CARE Explains – What Causes High Blood Sugar Without Diabetes?

CARE Explains – What Causes High Blood Sugar Without Diabetes?

Having high blood sugar levels is usually associated with diabetes. Did you recently find out that you have high blood sugar even though you do not suffer from diabetes? In this article, CARE introduces you to some possibilities that can cause high blood sugar in non-diabetics.

Blog Author Elena Health Coach at CARE
Elena Iagovitina

Health Coach

Published in General Health
14 min read · Oct 09, 2023

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High blood sugar can occur for various reasons unrelated to diabetes. But what causes high blood sugar without diabetes?

In this comprehensive article, CARE delves into causes that can lead to having high blood sugar levels with no diabetes, shedding light on the importance of understanding and addressing your glucose levels and your blood count.

What Causes High Blood Sugar Levels in Non-Diabetics?

Before we explore the causes of high blood sugar levels without diabetes, it is essential for you to understand how your body typically regulates your blood sugar – the so-called glucose levels. When we consume carbohydrates like bread, pasta, or rice, our digestive system breaks them down into glucose, a type of sugar.

The glucose enters your bloodstream, causing your blood sugar levels to rise. In response, your pancreas releases insulin, a hormone that facilitates the uptake of glucose into cells, where it can be used for energy or stored for later use. This whole biological process helps maintain your blood sugar within a narrow, healthy range.

In diabetes, there is a disruption in the blood sugar regulation. Maybe you already know that there are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

In type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in your pancreas. As a result, people with type 1 diabetes lack insulin and must take insulin injections to manage their blood sugar levels.

Conversely, type 2 diabetes is characterized by insulin resistance, where cells do not respond effectively to insulin signaling. Initially, the pancreas compensates for this by producing more insulin, but over time, it may fail to keep up with the demand. Lifestyle factors, genetics, and obesity are the most common contributors to type 2 diabetes.

We know that you are probably reading this article because you have high blood sugar but no diabetes. So, let's explore the various reasons why you might experience high blood sugar levels without having either type of diabetes.

Stress – Fight Or Flight

Believe it or not, stress is a huge contributor to elevated blood sugar levels. When your body perceives stress, it releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones trigger a “fight or flight” response, which can lead to increased blood sugar as your body prepares to respond to a perceived threat. [1]

Therefore, chronic stress, which is common in today's fast-paced world, can result in prolonged high blood sugar levels. [1]

Lifestyle Choices – Diet, Sleep & Physical Activity

The way we lead and live our lives has a great impact on our well-being. One of the most impactful factors on our blood count is the diet. Diets high in refined carbohydrates, sugary foods, and excessive calorie intake can lead to insulin resistance and high glucose without diabetes. [2]

Furthermore, sedentary lifestyles can reduce insulin sensitivity, making it more challenging for the body to manage blood sugar effectively. [3]

Another factor for your glucose levels is weight. Even though we celebrate body positivity, excess body fat, especially abdominal fat, is strongly associated with insulin resistance and higher blood sugar levels. [4] So, if you are rocking those curves, make sure to eat healthy and exercise regularly to avoid the negative impact of abdominal fat on your glucose levels.

Another great factor that we regularly discuss with our clients is sleep. Sleep is a natural, recurring state of rest during which our body undergoes critical processes of repair, consolidation of memories, and regulation of hormones, all of which are essential for maintaining our overall health, which is reflected in a balanced blood count. Inadequate sleep disrupts hormonal balance and can lead to insulin resistance. [5]

Infections – Immune Response As The Cause

Do you have a cold or have just recovered from the flu or another infection? Illnesses and infections can trigger an immune response in your body, leading to increased blood sugar levels. This is often observed in conditions like pneumonia and urinary tract infections. [6]

Infections cause your body to release stress hormones and pro-inflammatory molecules, both of which can disrupt insulin's actions. When we see elevated glucose levels in our client's blood count, some of them tell us that they have just recovered from a cold or another infection. [6]

Pre-Diabetes – The Risk Of Developing Diabetes

Some people may have blood sugar levels higher than normal but not high enough to be yet diagnosed with diabetes. This condition is known as pre-diabetes.

