Blood Sugar Basics: What Is Blood Sugar
The term blood sugar refers to the sugar, or glucose, that is floating around in your bloodstream at any given time. Blood sugar, or blood glucose is the main source of sugar found in your blood, and comes from the food you eat.
If you are monitoring your blood sugar, it is important to keep these numbers in check according to the American Diabetes Association .
Your blood sugar needs to be in the right range for you to be healthy. At least some glucose is necessary for your muscle, liver, and some other cells to use as fuel so they can function.
At least some sugar is necessary for your cells and organs to function properly. When our blood sugar levels get too low, it is called hypoglycemia. Without enough glucose as fuel, we lose the ability to function normally. This can make us feel weak, dizzy, and sweaty. And it can even lead to loss of consciousness.
On the other hand, blood sugar levels that get too high are also harmful, this is called hyperglycemia. Our blood sugar levels can get too high when we dont have enough insulin, or when our insulin isnt working well. This is the case for people who have prediabetes or diabetes. If it isnt treated, high blood sugar can lead to serious problems that can be deadly
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains that keeping blood sugar levels in the target range is vital. It can help us prevent serious health concerns like heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease, for example.
What Is A Normal Blood Sugar Level
According to the American Diabetes Association, a normal fasting blood sugar is less than 100 mg/dL.
A fasting blood sugar reading of 100-125 mg/dL indicates prediabetes, and a reading above 125 indicates diabetes.
|Fasting Blood Sugar|
|100 mg/dl to 125 mg/dl||Prediabetes|
|126 mg/dl or higher||Diabetes|
If you test your blood sugar two hours after eating or drinking something containing sugar instead , the numbers to look for are:
|Oral Glucose Tolerance Test|
|140 mg/dl to 199 mg/dl||Prediabetes|
You can learn more in the in-depth article: What Are Normal Blood Sugar Levels?
Is 66/ 120 Blood Sugar Level Too High
We love answering reader questions so if you ever have one yourself, please send it in
I was wondering if a 120 blood sugar level is too high?
For those measuring blood sugar in mmol, 120 is equal to 6.6 mmol/l.
So lets look at a blood sugar chart, then have a chat about optimal levels.
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Why Is My Blood Glucose High In The Morning
By analogy, if the temperature gauge in your car indicated the engine was running too hot, how concerned should you be? It would depend on why the engine was too hot, wouldnât it? If you simply forgot to get an oil change, then the fix might be quite simple. Conversely, if the problem is stemming from a glitch in one of the onboard computers and is affecting multiple systems, then you need to get to a mechanic ASAP.
Similarly, there are several known reasons for your metabolic engine to ârun too hotâ. Here are some of the more common ones:
Family History Of Type 2 Diabetes
Prediabetes has a hereditary factor. If someone in your immediate family has T2Dor has had T2D in the pastyou are more likely to develop prediabetes and type 2 diabetes yourself.
Your race and ethnicity also affect your likelihood of developing prediabetes. There is a genetic component, but research has shown that racial disparities in who develops diabetes have more to do with socio-economic status and the accessibility of health care and healthy food in your community than your genes.
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How Is It Determined If The Dawn Phenomenon Or Somogyi Effect Is Causing The High Blood Sugar Levels
Your doctor will likely ask you to check your blood sugar levels between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. for several nights in a row. If your blood sugar is consistently low during this time, the Somogyi effect is suspected. If the blood sugar is normal during this time period, the dawn phenomenon is more likely to be the cause.
Some additional clues that the Somogyi effect may be the cause include nightmares, restless sleep and overnight sweating as these are all signs of low blood sugar levels.
Lifestyle Strategies To Lower Morning Blood Sugar Levels
The truth is, that despite the fact we know the Dawn Phenomenon exists, and worsens morning blood sugar in those with diabetes and prediabetes, researchers still havent solved exactly how to lower morning levels.
However, try some of the following methods to see if they work for you. Every person is different and while there is no one proven method for lowering morning levels, many people do report one, or a combination of the following helps.
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Diabetes Blood Sugar Level Goals
mg/dl levelsmmol/l levels
As you can see from this chart, a level of 6.6/ 120 is not too high.
Ideally you do want it under 110 for your morning fasting level. But lots of people do find their morning levels higher. Read this to find out why.
You can also see that having a 120 reading 2 hours after meals would be excellent and before bed a reading of 120 is in the mid range too, so thats perfectly okay.
How Blood Sugar Testing Could Help You
Whenever you eat, your blood sugar level rises, before dropping again some time later. This is called a postprandial, or post-meal, response and is perfectly normal.
However, some foods cause your blood sugar to rise much higher than others. These spikes can lead to bigger dips afterward due to large amounts of insulin released in response to the sugar spike. This can leave you feeling tired or lacking in energy.
