If you're trying to manage diabetes, you already know it's important to keep track of your blood sugar levels. But how do you handle a spike that comes after you eat? It's called "postprandial" blood glucose, and if you take some simple steps, you can get it under control and help avoid health problems.
Why You Should Keep an Eye on It
When your blood sugar is high, you can get symptoms like a foggy-headed feeling that makes it hard to focus or think clearly. Your energy may also take a dive, and you may feel nervous or moody.
If your levels go too low, you could even pass out. In the long run, if your blood sugar stays up, you could be at risk for heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, or other problems.
How to Measure Your Spikes
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends you check your blood sugar levels right before mealtime with a blood sample from a finger stick. Then do it again 1 to 2 hours after that first bite of food.
Keep this up for a week or so. Write down the time and the blood sugar number. Make a note about anything you think might affect your levels, like medicine or exercise. And don't forget to log exactly what you ate, along with portion sizes and the amount of carbs.
What levels are too high after a meal? Experts vary on what the number should be, but the ADA says a general goal is a blood sugar level under 180 mg/dL, 1 to 2 hours after a meal. Talk to your doctor about what you should aim for, and don't adjust your medicine without speaking to them first.
How to Manage After-Meal Spikes
Get medicine that works for you. The right insulin or medication program can make a big difference. In general, to cover after-meal spikes, those that kick in quickly and for a short time are a better choice than ones that work slowly over a long period. Your doctor can explain your options.
Keep blood sugar in check before meals. That way, even if it goes up after you eat, it won't be so dramatic.
Watch what you eat. Limit sweets, white bread, rice, pasta, and potatoes. They tend to trigger post-meal spikes.
The type of fat you eat may play a role, as well. One study shows you may be able to curb blood sugar spikes after you eat if you skip foods with lots of butter and choose a meal made with a little olive oil instead.
Eat breakfast every morning. Even when you're in a hurry to get out the door, don't be tempted to skip it. A study shows that folks with diabetes who don't eat breakfast get higher blood sugar spikes after lunch and dinner.
The ideal morning meal? It might just be one that's packed with protein. A small study shows that when people ate a 500-calorie breakfast that was 35% protein, their post-meal blood sugar levels were lower than those who started their day with high-carb food. But check with your doctor to see what's right for you.
Go for an after-dinner walk. It's a healthy habit for everyone, but if you have diabetes, it's also a good way to burn extra glucose from a meal.
Diabetes Self-Management: "Postprandial Hyperglycemia."
Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Get Off the Blood Glucose Roller Coaster."
American Diabetes Association: "6 Steps to Avoiding Blood Glucose Spikes."
Diabetes Self-Management: "Dealing With High Blood Sugar After Meals," "Strike the Spike II."
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