiding blood sugar spikes.
Low Blood Glucose: Hypoglycemia
Hypoglycemia can occur when blood glucose drops below normal levels or drops too quickly. Your blood glucose level is too low if it is under 70 mg/dL.
Hypoglycemia can be caused by:
- A combination of these factors
- Being more active than usual
- Drinking alcohol
- Eating at the wrong time for the medications you take
- Skipping or not finishing meals or snacks
- Taking too much diabetes medication
You can have hypoglycemia without any symptoms. That makes it important to check your blood glucose levels regularly. When hypoglycemia does cause symptoms, they can include:
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What Are Risk Factors For Hyperglycemia
Major risk factors for hyperglycemia are:
- You have a family history of type 2 diabetes.
- You are African American, Native American, Hispanic or Asian American.
- You are overweight.
- You have high blood pressure or cholesterol.
- You have polycystic ovarian syndrome .
- You have a history of gestational diabetes.
Foods That Dont Spike Insulin Levels
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Can Increase Cellular Aging
Telomeres are structures found at the end of chromosomes, which are molecules that hold part or all of your genetic information.
Telomeres act as protective caps, preventing chromosomes from deteriorating or fusing together.
As you grow older, telomeres naturally shorten, which causes cells to age and malfunction .
Although the shortening of telomeres is a normal part of aging, unhealthy lifestyle choices can speed up the process.
Consuming high amounts of sugar has been shown to accelerate telomere shortening, which increases cellular aging .
A study in 5,309 adults showed that regularly drinking sugar-sweetened beverages was associated with shorter telomere length and premature cellular aging .
In fact, each daily 20-ounce serving of sugar-sweetened soda equated to 4.6 additional years of aging, independent of other variables (
To avoid this energy-draining cycle, choose carb sources that are low in added sugar and rich in fiber.
Pairing carbs with protein or fat is another great way to keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable.
For example, eating an apple along with a small handful of almonds is an excellent snack for prolonged, consistent energy levels.
High-sugar foods can negatively impact your energy levels by causing a spike in blood sugar followed by a crash.
What Causes Hyperglycemia
A number of things can cause hyperglycemia:
- If you have type 1, you may not have given yourself enough insulin.
- If you have type 2, your body may have enough insulin, but it is not as effective as it should be.
- You ate more than planned or exercised less than planned.
- You have stress from an illness, such as a cold or flu.
- You have other stress, such as family conflicts or school or dating problems.
- You may have experienced the dawn phenomenon .
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Slow Healing Of Wounds
Dr. Mitchell shares, “When you have a cut or other wound, your body works to repair the damage by sending blood to the injury site. The blood contains special cells that help close the wound and prevent infection. However, this process can be slowed down if you have elevated blood sugar. High blood sugar interferes with the ability of blood vessels to carry oxygen and nutrients to the wound site. This can delay healing and increase the risk of infection. In addition, high blood sugar levels can damage the collagen fibers that are responsible for wound strength and elasticity. As a result, wounds heal more slowly and are more likely to reopen. Treating high blood sugar can help to speed up the healing process.”
Avoiding High Blood Sugar And Dka
No matter how well they take care of themselves, people with diabetes will sometimes have high blood sugar levels. But the best way to avoid problems is to keep your blood sugar levels as close to your desired range as possible, which means following your diabetes management plan. Checking your blood sugar levels several times a day will let you know when your blood sugar level is high. Then you can treat it and help prevent DKA from happening.
High blood sugar levels don’t always cause symptoms, and a person who isn’t testing regularly might be having blood sugar levels high enough to damage the body without even realizing it. Doctors may use the HbA1c test to find out if someone has been having high blood sugar levels over time, even if the person has not had obvious symptoms.
Here are some other tips for avoiding high blood sugar levels and preventing DKA:
- Try to eat all your meals and snacks on time and not skip any.
- Take the right amount of insulin.
- Check your blood sugar levels regularly and your ketone levels when your diabetes management plan recommends it.
- Stick to your diabetes management plan.
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You Feel Tiredness And Fatigue Constantly
Fatigue and extreme tiredness are symptoms of uncontrolled blood sugar, the ADA says. Simply put, when your body is not processing insulin properly or it doesnt have sufficient amounts of insulin, the sugar is staying in our blood rather than getting into our cells to be used for energy, Zanini says. Also, frequent urination can lead to dehydration, which Bandukwala identifies as another contributing factor to fatigue.
You Develop Sores That Tend To Heal More Slowly Than Usual
Cuts, scrapes, bruises, and other wounds heal more slowly in the presence of uncontrolled blood sugar, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Diabetes causes nerve damage and affects circulation, especially in the lower legs and feet, which can delay healing because there isnt enough blood flow to the area. Even minor wounds are more prone to infections, which can become very serious and even result in amputations of the foot. You may notice drainage seeping onto your socks or an unpleasant smell if you develop a foot ulcer, notes the American Podiatric Medical Association.
