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Why Monitoring Your Blood Sugar After Meals Is Crucial

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Feb 27, 2023

Why Monitoring Your Blood Sugar After Meals Is Crucial

If you have diabetes, you probably already know that the periods after a meal are crucial because of the possibility of blood sugar spikes. But experts say there’s more reason to prevent or control postprandial hyperglycemia. You see, studies show that might increase one’s risk for cardiovascular conditions. Here’s what you need to know about glucose spikes after eating. 

Postprandial Hyperglycemia, Defined

Postprandial hyperglycemia is the temporary spike in blood sugar that occurs soon after eating. While after-meal hyperglycemia may happen even in non-diabetic people, patients with diabetes may have higher and longer spikes. 

Specifically, after-meal hyperglycemia is defined as a plasma glucose level of more than 140 mg/dl 1 to 2 hours after eating¹. For context, remember that normal fasting blood glucose is between 70 to 100 mg/dl²

People with normal glucose tolerance may also have a temporary spike after meals, but usually, it’s less than 140 mg/dl and their plasma glucose returns to normal within 2 to 3 hours¹

Why Postprandial Hyperglycemia Is a Concern

Although post-meal increase in blood glucose is temporary, experts believe preventing and controlling it is still necessary. 

For instance, a report published in the American Diabetes Association stated that postprandial hyperglycemia is a direct and independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease³

Another report indicated that postprandial hyperglycemia, which causes an inflammatory reaction, induces oxidative stress, and triggers endothelial malfunction may lead to the progression of atherosclerosis, ischemia and other cardiovascular events⁴

Also, controlling after-meal sugar spikes means you spend more time within your target blood glucose levels. After all, postprandial spikes before going to bed can increase your fasting blood sugar in the morning. And the higher your fasting blood sugar is in the morning, the higher your postprandial spikes are throughout the day⁶

How To Manage Postprandial Hyperglycemia

There’s no magic formula to manage after-meal spikes. The best approach is to keep your blood sugar within the target range throughout the day. Thankfully, there are multiple ways to control your plasma glucose:

Non-Pharmacological Approach

People with diabetes (or even patients with impaired glucose tolerance) should know that lifestyle modifications are a great way to control postprandial hyperglycemia. 

Weight-reducing diet and exercise, for instance, can normalize blood sugar levels in people with impaired glucose tolerance; it can even reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. 

Likewise, consuming foods with low-glycemic index has been shown to reduce postprandial plasma glucose increments. The glycemic index basically indicates how quickly foods raise blood sugar levels. For people with diabetes, the lower the glycemic index, the better. Examples of foods with lower glycemic index are: 

  • High-fiber foods
  • Foods with high fat or protein content
  • Whole, unprocessed foods

Also, you might want to consider adding food barriers, which are fat and protein food items that slow down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates. 

For instance, if you notice postprandial spikes after eating cereals for breakfast, consider eating toast with a serving of avocado and egg. The protein and fats in egg and avocado may help slow down the digestion of carbs in toast. 

Finally, to prevent postprandial spikes, why not take a 10 to 15-minute walk after meals? 

Pharmacologic Approach

Of course, managing blood glucose levels, including postprandial hyperglycemia, includes medicines, particularly insulin for people with type 1 diabetes. Note that the type of insulin, dose, and timing are crucial. Hence, you need to work closely with your doctor. 

Key Takeaways

Postprandial hyperglycemia happens when blood sugar temporarily rises after ingesting food. But while it’s temporary, experts say it’s crucial to prevent and control it considering it’s associated with atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular accidents. To remain within your target blood glucose as sustained as possible, both non-pharmacological and pharmacological approaches are crucial. But the most important aspect of management is to work closely with your doctor. 

Learn more about Diabetes here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Feb 27, 2023

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