People with pre-diabetes are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes if they do not make lifestyle changes to improve their blood sugar control. If you have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, focus on adopting a healthier lifestyle by maintaining a nutritious and balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity, and managing your weight through portion control. [7]

Also, stress reduction is crucial for your glucose levels. If you have enough on your plate already, spend some time relaxing and unwinding from stressful moments. [1]

Hormonal Imbalances – Cushing's Syndrome

As most women know, hormones are a tricky and complex occurrence that can influence many biological processes in our bodies. Hormones also play a significant role in blood sugar regulation. [8]

Conditions that disrupt hormone balance, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and Cushing's syndrome, can result in elevated blood sugar. PCOS, in particular, is associated with insulin resistance due to increased levels of androgens (male hormones) in women. [9]

But how do you know that you have high blood sugar? What are high blood sugar symptoms? The most efficient and accurate way to find out about your glucose levels (blood sugar levels) is to do a blood analysis with CARE.

Still, there are some symptoms that can occur due to high blood sugar. CARE has summarized those symptoms for you.

What Are The Symptoms Of High Blood Sugar?

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High blood sugar, whether related to diabetes or non-diabetes causes, can manifest with a range of symptoms that should not be ignored. These symptoms often result from your body's inability to transport glucose efficiently into cells for the production of energy.

Excessive Thirst & Frequent Urination

One of the most common symptoms of high blood sugar includes excessive thirst (polydipsia) and frequent urination (polyuria). As your kidneys attempt to eliminate excess glucose from your bloodstream, you experience a more frequent need to urinate and become excessively thirsty. [10]

So, if you have noticed that your thirst has increased significantly and you need to pee more frequently, you should consider a blood analysis and a visit to your physician.

Unexpected Weight Loss Despite More Appetite

Eating more yet still, losing weight might sound appealing at first, but jokes aside, this is usually cause for concern. If you experience unexplained weight loss, despite increased appetite, those can be potential signs of uncontrolled or poorly managed glucose levels, as they may indicate hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). [10]


Do you feel drained of energy, tired, and weak in general? These might be symptoms of high blood sugar. Experiencing fatigue and weakness are common symptoms of high glucose levels due to the cells' inability to access glucose properly. [10]

Issues With Vision

Blurred vision, as a result of changes in the eye's fluid balance, may occur. Because elevated blood sugar can lead to temporary changes in the shape of the eye's lens, this can affect the lens’ ability to focus properly. [10]

Infections & Slow Healing

Additionally, high blood sugar can lead to increased susceptibility to infections, slow wound healing, and recurrent yeast infections. [10]

If left untreated, severe hyperglycemia can lead to life-threatening conditions like diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) or hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state (HHS), characterized by nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, confusion, and, in extreme cases, loss of consciousness. [10]

Therefore, if you recognize any of these symptoms, seek medical attention promptly to address the underlying causes, high blood sugar or not, and prevent complications.

And how can I have my glucose levels tested?

It's in Your Blood – How Are Glucose Levels Tested?

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The primary method for measuring glucose levels is through a blood sample, typically obtained through a fingerstick or venous blood draw. The two common tests used are fasting blood sugar (FBS) and hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c).

Testing your glucose levels through blood analysis is a crucial diagnostic tool for monitoring and managing blood sugar, and getting a better insight on your overall health. There are different blood tests available that can be performed to determine your glucose levels.

Usually, you have to fast before your blood is collected and tested. The fasting blood sugar test involves collecting a blood sample after an overnight fast to assess baseline glucose levels.

HbA1c, on the other hand, provides a long-term average of blood sugar over the past two to three months, reflecting your overall glycemic control.

Additionally, oral glucose tolerance tests (OGTT) may be employed to evaluate how the body handles a specific glucose load.

Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) systems provide real-time data by placing a sensor under the skin, allowing for continuous tracking of glucose levels. CGM’s are often used by people who have diabetes, both type 1 and 2.

