5 tips to help control your blood sugar

A warning from diabetes researchers says the number of Americans under 20 with diabetes is likely to skyrocket in the future. Additionally, they say there could be a substantial widening of racial and ethnic disparities in the prevalence of type 2 diabetes, with non-Hispanic, Black youth being affected the most.

Researchers say their projections emphasize the need for lifestyle and behavioral interventions to help get ahead of this trend.

Why it’s important

Blood sugar, also known as glucose, is a critical source of energy for your body, and normal levels within a healthy range are best. If left untreated, chronically high blood sugar can lead to serious health problems, including blindness, stroke or heart attack.

Lifestyle choices can have an impact on blood sugar values. Improving the numbers may mean assessing several current habits and making specific adjustments. For example, it’s important to stay consistent with prescribed medication.

Here are five tips to consider from the coaches at Real Appeal, an online health transformation program available to eligible UnitedHealthcare members and their dependents:

1. Pay attention to when you eat. Eating only one or two big meals per day may cause greater fluctuations in blood sugar levels. To help avoid this, consider starting with a healthy breakfast. Then, eat smaller, balanced meals throughout the rest of the day, spaced 3-4 hours apart. If you need a snack, try to eat something about two hours after your last meal.

2. Create well-balanced meals and snacks. Focus on things like lean proteinshealthy fats, and fiber, including whole grains, legumes, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Meals with these ingredients can help you feel fuller for longer since they take more time to digest. Slower digestion helps prevent spikes in blood sugar by allowing the glucose from the meal to enter your bloodstream gradually rather than abruptly.

3. Plan for scheduling issues. Expect the unexpected by having healthy and easy-to-eat snacks on hand to help prevent your blood sugar levels from dropping too low.  An apple with peanut butter, a slice of whole-wheat toast with avocado, or string cheese and a handful of grapes are all nutritious snacks that may help hold you over to your next healthy meal.

4. Make sleep a priority. Too little sleep, even for a night, may affect the way your body uses insulin, which helps turn food into energy. Reduced insulin efficiency is known to increase blood sugar values.

A lack of sleep can also increase hunger by raising appetite hormones in your body. That may make it harder to say no to unhealthy snacks. To help improve your sleep, consider:

  • Keeping a consistent schedule for bedtime and wake-up
  • Avoiding alcohol and caffeine late in the day
  • Cutting back on technology use for at least an hour before bed

5. Manage your stress. When you’re stressed, your body releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline — sometimes called the “fight or flight” hormones. These hormones can make your body less sensitive to insulin and cause other changes that can elevate your blood sugar.

While you may not be able to avoid all stress, finding ways to relax may be good for your blood sugar and overall health. Consider these tips:

  • Focus on what you can control
  • Practice positive self-talk
  • Manage your time wisely
  • Exercise regularly
  • Try meditation and mindful breathing

One more thing: If you suspect you’re having problems with managing your blood sugar, consider talking with your health care provider — especially if you are taking medication.

Learn more about managing your blood sugar.

Sign up to get the latest news from the UnitedHealthcare Newsroom