Triggers for high blood sugar and prediabetes

Print More

Many of us are hearing that our blood sugar levels are in the pre-diabetes level. Often, we shrug it off, but we should not. Prediabetes is a serious health condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as Type 2 diabetes.

Approximately 96 million American adults—more than 1 in 3—have prediabetes. Of those with prediabetes, more than 80 percent don’t know they have it. Prediabetes puts you at increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. The good thing is if caught at the pre-diabetes level, you have the opportunity to stop it in its tracks.

Insulin is a hormone made by your pancreas that acts like a key to let blood sugar into cells for use as energy. If you have prediabetes, the cells in your body don’t respond normally to insulin. Your pancreas makes more insulin to try to get cells to respond. Eventually your pancreas can’t keep up, and your blood sugar rises, setting the stage for prediabetes—and Type 2 diabetes down the road.

You can have prediabetes for years but have no clear symptoms, so it often goes undetected until serious health problems such as Type 2 diabetes show up. It’s important to talk to your doctor about getting your blood sugar tested if you have any of the risk factors for prediabetes:

Being overweight

Being 45 years or older

Having a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes

Being less physically active fewer than three times a week

Ever having gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or giving birth to a baby who weighed more than nine pounds

Having polycystic ovary syndrome.

Race and ethnicity are also factors: African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and some Asian Americans are at higher risk.

If you have prediabetes, losing a small amount of weight if you’re overweight and getting regular physical activity can lower your risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. A small amount of weight loss means around 5 percent to 7 percent of your body weight, just 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person. Regular physical activity means getting at least 150 minutes a week of brisk walking or a similar activity. That’s just 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

Triggers of High Blood Sugar

Besides diet and the risk factors above, there are other more subtle factors that can contribute to high blood sugar. These include unresolved stress and anxiety, dehydration, lack of sleep or poor sleep, and especially untreated sleep apnea. Some other triggers are more subtle such as a sunburn, some artificial sweeteners, skipping breakfast, gum disease, and even some nose sprays. Some people find they are extra-sensitive to coffee, even unsweetened. Medications are also known to be triggers of elevated sugar.

Some medications that may raise blood sugar are corticosteroids for pain, asthma and allergies, beta blockers for high blood pressure, statins for lowering cholesterol, some antibiotics such as fluoroquinolones, antipsychotics, and decongestants.

Never stop any medication on your own without medical consultation. But if you are struggling with blood sugar issues and take one of these medications, talk to your health care provider about other options. If you take other medications and wonder if they may be affecting your blood sugar, ask your pharmacist or health care provider.