Over time, this pattern can increase your risk of metabolic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Importantly, ZOEs research has shown that everyone responds differently to foods. This means a food thats fine for one persons blood sugar may cause others to spike, and vice versa.
ZOEs at-home test uses a sensor called a continuous glucose monitor to measure your blood sugar levels throughout the day and night, before and after you eat. This helps us to see how different foods affect your levels.
But unlike having just a CGM, our tests also look at your blood fat levels and your gut microbiome the bacteria and other microorganisms that live in your gut. These are both linked to your metabolic health, too.
The ZOE program analyzes all of this information to give you personalized recommendations that can help you eat the best foods for your unique metabolism and avoid the responses associated with worse metabolic health.
You can take a free quiz to find out more.
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How To Reduce Blood Sugar
You can take steps to reach your blood sugar goals as soon as you find out that it is high. This is how to reduce blood sugar if you have a single high reading that may be dangerous:
- Ask your doctor what to do if you missed a dose of insulin or another diabetes medication
- Ask your doctor if your medication types and doses are still appropriate for you
- Drink water to dilute the sugar
- Exercise for 15 minutes
- Eat a small protein snack, such as a hard-boiled egg, ½ ounce of peanuts or pistachios or other nuts, ½ cup of beans, or ½ cup of plain yogurt or cottage cheese
If you have chronically high blood sugar in prediabetes or diabetes, you can follow this treatment plan:
- Exercise regularly, assuming your doctor approves it
- Lose weight if you are overweight or obese
- Eat a higher proportion of vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, and fruit
- Limit sugary foods and beverages, fried foods, refined starches, and processed and fatty red meats
- Beware of starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, which can spike your blood sugar. Check out our guide of which veggies to avoid!
What Are Normal Blood Sugar Levels
Normal blood sugar levels differ depending on a persons age and other health conditions.
- Fasting/upon waking and before meals: 80 to 99 mg/dL
- After meals/before bed: 80 to 140 mg/dL
- Fasting/upon waking and before meals: 80 to 130 mg/dL
- After meals/before bed: Less than 180 mg/dL
- Fasting/upon waking and before meals: 60 to 99 mg/dL
- After meals/before bed: 100 to 129 mg/dL
For pregnant women who have gestational diabetes, normal blood sugar ranges are:
- Fasting/upon waking and before meals: less than 96 mg/dL
- After meals/before bed: less than 120 mg/dL
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Apple Cider Vinegar & Cheese Before Bed
One small study found that having 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with 1 oz cheese before bed may help reduce morning glucose by 4% to 6%.
Cheese on its own may reduce it by 2% but the acetic acid in the vinegar exerts additional positive influence. The best apple cider vinegar to use is this one by Braggs. If you cant stomach the vinegar, you can also purchase capsules. As for best cheese, cheddar is one of the best choices here, though you could try other options if you wish.
*NOTE: this tip alone is proving to help many people.
After 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar & 1 oz cheese last night, my FBS in the morning is 98. It works! ~Dianne
I tried the vinegar and cheese before bed. It actually worked. My fasting reading was lower this morning. Thanks!~Michelle
Try it yourself: 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with 1 oz cheese before bed.
When You Ate The Night Before
In addition to what you eat, you also need to consider when you eat.
Eating late into the night can cause your morning glucose values to be high. Your cells are not as sensitive to insulin later at night, which can cause a higher and more prolonged glucose response to meals eaten late.
A 2017 study showed that shifting oneâs eating window from 8am-7pm to 12pm-11pm decreased fat oxidation and increased glucose oxidation. In other words, participants were burning less body fat and relying more on glucose for fuel. Since glucose stores are limited in the body, this meant their bodies had to produce more glucose to manage blood levels. Not good!
Conversely, another study in 2019 showed that compressing the eating window to the first half of the day significantly improved glucose response and had beneficial effects on fat metabolism and circadian rhythm. The participants ate the same amount of calories, but by simply shifting when they ate them, they were able to positively influence a number of biomarkers.
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Hormones Raise Blood Glucose
Around 3-4 am each morning, there are a collection of counter regulatory hormones that are signaled in the body: glucagon, epinephrine, growth hormone, and cortisol, which result in a rise in blood sugar.
This change in hormones occurs to stimulate our awakening, to get us moving and to give us energy. This is referred to as the Dawn Phenomenon or Dawn Effect.
This is in fact a normal response. This occurs in everyone, diabetic or not.
However, if you have diabetes or prediabetes there is one additional factor that impacts both the overnight glucose production and the rise in glucose with cortisol, and that is decreased insulin production or decreased utilization of insulin.
Keep A Consistent Exercise Routine
The best exercise is the one you do regularly. Donât let the âperfectâ become the enemy of âgood enoughâ. It is far better to consistently walk 15 minutes a day or strength train three times per week than it is to grind out a marathon-like workout once every 3 or 4 months when the motivation strikes.
