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Understanding Blood Sugar and Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes is a serious condition, which according to the CDC affects about 37 million Americans, with 1 in 5 not knowing they have it. When not treated, diabetes can cause other serious health issues like heart disease, chronic kidney disease, and vision problems.

Overview. Cells in the body need sugar, or glucose, to work normally. Sugar gets into the cells with the help of a hormone called insulin, which is made by the pancreas. When a person's body stops responding to insulin normally, blood sugar can rise over time. If the blood sugar rises high enough, type 2 diabetes develops.

Learn More About Pre-Diabetes and Diabetes. Knowing about these conditions, and what you can do to prevent pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes, is key! Find reliable information from the CDC and through American Diabetes Association. Talking with your PCP also helps you to learn what’s most important for you.

Risk Factors for type 2 Diabetes are:

  • Having excess body weight or obesity.
  • Not doing enough physical activity.
  • Smoking.
  • Having a close relative with diabetes.
  • Having diabetes during pregnancy, called "gestational diabetes".

How to get your blood sugar tested. Monitoring your blood sugar levels help determine if you’re in a healthy range or at risk of diabetes. Talk to your primary care provider (PCP) about when you should have your blood sugar tested, and which of these tests is right for you:

Fasting glucose test – This test measures your blood sugar when you have not had anything to eat or drink (except water) for at least 8 hours. People with prediabetes have a fasting glucose between 100 and 125.

Glucose tolerance test – For this test, you do not eat or drink anything for 8 to 12 hours. But then, as part of the test, you have a sugary drink. Two hours later, a doctor or nurse takes a blood sample to see how high your blood sugar rose. People with prediabetes have blood sugar levels between 140 and 199 during this test.

Hemoglobin A1C test – This test can be done at any time, even if you have recently eaten. It is a blood test that shows what your average blood sugar level has been for the past 2 to 3 months. People with prediabetes have A1C levels between 5.7 and 6.4.

Tools for healthy blood sugar levels. Take the following steps to achieving better health and better blood sugar levels with the following tools:

  • Reconsider what you eat. Maintain a healthy diet, which includes foods rich in nutrients and low in sugar. Try to eat a diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products, but low in meats, sweets, and refined grains. Try to avoid sweet drinks, like soda and juice. Be sure to take advantage of *Brandeis’s Nutrition Coaches or try tracking your diet to get a better understanding of your caloric and nutritional intake and needs.
*Please note that the nutrition coach is not qualified to work with individuals who suffer from chronic health conditions including but not limited to, diabetes, hypothyroidism, and heart disease. The nutrition coach is not a registered dietician or medical practitioner capable of prescribing disease, treating disease, or providing daily menus and specific meal plans. Individuals with chronic health conditions or those in search of specialized nutrition help should speak with their general practitioner or a registered dietician (RDN). If you are unsure of whether the nutrition coach will be qualified to work with you, please contact Kat Page (
  • Consider how you eat. Check out "Mindful Eating" for strategies on eating.
  • Understand the role of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the body's main fuel source. During digestion, sugars and starches are broken down into simple sugars. They're then absorbed into the bloodstream, as blood sugar (blood glucose). Learn more about carbohydrates and how to track your intake.
  • Get moving! Exercise in any form is good for you, including dancing and gardening at home. Taking walking breaks between meetings is another great way to improve your health (and productivity). Use this link to help plan your activity.
  • Quit Smoking. Quitting smoking also lowers your risk of stroke, heart disease, and lots of other problems. If you smoke, quitting can also lower your risk. This can be difficult, but your doctor or nurse can help.
  • If you are above your goal body weight, trying to get to a healthy body weight can help. Your doctor or nurse can help you find healthy ways to do this.

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