Glucose is a basic molecule for our body. It is a carbohydrate that we obtain from food (sugars, cereals, legumes, starches, fruits, vegetables, milk) and that is the main source of energy in our body. Glucose levels should be kept at normal values:
- What is glucose?
- Blood glucose levels
- What is the diabetes?
- High glucose levels
- Lower glucose
What is glucose?
When we eat, stomach acids and intestinal secretions process food and degrade it into basic units (proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, trace elements) so that they can be absorbed and passed on to the blood, from where they are distributed to the different tissues.
The glucose is stored primarily in the liver, as glycogen, and muscle, and part of it also becomes fat. Anyway, not all the glucose is absorbed. There is always an amount circulating in the blood because glucose is used in all organs as a source of energy. The body is responsible for regulating that there are always blood glucose levels between 70 and 110 mg / dl , which is considered the normal range.
Weight control is essential to lead a healthy life. The calculation of the BMI is basic to know if we are at our ideal weight. We leave you a calculator to calculate your BMI.
Blood glucose levels
To maintain these blood levels, the body basically uses two hormones produced by the pancreas: insulin , which is responsible for lowering blood glucose levels by making it enter the cells, and glucagon , which performs the function In contrast, it increases blood glucose levels by extracting it above all from the liver reserves.
When we eat food, there is an increase in blood glucose levels. Before this rise insulin production is increased to cope with this glucose intake and restore normal values. On the contrary, when, for example, we perform physical activity, all cells require energy in the form of glucose, so that the production of insulin decreases and that of glucagon increases, causing more glucose in the bloodstream to be available. the organs (muscles, brain, heart, lungs) that need it.
When the levels of sugar are altered by excess or defect in a continuous way (if the alterations are punctual the body is in charge of regulating these variations), serious problems can occur, being the fundamental one the diabetes.
What is the diabetes?
Diabetes is a metabolic alteration of multiple etiologies that is characterized by chronically elevated glucose levels and a disorder of the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, by defect of insulin production, of its action or of both.
Two major types of diabetes must be differentiated:
- Type I Diabetes : It is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks the beta cells of the pancreas, which are those that produce insulin, so that in the absence of insulin the glucose is not absorbed, does not reach the cells and causes damage to the cells. blood vessels by their accumulation in the blood. It is usually diagnosed during childhood and requires the contribution of external insulin to live. In Europe, its incidence is increasing at a rate of 2-5% per year.
- Type II diabetes : Insulin resistance occurs. In this way, the pancreas secretes more continuously until the beta cells deteriorate and production decreases. The consequence is that the liver excretes glucose in the blood, which keeps the levels high.
Type II diabetes is the most common. 90% of cases of patients with diabetes are type II and are usually diagnosed at adult ages. For the diagnosis of diabetes you need:
- Glicemia at any time higher than 200 mg / dl with symptoms (increased thirst, daily urine and weight loss).
- Fasting glycemia of 8 hours higher than 126 mg / dl.
- Glicemia higher than 200 mg / dl 2 hours after a glucose overload of 75 g.
- Glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) greater than 6.5%.
When a person’s blood glucose levels are high when performing these tests, but without reaching diagnostic levels of diabetes, we can talk about a prediabetes state (altered basal glycemia or glucose intolerance) that must be followed closely by the doctor . The changes in lifestyle (diet, exercise, weight control) reduce the risk and the proportion of patients progressing to an established diabetes.
High glucose levels
The high blood glucose levels are a recognized cardiovascular risk factor . Excessive glucose damages the innermost layer of the blood vessels, which favors arteriosclerosis, a hardening of the vessels, which makes it difficult for blood to pass and, therefore, increases the risk of arterial occlusion .
When a patient has a sustained elevation of glucose levels there is usually an increase in appetite, thirst, urine and unexplained weight loss. Likewise, when a diabetic person suffers an abrupt increase in blood glucose levels, symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, malaise, dizziness, headache, dry mouth, weakness and fatigue appear.
On the other hand, when you suffer a drop in glucose , whether or not you are diabetic, such as after performing excessive physical activity without adequate previous supply of nutrients, you can give irritability, anxiety, palpitations, pallor, tremor, sweating, salivation, feeling of hunger, tingling in the hands and, in more severe cases, neurological symptoms, such as headache, slow speech, blurred or double vision, drowsiness, confusion, seizures, obtundation or even coma, which is a vital emergency .
Once the diagnosis of diabetes has been made and depending on the health status of the patient due to other diseases, the initial treatment should always be aimed at modifying health habits with respect to diet and physical activity. In the diet there should be a contribution of calories appropriate to the age, sex, physical activity and weight of the patient. Priority should be given to the intake of carbohydrates rich in fiber, for which the Mediterranean diet is ideal. This diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, cereals, virgin olive oil, skimmed milk products and fish (especially blue).
The physical activity should be moderate and adjusted to age, with a predominance of aerobic exercise at least two hours each week for at least three days a week.
If these measures are not enough to achieve the glycemic control objectives, there are, fortunately, many drugs that, either in isolation or in combination, help to control blood glucose levels. These drugs can, depending on their mechanism of action, increase pancreatic insulin production, decrease insulin resistance, inhibit hepatic glucose formation, reduce the absorption of carbohydrates or increase glucose uptake at the muscle level. When all these mechanisms are insufficient is when the patient will need the contribution of external insulin.
A control of blood glucose levels should be performed every three years in those over 45 years and annually if there are risk factors such as family history, history of diabetes during pregnancy, sedentary lifestyle, cardiovascular disease, hypertension , dyslipidemia or overweight. If diagnosed with diabetes, it is very important to be aware of the seriousness of the disease and the need for personal involvement and the patient’s environment in order to adapt life and habits to the new situation, always under the supervision of a doctor.