Glucose Variability: Why is it Important?

Dr.Poonam Sharma

December 6, 2022

Variability has different connotations in different contexts. Its relationship with the term stability varies too. For example, stability is not immobility because your glucose levels will intrinsically vary. However, this variation depends upon many factors, but what matters is how vast or high this glucose variability is. 

The degree of variability will determine what your glucose line looks like. You do not want it to display a range of jagged cliffs and steep ditches. Aiming for shallower valleys is far safer for your overall well being. In other words, the lower the variability, the better off you are. 

This article will discover the meaning of glycemic variability and the related condition of oxidative stress. You would also get to know why glucose variability is something you should keep a check on. So go ahead and read till the end to find ways to help you manage your glucose fluctuations.

Glucose Variability: An Overview

Variations in glucose levels that occur naturally at various times of the day are known as glucose variability or glycemic variability. In a day, these variations are either somewhat higher than your typical average glucose levels or slightly lower than your normal average glucose levels. 

Fluctuations in your blood sugar levels occur because of variables like time, kind and quantity of food you consume, how active you are, your menstrual cycle, sleep, stress levels, and behaviours such as alcohol consumption or smoking. 

If your blood sugar level fluctuations are too high or too low compared to your normal average, it can hint toward diabetes-related morbidity. Conversely, you might be at a higher risk of developing diabetes if your average glucose level remains on the higher side. 

Glycemic variability also has a role in fat gain. The high glucose content could get stored in your liver or muscle, or it gets stored in your fat tissues. Managing your glucose levels can be made easy with your discussion with your health coaches and your efforts to have a proper diet, exercise and get sound sleep. 

Measuring Glucose Variability

Since your glucose levels fluctuate numerous times during the day, it might seem like a task. Here is a breakdown of how you can measure your glucose variability easily:

  • One of the ways to measure glycemic variability is to use the standard deviation method. It measures glucose distribution and is the most commonly used metric to quantify variability. While calculating your glucose variability or GV utilising this method, you might get flashbacks of your 9th standard Math class.
  • You also need not do this manually; there are computerised systems that can take out your glycemic variability for you. You need to fill in all your sugar readings precisely into the system. However, noting sugar readings before a meal, after a meal, fasting and filling them into a system is definitely a lengthy process. In addition, this increases your chances of human error. 
  • According to research, the most accurate and reliable approach for assessing glycemic variability is to measure it using a Continuous Glucose Monitoring or a CGM System. Also, this is because most of the glucose variability factors get recorded from the CGM system. 
  • You could opt for the HealthifPro CGM system, and you would not have to order blood tests from the lab or prick a dozen times to note all sugar readings. The CGM displays real-time sugar levels and pings in on you if it’s getting out of order. 

Optimum Levels of Glucose Variability

It is natural for your sugar levels to fluctuate, but this variability also has a range. If this variability is too high, it can become detrimental to your metabolic functioning. As a result, it can lead to hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia.

A glycemic Variability that is below 12% is what is considered ideal. Maintaining your blood glucose at optimum levels over time by eating foods like fruits and nuts and maintaining a consistent workout schedule can help you manage glycemic variability. However, a frequent vast variability of glucose levels can lead to oxidative stress. 

Think of your glucose level to be like electrical voltage. Too much fluctuation in the voltage means your electrical appliances are at stake of suffering a short circuit. To avoid this short circuit, most electrical appliances have an adapter that channels only the fixed amount of voltage required by that device. Similarly, your body needs you to process a diet, a workout plan, a sleep schedule and other healthy behaviours that prevent vast fluctuations. 

In the long run, variability has negative repercussions as well. Glucose spikes and dips are more damaging to tissues when you have elevated variability and not stable glucose levels. Cardiovascular ailments and metabolic dysfunction are all associated with extreme glucose fluctuation.

Standard glucose blood tests, which take a picture of glucose in a split second, can’t capture variations, but a CGM system does.

Understanding Oxidative Stress

Oxidation is another natural process where the body gradually ages with time. Oxidative stress occurs when your body contains a reduced amount of antioxidants and an increased level of free radicals. 

When there is an excess of free radicals, they engage and disrupt the metabolic system by destroying the cellular structure. Each free radical often lacks one electron, and to balance itself out, it borrows an electron from any molecule near it. In this process, it keeps on putting other molecules out of balance. 

The body needs a sufficient quantity of antioxidants because antioxidants can quickly stabilise the free radicals without losing their balance. Hence it becomes widely important to consume foods rich in antioxidants like fruits, berries, vegetables, green tea, etc. 

