What is Glucose?
Glucose, also known as blood sugar, is the main source of energy for the human body. It's a simple sugar that comes from many of the foods you eat, such as potatoes, carrots, strawberries, bread and bananas.
When you eat, the digestive process begins with chewing, which allows food to mix with an enzyme known as amylase. This enzyme helps break down carbohydrate molecules, making them easier to digest once they enter the stomach. After you swallow, food mixes with stomach acid and other substances, releasing glucose.
Your body relies on glucose to power its metabolic processes. Without glucose, you wouldn't be able to breathe normally or digest food. You'd also have no way to produce adenosine triphosphate, better known as ATP, a molecule involved in muscle contraction, nervous system function and the production of the chemicals your body needs to survive.
Why Is Glucose Important?
If you're wondering what glucose has to do with your blood sugar level, it's quite simple. When your digestive system releases glucose from the foods you eat, your intestines absorb it. From your intestines, the glucose enters your bloodstream.
Once glucose enters the bloodstream, your pancreas releases a hormone called insulin. This hormone helps glucose move into the cells, making it possible for your body to use the glucose as a source of energy. If you don't have enough insulin, or if your body doesn't respond to insulin as well as it should, glucose can build up in your bloodstream instead of moving into the cells.
Although you couldn't survive without glucose, it's possible to have too much of a good thing. That's why it's so important to maintain healthy blood glucose levels.
Over time, high glucose levels increase the risk for blood vessel damage, which may lead to kidney disease, blindness and poor circulation. Even if you don't experience these complications, high blood sugar makes you feel unwell. You may feel:
- Start urinating more often than usual
- Lose weight without trying
- Develop blurry vision
High blood sugar may also cause tingling in your hands and feet, which occurs due to nerve damage.
Many people don't realize that high blood sugar also increases the risk of heart disease. This is because your heart relies on healthy nerves and blood vessels to function properly. If high blood sugar damages the blood vessels, your heart may not get the right amount of blood flow. Damaged nerves can also interfere with the heart's ability to maintain a normal rhythm.
Blood Glucose Regulation: How Is It Measured?
According to the World Health Organization, a normal fasting glucose level ranges from 70 to 100 milligrams per deciliter of blood. Fasting means you haven't had anything to eat for about 8 to 12 hours. If you have blood drawn when you're not fasting, your blood sugar may be higher, especially if you give a sample shortly after eating carbohydrate-containing foods.
The hormones insulin and glucagon both play an important role in blood sugar regulation. As your blood glucose level rises, the amount of insulin secreted by your pancreas also increases. This is what helps glucose enter your cells.
Glucagon is different. If your blood glucose level is high, then your pancreas doesn't secrete any glucagon at all. It only secretes glucagon if your blood sugar gets low. Any disturbance in insulin or glucagon secretion can make it difficult to maintain normal blood glucose levels.
What Is a Blood Glucose (Sugar) Test?
A blood sugar test measures the amount of glucose in your bloodstream. Before you have the test, you should fast as directed by your doctor or a laboratory professional. This ensures an accurate result. When it's time to have the test, all you have to do is provide a small blood sample, which involves having blood drawn from one of your veins with a thin needle.
It's good to have a blood sugar test at least once per year as part of your preventive health routine. Glucose testing is also helpful if you want to better understand how your eating habits affect your blood sugar levels.
Your doctor may also order a glucose test if you're pregnant, as pregnancy can cause some changes in blood sugar regulation.
Factors That Can Affect Blood Sugar Levels
Many factors affect your blood glucose levels, from what you eat to how much you exercise. Here's how.
Diet and Blood Sugar Control
Since you get glucose from the foods you eat, the foods you eat play a big role in maintaining normal blood sugar levels.
Soft drinks, baked goods and white rice all have the potential to cause a blood sugar spike shortly after you consume them. Oils and fats have less of an impact on your glucose levels.
Physical Activity and Blood Glucose
When you're physically active, your body pulls glucose from your liver and muscles. Once your workout is over, it takes glucose out of your bloodstream and uses it to replenish what it used. As a result, the amount of physical activity you do has an impact on your blood sugar. Your glucose level may even get a little too low after a strenuous exercise session.
Mental Health and Blood Sugar Levels
When you're stressed out or overwhelmed, it's easy to consume more calories than usual. You may even snack on baked goods, chips, soft drinks and other items that can cause your glucose level to spike. Therefore, your mental well-being also affects your blood sugar.
How Can I Maintain Healthy Blood Sugar Levels?
One way to maintain normal glucose levels is to follow a nutritious diet. Mindless snacking isn't good, but that doesn't mean all snacks are off-limits. Good Measure Bars contain nutrient-rich ingredients and have little impact on blood sugar, making them a valid option. It's also important to exercise regularly and take steps to improve your mental well-being.
Glucose plays a role in everything you do, from walking to the mailbox to running after a small child. Normal blood sugar levels are also essential for protecting yourself against diabetes, heart disease, nerve damage and blindness. Work toward healthy blood glucose levels with Good Measure Bars and other blood sugar-friendly snacks.