Track­ing blood su­gar not nec­es­sary for non-di­a­bet­ics

The Tribune (SLO) - - Sports, Health, Weather - BY EVE GLAZIER, M.D., and EL­IZ­A­BETH KO, M.D.

Dear Doc­tor: My fam­ily has a his­tory of di­a­betes, and al­though I’m cur­rently healthy (I ex­er­cise reg­u­larly and am care­ful about what I eat), I’m still cu­ri­ous about my blood su­gar. Do you think it could be help­ful to track it as a di­a­betic would, just so that I know how I’m do­ing?

Dear Reader: You’ve asked an in­ter­est­ing ques­tion about a grow­ing prac­tice among some non­di­a­bet­ics. Di­a­betes is a group of dis­eases in which hy­per­glycemia – that’s el­e­vated blood su­gar – re­sults from dis­rup­tions to the body’s in­sulin me­tab­o­lism. Pro­duced by the pan­creas, in­sulin is the hor­mone that reg­u­lates blood glu­cose con­cen­tra­tions. Peo­ple with di­a­betes ei­ther don’t pro­duce any or enough in­sulin, or can’t prop­erly use the in­sulin their bod­ies do pro­duce. The cause of ab­nor­mal in­sulin me­tab­o­lism de­ter­mines which type of di­a­betes some­one has.

This in­abil­ity to man­age blood glu­cose leads to lev­els that are ab­nor­mally high or low, each of which is dan­ger­ous. Low blood su­gar can cause a rapid heart­beat, dizzi­ness and heart pal­pi­ta­tions. When se­vere, it can lead to seizures, un­con­scious­ness and even death. When blood su­gar lev­els are chron­i­cally high, there is risk of long-term dam­age to blood ves­sels, heart, kid­neys, eyes and feet.

Man­ag­ing blood su­gar fluc­tu­a­tions is the goal of di­a­betes treat­ments. De­pend­ing on the type of di­a­betes that an in­di­vid­ual has, this is achieved with diet alone, or through diet and in­sulin re­place­ment. Peo­ple are con­sid­ered to have di­a­betes when a ran­dom blood su­gar test mea­sures above 200 mg/ dL, or when they have a fast­ing blood su­gar level of over 125 mg/dL. A fast­ing blood su­gar level from 100 to 125 mg/dL is con­sid­ered to be pre­di­a­betes.

All of which brings us back to your ques­tion. Reg­u­lar blood su­gar checks are cru­cial for peo­ple liv­ing with di­a­betes. Those with Type 1 di­a­betes use in­sulin and may need to test any­where from four to 10 times daily. Type 2 di­a­betes can re­quire two to three checks per day. And while we un­der­stand the im­pulse be­hind a non­di­a­betic wish­ing to track blood su­gar, we don’t see a clear ben­e­fit. The ar­gu­ment in fa­vor is that, with rou­tine mon­i­tor­ing, you’ll learn how your body re­sponds to spe­cific foods, which may mo­ti­vate you to make bet­ter di­etary choices. Over time, how­ever, the data will con­firm what you al­ready know. That is, com­plex carbs and foods high in protein don’t cause the same spikes in blood su­gar that you get from re­fined carbs.

Eve Glazier, M.D., MBA, is an in­ternist and as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of medicine at UCLA Health. El­iz­a­beth Ko, M.D., is an in­ternist and as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of medicine at UCLA Health. Send your ques­tions to ask­the­do­c­[email protected] med­, or write: Ask the Doc­tors, c/o Me­dia Re­la­tions, UCLA Health, 924 West­wood Blvd., Suite 350, Los An­ge­les, CA, 90095. Ow­ing to the vol­ume of mail, per­sonal replies can­not be pro­vided.

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