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What Is Hyperglycemia?
Many people are confused by the prefixes “hyper” and “hypo”. Some think they mean the same thing, whereas they are direct opposites. Basically, “hyper” means high levels of, or too much of something, whereas “hypo” means low levels of, or not enough.
As an example, have you ever seen someone who you would describe as “hyperactive”? That person, often a child, simply cannot sit still. They are constantly moving, have a difficult time focusing on any one thing, and seem to be a bundle of endless energy.
Their energy levels are hyper, meaning extremely high. This “hyper” prefix also has the same meaning in medicine.
Hyperglycemia is a term used to define a condition of elevated levels of blood glucose, or sugar in your blood. If this condition is persistent, or chronic, this is considered a hallmark sign of diabetes, both type 1 and type 2, as well as prediabetes.
An occurrence of hyperglycemia can occur does not necessarily mean a person has diabetes, however diabetes is far and away the most common cause of abnormally high blood glucose levels.
In cases where hyperglycemia happens because of some non-diabetes event, the cause is sometimes medication. There are medicines which create side-effects in limited numbers of individuals which include elevated blood sugar levels.
Severe illness, pancreatitis, certain tumors which secrete specific hormones, and Cushing’s syndrome or Cushing’s disease may also cause hyperglycemia.
The good news is that hyperglycemia can be controlled with medication and lifestyle changes, as well as taking up smart dietary habits.
The Leading Cause of Hyperglycemia Is… Poor Nutrition
Eating too many processed foods makes you more susceptible to hyperglycemia. This happens because of the way junk food is constructed. Fast food, processed foods and unnatural, man-made, food-like concoctions are extremely high in simple carbohydrates.
As a result, they break down quickly and enter your bloodstream rapidly, in quantities your body cannot immediately utilize for its current energy requirements. It is a case of “too much, too soon”.
Our digestive system is not designed to deal with such an onslaught, it evolved to deal with the constant, slow and predictable energy release as from protein, fats and complex carbs such as vegetables.
Because your system cannot use the sugar immediately, your body attempts to excrete it or store it (as fat) and you have a propensity to become overweight or obese.
The opposite occurs when you eat complex carbohydrates as opposed to simple carbs. Complex carbohydrates are difficult to break down.
They are more generally found in food that is good for you, food with fiber, nutrients, minerals, enzymes and vitamins, such as fruits and vegetables.
Nuts and berries are also sources of complex carbohydrates rather than just simple carbs.
It was mentioned earlier that diabetes is the leading cause of hyperglycemia, however it also true that chronic hyperglycemia is what induces diabetes.
Doctors, health experts and government health services will tell you that type 2 diabetes is considered to be a lifestyle disease.
Unfortunately, when many people hear the term disease, they assume it to be something you catch, like a cold, that can be either be treated by some medicine, on is not treatable and therefore terminal.
“Lifestyle” disease means that the condition has occurred because of choices you have made in the past, either knowingly or unknowingly, often the latter.
The great news is that this means that if you make better lifestyle choices, like choosing smart nutrition over poor eating habits, you can keep diabetes, and hyperglycemia, from becoming an issue.
If it is already an issue, these improved lifestyle choices can “treat”, “cure” or more correctly reverse these conditions and reduce or eliminate their symptoms.
- 1 Hypoglycemia
- 2 What Are the Symptoms of Hyperglycemia?
- 3 How Do I Know If I Have Hyperglycemia?
- 4 Medical Treatments
- 5 Can You Have Hyperglycemia Without Diabetes?
- 6 Conclusion
Diabetics can also experience hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), however this almost always occurs due to medicating with insulin or insulin-like medications.
This phenomenon mostly affects type 1 diabetics, who must take these medications as they do not produce insulin, and are therefore termed “insulin-dependent”.
Type 1 diabetics or their carers must constantly monitor and predict their food intake and energy expenditure to determine correct dosage, and unpredicted events such as missed meals or heavy exertion at the wrong time can cause a hypoglycemic episode.
A small percentage of type 2 diabetics may also be on insulin-like medication if their condition is advanced, and they may also be subject to the same condition for the same reason.
What Are the Symptoms of Hyperglycemia?
Being a diagnosed diabetic involves almost constantly dealing with hyperglycemia. This is a condition where your blood sugar level stays elevated, dangerously higher than normal.
Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you can become hyperglycemic. An insulin-dependent (type 1) diabetic has no alternative but to take medication, but they must also be very mindful of their diet.
However, because of the lifestyle aspects, most type 2 diabetics have the option to treat and potentially overcome their condition by making changes to their diet and exercise patterns.
As far as type 2 diabetes is concerned, proper nutrition and exercise can prevent this disease from developing in the first place, and reverse it once it develops.
The same eating habits and exercise behaviors that can overcome diabetes will also reduce the incidence and severity of hyperglycemia.
Signs and Symptoms of Hyperglycemia
When there is too much sugar in your blood supply, you will often experience both increased thirst and excessive urination. The excess blood sugar is dangerous to your body and it desperately seeks to remove the excess via the kidneys.
Due to the subsequent frequent urination, you receive constant signals to drink more water. You may feel thirsty even though you drink liquids constantly, never seeming to be able to quench your thirst.
You may also develop headaches or have trouble concentrating during a hyperglycemic episode. Blurred vision, fatigue and weight fluctuations are other common symptoms.
You may also experience problems with your eyesight. One frequent symptom of high blood sugar is blurry, unclear vision.
