Blood tests are an important tool to understand the status of our health. Blood testing can help us detect and treat many health problems before they become unmanageable.
In many cases, early detection combined with changes in lifestyle habits (nutrition, diet, exercise, etc.) can improve health and combat diseases. Today, I will focus on the topic of blood glucose levels and our ability to prevent the development of diabetes through lifestyle changes.
Blood tests results Glucose (Glu) – A blood glucose values test is performed in a fasting state (overnight fast) and checks the body's ability to balance blood glucose levels. In good health, the body should maintain a constant level of fasting blood glucose ranging between 70 and 100 mg/dl. When there is a problem in balancing blood glucose levels, values will start to rise. The normal upper range was previously defined as up to 126 mg/dl. In those situations, it is recommended to change lifestyle habits to prevent the development of diabetes.
If high values of glucose are detected in a blood test, it is recommended to conduct a "HBG A1C" test to understand if the condition is chronic and may require treatment.
Hemoglobin A1C (HGB A1C) – This test tracks average blood glucose levels over a three-month span. The normal range of values is 4-6. Once above level 6, the health condition is defined as "diabetes." If you have result above 5.7, you may be considered in a "pre-diabetic" state, which means you could be in the preliminary stages of developing diabetes.
High values in the test may indicate that the average glucose levels over the course of three months were higher than desired. Based on the values obtained from the blood test, your doctor may try to figure out if there is a health problem in the field of body glucose metabolism and its severity.
Nutritional recommendations Carbohydrates in our food are the source of glucose in the bloodstream. When receiving high values of blood glucose levels, it is necessary to change your carbohydrate intake.
Carbohydrates in food are usually divided into two types:
Simple carbohydrates- These foods mostly combine monosaccharides or disaccharides and are generally low in dietary fiber. After eating foods with simple carbohydrates, we will see a fast, sharp rise in blood glucose levels. This sharp increase in blood glucose makes it difficult for the body to control the amount of glucose in the bloodstream, and encourages the accumulation of glucose in the body as fats (especially abdominal obesity).
In addition, eating simple carbohydrates can cause quick rises and drops in blood glucose levels, which are unhealthy and can be dangerous. Examples: sugar (sucrose), honey, white bread, rice, pasta, fruits, fresh juices (including fruit juice), candy, cookies, cakes, popsicles, ice cream, sweets, chocolates, etc.
Complex carbohydrates- These foods contain long chains of carbohydrates in combination with dietary fiber. The complex carbohydrates are absorbed slowly in the digestive system. Rises in blood glucose levels after eating this type of carbohydrate will be slow and allow your body to better control the utilization of glucose coming from the food. In addition, eating complex carbohydrates will create a longer feeling of satiety and prevent glucose drops shortly after a meal. This type of carbohydrate is considered to be the "healthy kind" of carbohydrate. Examples: whole wheat bread, rye bread, whole pasta, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, oatmeal, whole wheat tortillas, brown rice flour tortillas, cereals rich in dietary fiber, crackers rich in fiber, beans, etc.
Alcohol- When your glucose levels are unbalanced, consuming alcohol can lead to impaired glucose levels post-drinking. If your blood glucose levels are high, try to reduce the amount of alcohol you drink (including red wine that is normally considered to be healthy).
Proper selection of the complex carbohydrate in your diet, and avoiding simple carbohydrates and alcohol, is important to maintain these three dietary rules: 1) Eat every three to four hours. Rather than large gaps of fasting between two or three big daily meals, spread smaller meals throughout the day every three to four hours. Going many hours without eating could lower your blood glucose levels and create an opposite reaction (decreased glucose immediately followed by sharp rises). 2) Eat small meals with limited carbs. It is important to adjust the amount of carbohydrates in every meal to the recommended serving size that the body can absorb and use. 3) Don't avoid carbs. Avoiding carbohydrates in your daily menu can take the body's glucose metabolism out of balance and lead to fluctuating blood glucose levels.
Losing weight- If you suffer from obesity or are overweight, weight loss is an important tool to improve glycemic control. However, it is important to avoid a fast weight loss and/or extreme diets. Rapid changes in body weight may lead to an increase in blood glucose levels rather than improve health.
According to research, even a 10% reduction of body weight could improve health markers and blood glucose values. This is also true when you need to lose more pounds to reach your normal weight. Your first goal may be to lose 10% of your weight. Start treating your body with respect; eat right and lose weight at a moderate rate.
Recommendations for physical activity Maintaining regular exercise and a healthy weight are integral to sustaining normal blood glucose levels. A minimum of 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of exercise per week is recommended. This should be spread over five days a week, with at least 30 minutes of activity each day. Aerobic exercise is recommended at a moderate intensity; not necessarily strong or intense exercise is needed. The level of physical activity must be adapted to your degree of fitness and any limitations. Some say they need a greater amount of weekly activity, but if you are in poor shape, you should at least reach a basic level of 150 minutes per week.
When should you repeat blood tests? After you change your eating habits and physical activity to improve your blood glucose values, just be patient. You may not see an improvement in values within a week or two. Maintain your health and repeat the blood glucose test and the A1C test around three months later. If your glucose levels improve, you will know those changes were the right ones. However, continue to watch your diet and exercise routine in the long term.