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What is Hyperglycemia and How Can You Avoid It?

Chart showing blood sugar control with vial of blood next to it

If you have type 2 diabetes, you know the importance of monitoring your glucose levels and keeping them in a healthy range. What does it mean when you have consistently higher-than-normal levels ? That is a sign of hyperglycemia.

What is Hyperglycemia?

Hyperglycemia occurs when glucose is greater than 125 mg/dL while fasting or greater than 180 mg/dL one to two hours after eating.

If you have hyperglycemia and it’s untreated for long periods of time, you can damage your nerves, blood vessels, tissues and organs. Damage to blood vessels can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke, and nerve damage may also lead to eye damage, kidney damage and non-healing wounds.

Symptoms of Hyperglycemia

It is common to not have any symptoms despite elevated glucose levels, which shows the importance of monitoring your glucose levels and wearing your continuous glucose monitor (CGM) if you have one. However, if glucose stays too high for too long, the excess glucose starts to break down tissues and nerves and it can damage the body’s ability to heal itself. If that process goes on for too long, you might start to feel it. Symptoms of especially high glucose  include:

  • Increased thirst/hunger
  • Increased urination
  • Blurry vision
  • Nausea
  • Headache

If you notice any of these symptoms, you should let your health provider know to determine whether they are related to hyperglycemia.

What Causes Hyperglycemia?

If you stick to your care plan (including taking any necessary medications) and follow recommendations for nutrition and movement, you are less likely to experience hyperglycemia. Additionally, stress and sickness can cause prolonged glucose elevation . If you’re sick, take care of yourself and see a healthcare provider. If you’re stressed, take care of your mental health. (Here are some tips on how to do that.)

What to Do if You’re Experiencing Hyperglycemia

If you’re experiencing hyperglycemia, you should do something active to bring your blood glucose down. Take a brisk walk, do some yard work — anything that gets you moving will help (check out our tips for how to get moving). Talk to your Level2 care team about other ideas for avoiding hyperglycemia.

Finally, use an experience with hyperglycemia as an opportunity for reflection that will help you avoid hyperglycemia in the future. What happened immediately before your levels became elevated? What were you doing or not doing? What were you eating or not eating? How were you feeling? Take notes and make any necessary adjustments to help avoid hyperglycemia in the future.

 

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