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Healthy Tips For Lowering Blood Pressure
Making certain lifestyle changes can not only reduce complications from diabetes but can also greatly reduce your risk of high blood pressure. In fact, lowering your systolic blood pressure by 10 points has been shown to lower all diabetes complication risks by 12 percent overall.
Here are some helpful tips:
- Regularly visit your primary care physician and take advantage of free blood pressure screenings.
- The American Heart Association recommends either 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise, 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity each week.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Limit your salt intake to two grams per day, which is about one teaspoon.
- Eat a diet with low sugar but plenty of fruits, vegetables, fish, healthy fats, and whole grains.
- Dont smoke and drink only in moderation.
- Avoid nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , which can raise blood pressure. Take acetaminophen instead whenever possible.
If you have type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, these lifestyle changes can help you get your diabetes and blood pressure under control. The goal is to live well with diabetes and work to prevent complications, and lowering your blood pressure is a critical step.
American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults. . American Heart Association. Retrieved from
High Blood Glucose: Hyperglycemia
Hyperglycemia means that you have too much blood glucose. It happens when your blood glucose level is around 200 mg/dL or higher. Hyperglycemia can happen if you miss taking your diabetes medications, eat too much or do not get enough exercise. Sometimes, the medications you take for other problems cause high blood glucose.
Symptoms of hyperglycemia include:
- Having blurry vision
- Having to urinate often
If you have these symptoms, check your blood glucose right away. If its too high, follow these steps:
- Check your blood glucose every four hours. If your level does not go down after two checks or your symptoms get worse, call a member of your diabetes team.
- Drink water or other sugar-free liquids, such as diet soda or Crystal Light.
- You may need to take an extra dose of insulin. Your diabetes educator talks with you more about this.
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Gum Disease And Other Mouth Problems
Gum disease is one of the complications of diabetes that affects many people. This complication occurs because uncontrolled blood sugar levels for an extended period slowly and progressively allow bacteria to grow for an extended period.
The bacteria produce acid, which degrades the gums and bones supporting the teeth. Also, high blood sugar damages blood vessels in the gum, reducing their oxygen supply and ability to heal.
RELATED: Diabetes And Oral Care: A Guide To a Healthy Mouth.
How Do I Prevent Hyperglycemia
- Exercise to help lower blood sugar. Work with your healthcare provider to make a daily activity plan.
- Follow your meal plan if you have one. Learn how carbohydrates impact your blood sugar, and work with your diabetes care team to find the best meal plan for you.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Limit drinking alcohol. Alcohol can raise blood sugar levels, but can also cause dangerously low blood sugar levels. Work with your provider to determine how much is safe to drink.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/11/2020.
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Youre Developing Blisters Dryness Or Other Skin Changes
Small pieces of extra skin, called skin tags, may form in the creases of skin, especially if you have diabetes and youre trying to find ways to manage your weight, notes the ADA. Dark, thick areas of soft skin may form on the back of the neck or hands, armpits, face, or other areas. These can be a sign of insulin resistance, Zanini says. Blisters, infections, dryness, itchiness, discolorations, and abnormalities of the skin can all be warning signs of high blood sugar. Check with your doctor if these skin changes develop.
Pearls And Other Issues
Patients with severe hyperglycemia should be assessed for clinical stability including mentation and hydration. Diabetic ketoacidosis and hyperglycemic hyperosmolar state are acute, severe disorders related to hyperglycemia.
Patients confirmed with type 2 diabetes are faced with a life-long challenge to maintain euglycemia. This is not an easy undertaking and is also prohibitively expensive. Patients must be educated that making changes in their lifestyle can markedly improve their prognosis.
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For People With Type 1 Diabetes
Contact your doctor or go to hospital if:
- Vomiting stops you from drinking and makes eating difficult
- Blood glucose levels remain high
- Moderate to large ketones are present in the urine.
In type 1 diabetes, high blood glucose levels can progress to a serious condition called Ketoacidosis.
Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemic Nonketotic Syndrome
This mostly affects elderly people. As glucose builds up in your blood, your body tries to get rid of it through your urine.
At first, you pee a lot. Over time, you pee less, but when you do, itâs very dark. This condition can lead to dehydration, coma, and death.
Get medical help right away if you have any of these warning signs:
- Blood sugar level over 600 mg/dL
- Extreme thirst that may later go away
- Warm, dry skin that doesnât sweat
- Fever over 101 F
- Weakness on one side of your body
You can avoid many of these problems by keeping your blood sugar under control. Follow your doctorâs advice about diet and exercise, take your medicine, keep up with your doctor visits, and check your levels often.
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