Six Reasons Your Blood Glucose Levels Fluctuate
Your blood glucose level is constantly changing. It goes up and down in response to a whole range of factors such as when and what you’ve eaten, how much exercise you have done, if you are stressed, the weather and medications. Let’s take a closer look at some of these factors.
The type of food, quantity and the amount of carbohydrate in your meal will affect your blood glucose levels. It is a good idea to talk to a dietitian for individual advice but the general recommendations for preparing a healthy meal are to fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables or salad, a quarter with a palm-sized serving of a lean protein (skinless chicken, fish, tempeh or eggs) and a quarter with a nutritious lower GI food such as wholegrain or legume pasta, Doongara™ rice, quinoa, soba or legumes. A great way to remember how to get the perfect plate every meal is to use a healthy eating meal plate.
Physical activity uses up glucose from the blood because your muscles use glucose for energy. Being less active than usual can mean the glucose stays in your blood, making blood glucose levels higher than normal. If it’s hard for you to get out to exercise you might find TheraBands a good alternative way of exercising at home. Easy-to-use, portable and low impact they are an effective alternative to free weights and weight machines. A TheraBand is perfect for using at home sitting in the comfort of your favourite chair, or on the floor of your living room.
Note: Physical activity can also lower your blood glucose levels for up to 48 hours. If you are on insulin or other glucose-lowering medications check your blood glucose levels before, during and after exercise to ensure they are not dropping too low. It is important to always keep hypo treatment with you.
Medications for diabetes, including tablets and insulin, are designed to lower glucose levels, so missing a dose or taking less than usual can result in higher blood glucose levels. Some other medications, such as steroids, make the body more insulin resistant and so raise glucose levels.
Illness or infection causes your body to produce extra hormones to help you heal. However, these hormones temporarily prevent insulin from working effectively and can make blood glucose levels higher than usual. Some illness such as vomiting and diarrhoea can cause blood glucose levels to drop. See your doctor if this happens as your blood glucose levels may become too low.
When you are stressed your body is on high alert and ready for action. Your heart beats faster, your breathing rate speeds up and extra glucose is pumped into your blood for energy.
Hot weather doesn’t directly affect your glucose levels but it does make you sweat more, making it easier to become dehydrated. Dehydration makes the blood thicker and the glucose concentration rise.
Regularly checking your blood glucose levels is a useful tool for helping you understand how different activities or situations impact your readings. For example, if you find your levels are high after breakfast you could consider changing your favourite breakfast cereal for something else such as a hardboiled egg to see if your blood glucose levels are less impacted.
In addition to regular monitoring, it is recommended that you have your HbA1c checked every three months. The HbA1c check is a way of looking at your average blood glucose level over a period of time. The test can be done by your GP or with a simple fingerprick test from the comfort of your own home.
For more information, or to find support, contact Diabetes NSW & ACT by calling 1300 342 238 or visiting diabetesnsw.com.au