Many people who do not have diabetes think that they can get away with eating more sweets and carbohydrate-rich food. However, did you know that high blood sugar (glucose) can affect anyone, diabetic or not? Hyperglycaemia can cause several complications if left untreated. In this article, we discuss the symptoms of high blood sugar in non-diabetics, the underlying causes which may lead to hyperglycaemia in healthy individuals, and why you should watch your blood sugar levels despite not having diabetes.Contents:
Non-diabetic hyperglycaemia is a condition in which there is too much sugar (glucose) in your blood, despite you not having diabetes. Hyperglycaemia is a primary clinical sign of diabetes mellitus. However, it can impact you even if you have not been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes or Type 2 Diabetes.
The normal recommended fasting blood glucose range in healthy individuals is 70 to 99 mg/dL (non-diabetic sugar levels). You are considered prediabetic if you have a fasting glucose level between 100 to 125 mg/dL.
Hyperglycaemia is diagnosed when your blood sugar levels are above 180 mg/dL, two hours after eating. If your blood sugar is above 180 mg/dL without the underlying cause of Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes, then your condition is termed non-diabetic hyperglycaemia. You may begin experiencing the symptoms of high blood sugar levels once they reach 160 mg/dL.
Non-diabetic hyperglycaemia can be caused by chronic health conditions, medications, stress, injury, lack of exercise, etc. The condition can be resolved by treating the underlying cause.
The symptoms of nondiabetic hyperglycaemia are similar to those in diabetic hyperglycaemia. They include:
The following are some of the conditions and factors that can cause high blood sugar levels in non-diabetic individuals:
Cushing’s syndrome occurs when your body produces excessive amounts of the stress hormone cortisol from the adrenal gland for a long period of time. This condition may also occur due to the prolonged use of oral corticosteroid medications.
Due to the increased level of the hormone cortisol in your body, you are at an increased risk of developing hyperglycaemia if you are diagnosed with Cushing’s syndrome. Cortisol counteracts the effects of insulin, which prevents the uptake of glucose into your cells from your bloodstream. It also decreases the release of insulin from the pancreas, resulting in high blood glucose levels.
In a diseased condition, the damaged pancreatic cells are no longer able to produce sufficient insulin to facilitate the transport of glucose from the bloodstream to the cells in your muscles and liver. This results in non-diabetic hyperglycaemia in individuals with pancreatic disorders.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder common in women of reproductive age (15 to 49 years), that causes irregular, prolonged, or heavy menstrual periods. Women with PCOS have high levels of insulin in their bodies, and they may also exhibit insulin resistance.
If you have insulin resistance, the insulin receptors in your cells cannot bind to the insulin in your bloodstream. This results in a failure to mobilise glucose from your blood into muscle and liver cells, leading to hyperglycaemia.
Stress can cause high blood sugar levels in a non-diabetic. Physical or mental stress in the form of trauma, surgery, injury, infections, or burns can increase blood glucose levels. During stress, your body releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which set off a “fight or flight” response in your body. Cortisol triggers the release of glucose from your liver for instant production of energy during times of stress.
According to researchers, high levels of cortisol might interfere with the functioning of beta cells in the pancreas and reduce the amount of insulin they produce, further contributing to high glucose levels.
Sometimes, medications can also induce hyperglycaemia in your body. If you take medications like antidepressants, antibiotics, corticosteroids, etc., there is a high chance of you experiencing high blood glucose levels.
These medications induce hyperglycaemia by altering insulin secretion in the pancreas, reducing insulin sensitivity in your muscle and liver cells, or by increasing glucose production. It is important to discuss the long-term side effects of the medications with your doctor in order to prevent such complications.
If you are obese and have a body mass index (BMI) above 30kg/m2, you may be at risk for developing hyperglycaemia. Fat cells in the body release inflammatory proteins such as interleukins and tumour necrosis factors, which interfere with the body's ability to produce and release insulin. This can lead to poor control of blood glucose levels.
Excess fat cells and tissue in your body, especially around the abdomen, can also lead to increased insulin resistance in your body, which can cause hyperglycaemia.
If you have a family history of Type 2 or gestational diabetes, you may inherit a genetic predisposition to these diseases, the onset of which can be triggered by lifestyle and environmental factors.
Even if you do not develop Type 2 Diabetes, you may be at risk for prediabetes and high blood sugar levels associated with it if you have immediate family members (parents, siblings, grandparents) who have diabetes mellitus.
A lack of physical activity and a sedentary lifestyle can lead to an increase in your blood glucose levels. Your skeletal muscle uses the glycogen (the stored form of glucose) in the muscle cells to produce energy during physical activity.
In the absence of physical movement, the glycogen remains stored and the excess glucose remains in the bloodstream, causing elevated blood glucose levels.
Unlike diabetes, the symptoms of non-diabetic hyperglycaemia often go unnoticed. If the condition is not diagnosed early and treated, you may develop complications such as:
Often, the treatment for non-diabetic hyperglycemia includes resolving the underlying condition that is causing high blood sugar levels. Your doctor may also ask you to make healthy lifestyle changes like eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, managing stress in a healthy way, etc. to better control your blood sugar levels.
Regular physical activity can help you lower your blood glucose levels. During exercise, your body uses the glycogen stored in your muscles to generate energy. In order to compensate for the shortage of glycogen, the muscle cells take up glucose from your bloodstream. The increased utilisation of glucose increases the insulin sensitivity of the cells and decreases blood glucose levels.
Regularly exercising for at least 30 mins a day for at least 5 days a week has a positive impact on your blood glucose levels.
Obesity increases insulin resistance in your body, thus putting you at risk of high blood glucose levels. Consult your healthcare provider to create a healthy weight loss plan if you are overweight.
Improve your diet by incorporating more fruits and vegetables containing high fibre. Reduce your consumption of carbohydrates and unhealthy fats. A balanced diet is crucial to keep your blood glucose levels stable.
The nicotine in cigarettes not only causes lung cancer but also increases your blood glucose levels. It damages the cells in your body and causes insulin resistance.
Most types of alcohol contain a high amount of carbohydrates, which can cause a spike in your blood glucose levels when consumed. It is advisable to limit your alcohol consumption as much as possible.
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