All these tests enable our healthcare providers or your physician to help diagnose conditions like diabetes, pre-diabetes, or non-diabetic hyperglycemia, as well as monitor ongoing treatment effectiveness and assess the risk of complications associated with prolonged high blood sugar levels.

Regular glucose testing plays a vital role in personalized healthcare, helping you make informed decisions about dietary choices, medication adjustments, and lifestyle modifications to achieve and maintain your optimal blood sugar.

As you already know about both types of diabetes, type 1 and 2, and pre-diabetes, there is one more condition associated with high blood sugar that we just mentioned which is also the big answer to this article's question: non-diabetic hyperglycemia.

What is Non-Diabetic Hyperglycemia? — High Blood Sugar In Non-Diabetics

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Non-diabetic hyperglycemia, often referred to as high blood sugar in non-diabetics, is a condition characterized by elevated blood glucose levels that exceed the typical range for non-diabetic individuals. It is essential to distinguish non-diabetic hyperglycemia from diabetes, as it occurs due to temporary factors or underlying health conditions other than diabetes.

Common causes for non-diabetic hyperglycemia include stress, certain medications, infections, hormonal imbalances, pancreatic disorders, poor dietary choices, sedentary lifestyles, obesity, and insufficient sleep.

While non-diabetic hyperglycemia does not meet the diagnostic criteria for diabetes, it is not without consequences, as prolonged high blood sugar levels can lead to various health issues, including cardiovascular risks, kidney damage, nerve damage, and more.

Management typically involves addressing the underlying causes through lifestyle modifications, stress management, medication adjustments, and regular blood sugar monitoring to prevent complications and ensure overall well-being.

Difference Between Hyperglycemia And Hypoglycemia

The difference between Hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia is simple – hyperglycemia refers to high glucose levels, and hypoglycemia refers to low glucose levels.

Hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia are two distinct but critical conditions related to blood sugar levels in the human body.

Hyperglycemia, characterized by elevated blood glucose levels, typically occurs when the body cannot effectively regulate blood sugar due to factors such as diabetes, stress, medication side effects, or hormonal imbalances. It leads to symptoms like excessive thirst, frequent urination, and fatigue and can result in long-term complications if left uncontrolled.

In contrast, hypoglycemia refers to abnormally low blood sugar levels, often caused by excessive insulin, insufficient food intake, strenuous physical activity, or certain medical conditions. Hypoglycemia symptoms include shakiness, confusion, sweating, and, in severe cases, loss of consciousness.

The key difference between the two lies in the direction of blood sugar levels, with hyperglycemia indicating high glucose and hypoglycemia indicating low glucose.

Both conditions require prompt attention and management, with hyperglycemia demanding measures to lower blood sugar and hypoglycemia necessitating rapid intake of glucose to raise blood sugar levels and prevent potential complications, including fainting or seizures.

Understanding these differences is vital for individuals with diabetes or those at risk of blood sugar fluctuations, as proper management can significantly impact their overall health and well-being.

And how can you prevent hyperglycemia?

How Do I Prevent Hyperglycemia?

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Preventing hyperglycemia, even if you don't have diabetes, is important for several reasons.

Firstly, maintaining stable blood sugar levels in the short and long term is crucial for overall health and well-being. Prolonged periods of high blood sugar can lead to a range of health issues, including increased risk of heart disease, kidney damage, nerve damage, and vision problems. [11]

Secondly, elevated blood sugar levels, even in the absence of diabetes, can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, excessive thirst, and frequent urination, which can impact your quality of life. [11]

Thirdly, preventing hyperglycemia is a proactive approach to reducing your risk of developing diabetes in the future. Elevated blood sugar is often an early warning sign of prediabetes, a condition that can progress to type 2 diabetes if left unaddressed. By managing blood sugar through a healthy lifestyle, you can lower your risk of diabetes and its associated complications.

Additionally, maintaining stable blood sugar levels can help you feel more energetic, focused, and physically fit, contributing to your overall sense of well-being and vitality. [11] As you see, preventing hyperglycemia, even in the absence of diabetes, is a preventive measure to safeguard your long-term health and enjoy a better quality of life.