Find a movement practice that you love doing and make it a non-negotiable part of your life. Leverage the insights from behavioral science to design your environment for success.
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Blood Sugar Levels Chart
Below chart displays possible blood sugar levels . Units are expressed in mg/dL and mmol/L respectively. Additional topics: What is diabetes? How do you know if you have diabetes? How to test for diabetes? Why is it important to measure your blood sugar levels frequently? Diet for people with diabetes You can also download or print this chart by clicking here. Reference: American Diabetes Association, Additional topics: What is diabetes? How do you know if you have diabetes? How to test for diabetes? What is normal blood sugar level? Why is it important to measure your blood sugar levels frequently? Diet for people with diabetesContinue reading > >
A1c Goals Should Be Individualized
A1c goals should be individualized based on the individual capabilities, risks, and prior experiences, explains Gary Scheiner, MS, CDE, founder of Integrated Diabetes, and author of Think Like a Pancreas.
For example, we generally aim for very tight A1c levels during pregnancy and more conservative targets in young children and the elderly.
However, Scheiner highlights important factors that could justify aiming for a higher A1c, like hypoglycemia unawareness, which is described as when a person with diabetes no longer feels the oncoming warning signs of low blood sugar. This can put you at significant risk for severe low blood sugars resulting in seizures or death. To reduce that risk, you would aim for higher target blood sugar ranges.
Someone with significant hypoglycemia unawareness and a history of severe lows should target higher blood glucose levels than someone who can detect and manage their lows more effectively, adds Scheiner. And certainly, someone who has been running A1cs in double digits for quite some time should not be targeting an A1c of 6% better to set modest, realistic, achievable goals.
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What To Expect From Your Blood Sugar In The Morning
After an overnight fast, a normal blood sugar level is less than 100 milligrams per deciliter , according to the American Diabetes Association . But, according to Susan Spratt, MD, an endocrinologist and associate professor of medicine at Duke University School of Medicine, not everyone with type 1 or type 2 diabetes has to shoot for “normal” levels.
“If you’re young, the goal may be to get your fasting blood sugar levels to less than 120 mg/dL,” Dr. Spratt says. But if you’re older and have other health conditions, that number may be higher, she says.
The ADA points out that not everyone will have the same blood sugar level goals. Instead, your endocrinologist or doctor will calculate your target number based on your age, how long you’ve had diabetes, whether you have health conditions like heart disease and other factors.
The Danger Of High Blood Sugar
Having a high blood sugar means there is too much sugar in the blood because the body is lacking in insulin. This can happen for many reasons, including not taking enough insulin exogenously, too little exercise, eating too much, or even stress, hormonal changes, or lack of sleep.
High blood sugar is dangerous, but its important to remember that high blood sugar is mostly dangerous over prolonged periods of time .
This means that, for the most part, your blood sugar at diagnosis will not cause long-term complications, and the spike you saw last week from eating an ice cream sundae wont impact you over the long term.
But chronic, prolonged high blood sugars will cause diabetes complications in most people.
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Is Your Elevated Morning Blood Sugar The Dawn Phenomenon Or Too Many Carbs
To understand if elevated morning blood glucose numbers are a result of the dawn phenomenon or from too many dietary carbohydrates, make sure you test multiple times throughout the day.
First and foremost, you should be familiar with what your fasting glucose looks like. Whether it be your most recent lab values from the doctor or checking your glucose with a meter, the best way to know where your fasting glucose falls is to measure it, and to test it on a few different days.
Similarly, testing your glucose throughout the day, before and after meals, and before you go to bed can help you understand how your body responds to the food you eat.
What Is The Normal Range For Blood Sugar Levels And What Blood Sugar Level Constitutes A True Emergency
Dr. Horton answers the question: ‘Normal Range For Blood Sugar Levels?’
& #151 — Question:What is the normal range for blood sugar levels, and what blood sugar level constitutes a true emergency?
Answer:Now, in a normal individual we measure blood sugar under different circumstances. What we call fasting blood sugar or blood glucose levels is usually done six to eight hours after the last meal. So it’s most commonly done before breakfast in the morning and the normal range there is 70 to 100 milligrams per deciliter.
Now when you eat a meal, blood sugar generally rises and in a normal individual it usually does not get above a 135 to 140 milligrams per deciliter. So there is a fairly narrow range of blood sugar throughout the entire day.
Now in our diabetic patients we see both low blood sugar levels that we call hypoglycemia, or elevated blood sugars, hyperglycemia. Now, if the blood sugar drops below about 60 or 65 milligrams per deciliter, people will generally get symptoms, which are some shakiness, feeling of hunger, maybe a little racing of the heart and they will usually be trenchant or if they eat something, it goes away right away. But if blood sugar drops below 50 and can get down as low as 40 or 30 or even 20, then there is a progressive loss of mental function and eventually unconsciousness and seizures. And of course that is very dangerous and a medical emergency.
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