Hyperglycemia is the technical term for what is more commonly referred to as high blood sugar. Literally, Hyperglycemia means “high glucose in the blood”. Glucose is the body’s main source of energy. Your body breaks down the food you eat and converts it to glucose; your cells take in the glucose from the blood and use it to make energy.
Hyperglycemia is often confused with diabetes. While it is most commonly a complication of diabetes, it can be caused by other disease states, diet, or stress. You do not have to be a diabetic to suffer from hyperglycemia; however, blood glucose levels are of most concern to the person with diabetes. Cells remove and process glucose from the blood in response to insulin. In the diabetic, the pancreas either does not make enough insulin, or the body is unable to respond to the insulin properly. There are two specific types of hyperglycemia that occur in people with diabetes:
- Fasting hyperglycemia, which is defined by a blood sugar level greater than 90-130 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) after fasting for at least 8 hours.
- Postprandial hyperglycemia which is a blood sugar level usually greater than 180 mg/dL one to two hours after a meal
In these people a number of things can cause hyperglycemia:
- If you are type 1 Diabetic, you may not have taken enough insulin
- You may have eaten more then you should have
- You may not have exercised as much as you should have
- Stress – either emotional or physical, or that brought on by another illness such as cold or flu
Why Should I Be Concerned About Hyperglycemia?
It is hyperglycemia that is the major cause of many of the complications associated with diabetes including damage to nerves, blood vessels and bodily organs. It can lead to serious conditions such as ketoacidosis or stroke. According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in America, affecting more than 16 million people nationwide.
If you have diabetes and notice any of the early signs of high blood sugar, test your blood sugar and call the doctor. He may ask you for the results of several readings. He could recommend the following changes:
- Drink more water – Water helps remove excess sugar from your blood through urine, and it helps you avoid dehydration.
- Exercise more – Working out can help lower your blood sugar. But under certain conditions, it can make blood sugar go even higher. Ask your doctor what kind of exercise is right for you.
- Change your eating habits – You may need to meet with a dietitian to change the amount and types of foods you eat.
- Switch medications – Your doctor may change the amount, timing, or type of diabetes medications you take. Don’t make changes without talking to him first.
The easiest way to prevent hyperglycemia is to control your diabetes. That includes knowing the early symptoms—no matter how subtle. Remember, there are many aspects of your diabetes care you can control:
- Taking your insulin (or glucose-lowering medication) as prescribed
- Avoiding consuming too many calories (i.e., sugary beverages)
- Consuming the right types and grams of carbohydrates
- Controlling stress
- Staying active (exercising)
- Going to your regularly scheduled doctor’s appointments
Hyperglycemia can be a very common complication of diabetes, but through medication, exercise, and careful meal planning, you can keep your blood glucose level from going too high—and that can help you to avoid some of the most devastating consequences of diabetes.