Besides diet, what else can affect blood sugar levels?

Yariela Enriquez, MD
Internal Medicine

We spend a lot of time talking about the effects of various foods on blood sugar, but not much time understanding that food is just one of many factors that influence blood glucose levels. Tight control of blood sugar requires much more than just a good diet. Here’s a list of some other factors that may affect your blood sugar levels:

  • Exercise. It’s well known that exercise, including sexual activity, lowers blood sugar. The type, intensity, duration and time of day we exercise all play a part in blood sugar control. A combination of aerobic exercise and resistance training is the best way to go for the most benefit. You should always test to see how it affects you, and be careful about taking too much insulin before.
  • Illness. Generally an illness can increase blood sugar readings, but not always. Sometimes it can lower it! Therefore, it is important to monitor levels more frequently when you are sick.
  • Stress. Physical or emotional stress will influence blood sugar. Once again, it can go in either direction, but usually up.
  • Medications. If you take a new medicine for something other than diabetes, it may interfere with or perhaps even enhance the effectiveness of your diabetes medications. The same might happen if you stop taking a drug you are currently using.
  • Sleep. Both amount and quality of sleep have an impact. Too little sleep can add considerably to insulin resistance.
  • Caffeine. Interesting new research suggests that caffeine may lower blood sugar (unless, of course, you drink coffee with a lot of sugar).
  • Menstrual cycles. These, along with hormonal changes of either pregnancy or menopause, may affect blood sugar readings.
  • Excess weight. Body fat makes it harder to control blood sugar because of increased insulin resistance.
  • Medical conditions. Many chronic illnesses, such as liver disease, gastroparesis (delay in gastric emptying) or nephropathy (abnormal kidney function), may alter your need for diabetes medications. 

Continue Learning about Diabetes


Diabetes mellitus (MEL-ih-tus), often referred to as diabetes, is characterized by high blood glucose (sugar) levels that result from the body’s inability to produce enough insulin and/or effectively utilize the insulin. Diabetes ...

is a serious, life-long condition and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism (the body's way of digesting food and converting it into energy). There are three forms of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that accounts for five- to 10-percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes may account for 90- to 95-percent of all diagnosed cases. The third type of diabetes occurs in pregnancy and is referred to as gestational diabetes. Left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause health issues for pregnant women and their babies. People with diabetes can take preventive steps to control this disease and decrease the risk of further complications.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.