When Things Go Awry
When we eat food, the pancreas goes to work, releasing enzymes that help to break down food and hormones that help the body handle the influx of glucose. One of these hormones is insulin, and it plays a key role in managing glucose levels in the blood.
And here is where things can go wrong. If the pancreas doesnt make enough insulin or stops making it altogether, in the case of type 1 diabetes glucose levels in the blood can rise too high. Another scenario is that the pancreas makes enough insulin but the cells have trouble using it properly, causing blood glucose levels to rise. This is called insulin resistance and is the hallmark of type 2 diabetes.
In the short term, high blood glucose levels can make you feel downright bad. Thirst, frequent trips to the bathroom, fatigue and weight loss are all symptoms of high blood glucose . If not treated, more serious issues can occur, such as diabetic ketoacidosis. Chronic high blood glucose levels can lead to complications such as heart, kidney and eye disease, as well as nerve damage. So, its all about the blood glucose.
Whats My Target Range
You might be asking, what’s the normal range for blood sugar levels? The answer is, there is a healthy range that you should ideally be aiming for. The infographics above show the general guidelines, but your individual target range for your blood sugar levels may be different. Youll healthcare team will agree with you what it is.
Youll get different readings at different times of the day, depending on things like what youve eaten and how much you are moving around. Heres a guide to help you get started on finding your target range:
If youre a child with Type 1 diabetes
- when you wake up and before meals: 4 to 7mmol/l
- after meals: 5 to 9mmol/l
If youre an adult with Type 1 diabetes
- when you wake up and before meals: 5 to 7mmol/l
- before meals at other times of the day: 4 to 7mmol/l
If you have Type 2 diabetes
- before meals: 4 to 7mmol/l
- two hours after meals: less than 8.5mmol/l
Normal Blood Sugar Levels Vs Hyperglycemia
If youve been diagnosed with diabetes, your endocrinologist will tell you what your target blood glucose levels are. Your levels may be different from what is usually considered as normal because of age, pregnancy, or other factors. You will be given two target levels, or ranges, one applying to when you haven’t eaten for a number of hours and one for after meals .
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What Are Normal Blood Sugar Levels After Eating
Your blood sugar level is influenced by several factors, including the food you eat. During digestion, carbohydrates are converted into sugar which your body uses as an energy source. Excess sugar from any source is stored in your cells for later use. When your cells contain too much sugar, though, it can lead to type 2 diabetes. This is why eating a balanced diet to maintain a normal blood sugar range is important.
Blood sugar levels can vary based on many factors, including age and life expectancy, comorbidities like heart disease, stress, and lifestyle factors like physical activity, smoking, or drinking alcohol.
What Do My Results Mean
When you finish the blood sugar check, write down your results and note what factors may have affected them, such as food, activity, and stress. Take a close look at your blood glucose record to see if your level is too high or too low several days in a row at about the same time. If the same thing keeps happening, it might be time to change your diabetes care plan. Work with your doctor or diabetes educator to learn what your results mean for you. It can take time to make adjustments and get things just right. And do ask your doctor if you should report results out of a certain range right away by phone.
Keep in mind that blood glucose results often trigger strong feelings. Blood sugar numbers can leave you upset, confused, frustrated, angry, or down. It’s easy to use the numbers to judge yourself. Remind yourself that tracking your blood sugar level is simply a way to know how well your diabetes care plan is working, and whether that plan may need to change.
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How Do You Know What Your Blood Glucose Level Is
For the most part, you cant feel what your blood glucose level is unless its fairly high or its low. You may not even always have symptoms of either high or low blood glucose in fact, many people with type 2 diabetes dont have the usual symptoms of high blood glucose, and for this reason, its not uncommon for people to go undiagnosed for many years.