Glucose Variability and Oxidative Stress: The Connection

In other words, extreme blood glucose fluctuations, and a raised GV, can cause oxidative damage in the organism. It can result from unhealthy behaviours like diets high in fats and sugars or metabolic conditions like diabetes or certain cancers. 

When your body undergoes oxidative stress, it could simultaneously be damaging internal organs, leading to high blood pressure, neurological ailments and related health issues. Oxidative stress also results in premature ageing. 

It is possible to have high glucose variability and high oxidative stress putting your body under severe health complications. In addition, the free radicals present in your body can damage your DNA, fat tissue, and proteins, weakening your resistance to diseases. 

Monitoring your glycemic variability could help you have insights into such manageable conditions.

Ways to Optimise Glucose Variability

The best method to avoid excessive glycemic variability encompasses one’s habits, movement, and other lifestyle habits. For example, stress and sleep are also of great importance. 

Observe Your Foods

  • A diet rich in antioxidant-rich fruits, nuts, vegetables, whole grains, pulses, legumes, cold-pressed, unrefined coconut oil etc. These foods can assist the body in minimising both oxidative stress and glycemic variability. 
  • Your nutrition has the most significant influence on your variability. Also, consuming foods high in carbohydrates, fats, and sugars might spike your glucose levels.  
  • Unhealthy foods prompt our bodies to release more insulin to transport the excess glucose out from the bloodstream and then into the cells. As a result, your body might experience a glucose crash as an overreaction because it has a large amount of insulin. 

Movement is a Must

  • One of the most effective strategies to handle type 2 diabetes is to exercise. It improves how your cells utilise insulin and can help you maintain a healthy blood sugar level. It also aids the absorption of sugar by your cells.
  • Light walking or easy resistance workouts like squats are perfect for the same situation. In addition, strength training, lifting, brisk walking, jogging, cycling, trekking, dancing, swimming, and outdoor sports are all beneficial.

Get Proper Sleep

  • Sleep deprivation can affect the endocrine system poorly and disrupt the balance of your glucose levels. According to research, it has significant adverse effects on alertness, cognitive and motor functions, mood, and various metabolic, hormonal, and immunological variables.
  • Insufficient sleep leads to reduced glucose tolerance, and decreased insulin sensitivity dysregulates your appetite-regulating hormones. As a result, this can lead to late-night cravings or morning hunger, causing blood glucose levels to fluctuate even more.

Manage Stress Levels

  • Prolonged stress can spike blood sugar levels. Your body reduces insulin release when cortisol levels are high. Since insulin aids in transporting sugar from the bloodstream to cells, where it creates energy, more sugar stays in the bloodstream if insulin isn’t released correctly, causing blood sugar levels to become unbalanced.
  • You can reduce your stress levels by having a workout schedule, going for a stroll to clear your head, talking to a friend or a family member, playing a sport, engaging in hobbies, meditating, or listening to music. Research shows that comparatively less stressed and happier individuals have healthier diets.
  • Try not to engage in behaviours like drinking alcohol or smoking when stressed. It might become a regular habit or even a coping mechanism which is harmful in the long run. 

Monitor Your Glucose Readings

  • Keeping a detailed record of your sugar readings and their effects will help you maintain a healthy glucose level.
  • It is critical to maintain a regular schedule and not skip a doctor’s visit. To detect any odd changes in your blood sugar levels, you should use blood-glucose monitoring kits or a Continous Glucose Monitor (CGM).
  • Make use of multiple features of the HealthifyPro and get real-time glucose readings. It will help you find any patterns between sugar spikes or dulls and your behaviour habits. 
  • Pro would immediately connect you with your fitness coach and diet coach to study those patterns, suggest ways to stabilise your glucose and help you form sustainable habits.

Remember that long-term trends determine overall health; therefore, strive for more weeks of consistent, smooth glucose levels than days with high glycemic variability.

The good news is that HealthifyPro CGM makes it easier to interpret readings in a user-friendly manner.

The technical jargon is minimal, and a real conversation and actionable advice from the coaches help you sort out any glucose variability that you are experiencing. In addition, basic steps like including physical activities, eating the right food, and knowing what works for you can help you get fitter in no time. 

About the Author

I, Dr. Poonam have 3+ years of experience in the field of Medicine. Currently serving as a Resident Physician at HealthifyMe, I have worked with premier hospitals such as Manipal Hospital, Bangalore as a Resident in Plastic and Reconstructive surgery and Rajiv Gandhi Government Hospital, Chennai as a Medical Officer. I aspire to put my knowledge in medicine to use in providing healthcare and fitness services to people and help enhance my abilities in meeting the ever-growing healthcare needs.

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