Why it’s crucial to keep your blood sugar low—but not too low

Hand of woman with glucometer and medical formControlling blood sugar is, of course, important. For anyone concerned about maintaining optimal health. But especially for diabetics. Diabetics have a substantially increased risk of cardiovascular complications–and as a recent study shows, it all ties back to optimal blood sugar control. Key word here is “optimal”…

Researchers found that in those with type 2 diabetes, blood sugar levels under good control for many years can reduce the risk of suffering a heart attack, stroke, heart failure or amputation by about 17 percent.

But, they also found the benefits level off if you go too low.

The authors concluded that a long-term average of about 8 percent on the measurement called A1C hemoglobin was enough to achieve most of the benefit, but many patients can be lowered to a 7. Lower than that, and the benefits level off.

In the study, researchers looked at nearly 1,800 veterans with type 2 diabetes. The veterans  signed up for a 6-year blood sugar study that randomly assigned them to either 1) get help achieving “tight” blood sugar control, or 2) get regular care. More than five years after the study, the researchers examined VA and Medicare records to find out how the veterans were doing.

The researchers found a statistically significant reduction in cardiovascular events–like heart attack, stroke, and gangrene-related amputation–in the intensive control group. And that’s similar to what has been seen in other studies. So, yes, blood sugar control is important.

But the size of the benefit from good blood sugar control was smaller than what other studies have shown.

Striving for still lower A1C levels in all diabetics may not increase cardiovascular benefit enough to be worth the effort, especially if they’re taking newer drugs with unknown long-term side effects, noted the study’s lead author, Rodney Hayward, M.D., of the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System and U-M.

“This finding reinforces the importance of combining good blood sugar control with control of other cardiovascular risk factors for a combined effect,” Hayward noted.

The bottom line here is that blood sugar control, while important, is just one mechanism of reducing the risk of complications in those with diabetes. If you already have diabetes (officially diagnosed as not producing enough insulin), get your levels checked regularly and keep them between 7 and 8–and do it with diet and lifestyle. If you get it down any lower–especially with the help of drugs–you could be putting yourself at greater risk.

For more on the subject, as well as tips to keep your blood sugar low with a consistently good diet and smart supplementation–review my past article in the August 2013 issue of my Logical Health Alternatives newsletter, “When it comes to blood sugar, lower isn’t always better.” Subscribers can access this issue–and the complete archive–by visiting www.drpescatore.com and logging in to the Subscriber area of the website. And if you’re not already a subscriber, you can sign up here today.

Yes, you have to keep your blood sugar levels in check, whether you’re diabetic or not. But you have to do it the right way. And don’t do it in a vacuum. It’s not a be-all and end-all; it’s just one of several smart strategies for safeguarding your health.


University of Michigan Health System. “Years of good blood sugar control helps diabetic hearts, study finds.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 June 2015. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150603181737.htm