And how can you do that?

Eat Healthy – Dietary Modifications

Adopting a balanced, low-glycemic diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, lean proteins, assorted fruits, and healthy fats can help you regulate blood sugar levels. You should limit your consumption of sugary and highly processed foods, like fast food, as well as practice portion control. [11]

Move That Body – Regular Physical Activity

Engaging in regular exercise, such as aerobic activities and strength training, enhances your insulin sensitivity, allowing cells to absorb glucose better. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. Take a walk in the park, go running for 15–20 minutes, or visit a fitness studio to work out under professional guidance. [12]

Prioritize Yourself – Stress Management

Think about what puts stress on you and how you may improve certain aspects of your daily routine or workday to limit stress. Maybe you can organize yourself a little better or you need to learn to say “no” to some social gatherings. There are multiple ways to reduce your stress levels. [1]

Implementing stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, and mindfulness can also help you mitigate stress, which leads to the release of stress hormones that can elevate blood sugar.

Early Intervention – Regular Monitoring

Monitoring your blood sugar levels as directed by a healthcare provider or with CARE provides you with insight into certain trends and allows for early intervention if your levels start to rise or stay at elevated levels. Consistency in monitoring is especially important for individuals with diabetes, pre-diabetes, or regular occurrences of hyperglycemia.

Spend Some Time With Mr. Sandman – Adequate Sleep

Sleep deprivation and poor sleep quality can lead to insulin resistance, a condition where your body's cells do not respond effectively to insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. When cells become insulin resistant, they don't allow glucose to enter easily, leading to elevated blood sugar levels. [5]

Therefore, ensuring adequate, quality sleep promotes hormonal balance and can contribute to improved blood sugar levels. [5]

Weight Management

Maintaining a healthy weight, particularly if you are overweight or obese, can significantly reduce your risk of hyperglycemia. Even modest weight loss can lead to improved insulin sensitivity. [4]

Raise Your Glass – Hydration

Raise your glass, but only with water. Staying well-hydrated is crucial for maintaining balanced glucose levels, as dehydration can lead to higher blood sugar levels. [13]

Aim to drink plenty of water throughout the day – at least two liters (or half a gallon.)

Understand Your Glucose Levels With A CARE Blood Analysis

Gaining insight into the causes behind your elevated blood sugar levels without diabetes is essential for safeguarding your health and well-being. As we've explored, stress, medications, infections, hormonal imbalances, and lifestyle choices can all contribute to the phenomenon of hyperglycemia – high blood sugar without diabetes.

Whether you are living with diabetes or not, it is paramount to grasp the significance of regular blood analysis to monitor your blood sugar levels. By doing so, you can proactively manage and address any fluctuations, thereby reducing your risk of developing health conditions like diabetes.

Your health is a precious asset, and taking proactive measures to keep your blood sugar at a stable level is a fundamental component of its preservation.

So, now that you understand what leads to high blood sugar without diabetes consider the invaluable insights that a blood analysis by CARE can offer in your journey toward optimal health.

In a profound consultation with a CARE healthcare specialist that follows your blood analysis, we will take the time to speak with you about your individual blood count. In this consultation, we will explain in detail what your blood values indicate and how you can take your health to the next level by adjusting your lifestyle, diet, or certain aspects of your daily routine.

List of References

Blog Author Elena Health Coach at CARE

Elena Iagovitina

Health Coach at CARE Zurich

About the author

Elena is an enthusiastic Health Coach and blog writer at CARE, with a passion for holistic medicine and health. Previously, Elena worked for almost five years as a coach leading retreats, workshops, and seminars. These included mind-body therapy: breath work, meditation, and massage; as well as energy force therapy: reiki, and qi gong; and third expressive therapy: movement, writing and support groups. Elena shares exciting articles on the blog, on the topic of where the alternative and traditional medicine intersect with Western Medicine. Elena is also the driving force behind the CARE community. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, traveling to remote locations and dancing. You might also see her on the lake of Zurich as a coast guard. Join her on her journey to learn more about health and discover the world of preventive medicine! Visit all articles written by Elena!