Since hyperglycemia is a blood-related problem, you may find yourself healing slowly after cuts and scrapes. The skin of a hyperglycemic person is often itchy and dry, not responding well to hydrating lotions and ointments. High blood sugar may also cause sexual performance problems in males, and recurring yeast infections or ear infections in both men and women.
If you experience high blood sugar levels regularly, this condition can lead to a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which is nothing short of a medical emergency.
How Do I Know If I Have Hyperglycemia?
To determine whether or not your numbers are healthy or abnormal, you need to check your blood sugar level. Blood glucose levels can be measured by your health practitioner, but accurate testers are available for home/personal use.
Type 1 diabetics are very familiar with these as they need to use them daily to determine required insulin levels.
Individuals who are not diagnosed type 2 diabetics, but fear their lifestyle habits may be leading them towards it, or who are displaying hypoglycemia symptoms may benefit from monitoring their own blood sugar levels.
This is easily done with a blood glucose meter, a lancing device and a test strip. You can purchase blood sugar testing kids at your local pharmacy, big box retailer or online. They are simple to use, even for the novice, and provide a quick and easy to read measurement.
Accurate results rely on following the instructions for the testing unit correctly, and at the same time of day, or more correctly, the same period following any food consumption.
Currently, different countries use different measurements. Blood glucose is measured by mg/dL (milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood) in the United States.
In both the United Kingdom and Canada, blood sugar is reported as a measurement of millimoles/liter (mmol/L). The following ranges are used to determine if you are hyperglycemic.
Without diabetes – over 99 mg/dl (over 5.5 mmol/L)
With diabetes – over 130 mg/dl (over 7.3 mmol/L)
2 Hours After Eating
Without diabetes – over 140 mg/dl (over 7.8 mmol/L)
With diabetes – over 180 mg/dl (over 10.0 mmol/L)
Your fasting blood sugar level is measured immediately upon waking. The 2 hours after eating measurement is self-explanatory as to when it should be taken.
Some doctors, hospitals or treatment centers may use a different test if testing is to be ongoing. This test is called HbA1c. This is a long-term glucose test which gives your average blood sugar reading over the previous 2 or 3 months.
Indicative results for hyperglycemia are:
Without diabetes – higher than 5.7%
With diabetes – higher than 7.0%
Remember, hyperglycemia is a treatable condition. However, persistent hyperglycemia is often a sign that prediabetes or diabetes has developed.
Diabetes is a dangerous and debilitating condition and the problem should be tackled with the help of your doctor.
If your blood sugar level is extremely high, your doctor may prescribe hypoglycemic medicine. This is a quick way to decrease the amount of sugar in your blood. It helps move sugar out of your blood and into your muscle cells where it is used for energy.
You generally take this type of medication for a short period of time, undergo subsequent blood sugar level checks, and if you do not have diabetes, this treatment protocol is usually successful. Changes to diet and exercise behaviors will be recommended as part of the treatment.
You may alternately take insulin to lower the level of glucose in your blood. Medicine and insulin will almost never be prescribed if your blood sugar level is just a little over the normal, healthy range.
Insulin is essential for type 1 diabetics; however, type 2 diabetics are usually only medicated in advanced cases. If you test your blood sugar level, and everyone should regularly, diabetic or not, and notice it is high, get moving.
Become physically active as soon as you can, and drink a couple of glasses of water.
Can You Have Hyperglycemia Without Diabetes?
A diabetic diagnosis is the most common reason for developing hyperglycemia, but this condition also known as high blood sugar can exist without diabetes.
When high blood sugar is present without diabetes the term is “stress-induced diabetes”. As you can see by the revealing name, the cause of this type of hyperglycemia is in most cases an abnormally high level of stress.
This stress could come from environmental, emotional or physical factors, might be triggered by a reaction to a certain type of medication, or can be caused by poor nutrition and lifestyle habits.
Stress-induced hyperglycemia, also referred to as excessive stress diabetes, is found in as many as 4% to 12% of hospitalized patients that do not have diabetes.
In other words, it is rather common. Doctors and health care providers are finding hyperglycemia with and without diabetes more common as unhealthy processed foods and fast foods have taken over a large part of the typical diet for many men and women.
What to Do If You Have Hyperglycemia and Are Not Diabetic
Regardless of how you became hyperglycemic, the goal is to return your blood sugar ratio to a healthy number. This means a range between 70 and 130 mg/dL, or milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood. That is the typical system used to express your glucose level in the United States.
If you find your blood sugar level is abnormally high, don’t panic. In non-diabetic individuals who are hyperglycemic, this could be a sign of prediabetes on the horizon, but there is no guarantee this is the case.
Immediate physical activity accompanied by drinking lots of water is a quick way to lower high blood sugar levels.
It is important to take tests over a period of time to build a profile of your blood glucose levels. If they are after certain types of food, that is telling you right there what you need to do about that. If they are persistently high it is time for some professional testing and advice.
Prevention, the Best Cure
Start eating healthy foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, berries and whole grains, and avoid processed foods and fast food. Stay away from the 3 Evil Whites, processed flour, refined sugar and salt, and schedule an appointment with your doctor.
In a non-diabetic individual, lifestyle changes, exercise and smart nutrition usually return blood sugar levels to an acceptable range. If you ignore recurring high glucose level readings you risk your hyperglycemia developing into type 2 diabetes, and nobody wants or needs that.