Raised blood sugar levels could be associated with a higher risk of heart diseases, according to a recent study conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The research revealed that both men and women with elevated blood sugar levels have a 30-50% increased chance of developing cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), even when these levels are below the threshold for diabetes. Moreover, the study emphasized the significance of diet and lifestyle factors and found that individuals with the lowest blood sugar levels within the normal range had a 10% lower risk of developing any form of CVD, including heart attacks and strokes.
Blood sugar levels, also known as blood glucose levels, indicate the amount of glucose present in the blood. According to Dr. Gill Jenkins, a GP and advisor to the Tea Advisory Panel, glucose is obtained either directly from food and drink through the digestion of carbohydrate-containing foods or from other metabolic processes in the body. These levels fluctuate throughout the day and can increase after consuming food, drinks (including alcohol), or fall if there has been a period of time without eating or drinking. The rise and subsequent drop in blood sugar levels explain the energy boost and subsequent slump experienced after consuming a fizzy drink or sweet snack.
In addition, blood glucose levels can also be affected by exercise, hydration status, physical or mental stress, and certain medications. Major illnesses, hormonal disorders, and specific medications like steroids and some antidepressants can cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels, even in individuals without diabetes.
Symptoms of high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, typically develop gradually and include excessive thirst, frequent urination, blurred vision, weakness or fatigue, and unintentional weight loss. However, some individuals may not experience noticeable symptoms despite having consistently elevated sugar levels.
To lower blood sugar levels, it is important to focus on diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices. Dr. Jenkins advises against consuming excessive amounts of sugary or starchy food and drinks, including alcohol. Instead, opting for unprocessed grains such as oats and incorporating seeds or nuts into meals is recommended. Consuming fruits and vegetables, especially green leafy varieties like kale, broccoli, spinach, and cavolo nero, is also beneficial. While berries like strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries are excellent choices, caution should be exercised with ripe tropical fruits such as mango, banana, pineapple, and melon, as they may produce a higher glycemic response.
Staying hydrated with water or low-sugar beverages, such as tea, is advisable as well. Drinking tea has been shown to normalize blood sugar levels following a meal due to the polyphenol content in black tea, which helps regulate blood glucose and insulin. Engaging in regular physical activity is also crucial, with the NHS recommending 150 minutes of exercise per week. Moderate activities like walking, combined with more intense exercise if fitness allows, can reduce weight, improve insulin sensitivity, and help control blood glucose levels. Even small changes, such as taking the stairs instead of the escalator, parking the car further from work, or getting off the bus one stop early and walking, can contribute to a more active lifestyle.
Lastly, individuals should consult their GP if they have any other illnesses. For those with diabetes, it is crucial to follow prescribed medication and adhere to the recommendations provided by healthcare professionals. Taking diabetes medication as prescribed, along with regular monitoring and support from healthcare teams, is essential for managing blood sugar levels effectively.
By taking proactive measures through diet, exercise, and lifestyle adjustments, individuals can maintain healthy blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.