The best way to know your blood glucose level is to check it with a glucose meter. This means doing a fingerstick with a lancet and getting a drop of blood onto a test strip, then inserting the strip into the meter for a reading. Your doctor may be able to give you a meter free of charge, but youll likely need to pay for test strips and lancets. But check with your health plan, as there are likely one or two preferred meters that they want you to use.
Another way to know what your glucose levels are up to is to use a continuous glucose monitor, or CGM, which reads glucose in the interstitial fluid about every 5 minutes. Continuous glucose monitoring is expensive and may or may not be covered by your health plan.
What Should My Blood Sugar Level Be
When you’re first diagnosed with diabetes, your diabetes care team will usually tell you what your blood sugar level is and what you should aim to get it down to.
You may be advised to use a testing device to monitor your blood sugar level regularly at home.
Or you may have an appointment with a nurse or doctor every few months to see what your average blood sugar level is. This is known as your HbA1c level.
Target blood sugar levels differ for everyone, but generally speaking:
- if you monitor yourself at home with a self-testing kit a normal target is 4 to 7mmol/l before eating and under 8.5 to 9mmol/l 2 hours after a meal
- if your HbA1c level is tested every few months a normal HbA1c target is below 48mmol/mol
The Diabetes UK website has more about blood sugar levels and testing.
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What Should My Bgl Be
For a person without diabetes, throughout the day blood glucose levels will generally range between 4.0 7.8 millimoles of glucose per litre of blood regardless of how they eat or exercise, or what stress theyre under.
When youre living with diabetes your body cannot, or finds it hard to, keep your BGLs within a healthy range.
Because each person living with diabetes is different, your GP or specialist will set target BGLs that are right for you. However, here is some information you can use as a general guide.
What Are Normal Blood Glucose Levels In Healthy Individuals
Blood sugar levels can either be normal, high, or low, depending on how much glucose someone has in their bloodstream. Glucose is a simple sugar thats present in the bloodstream at all times. Normal blood glucose levels can be measured when someone fasts, eats, or after theyve eaten. A normal blood glucose level for adults, without diabetes, who havent eaten for at least eight hours is less than 100 mg/dL. A normal blood glucose level for adults, without diabetes, two hours after eating is 90 to 110 mg/dL.
Many factors affect blood sugar levels throughout the day:
- Type of food consumed, how much, and when
- Physical activity
- Menstrual periods
An ideal blood sugar level for anyone without diabetes or prediabetes, regardless of age, in the morning should be less than 100 mg/dL. Remember, blood sugar levels can fluctuate throughout the day as a result of the factors previously mentioned.
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Symptoms Treatments And Prevention
Hyperglycemia means high glucose in the blood . Your body needs glucose to properly function. Your cells rely on glucose for energy. Hyperglycemia is a defining characteristic of diabetes when the blood glucose level is too high because the body isn’t properly using or doesn’t make the hormone insulin. Over time, hyperglycemia can lead to potentially dangerous complications. Here’s a closer look at this condition, beginning with what glucose is and does in the first place.
Eating too many processed foods may cause your blood sugar to rise.
Make A Note Of Your Readings
It may sound obvious, but you must record your readings. Note them down in a diary, a notebook or in your phone calendar. Some meters have software that lets you do this. You could try a diabetes app too.
You and your healthcare team can then look back over your results to see if you need to adjust your treatment.
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What Causes Low Blood Sugar
Low blood sugar has many causes, including missing a meal, taking too much insulin, taking other diabetes medicines, exercising more than normal, and drinking alcohol. Blood sugar below 70 mg/dL is considered low.
Signs of low blood sugar are different for everyone. Common symptoms include:
Know what your individual symptoms are so you can catch low blood sugar early and treat it. If you think you may have low blood sugar, check it even if you dont have symptoms. Low blood sugar can be dangerous and should be treated as soon as possible.
What Is Blood Glucose Anyway
Blood glucose, or sugar, is sugar that is in your blood . It comes from the food that you eat foods that contain carbohydrate, such as bread, pasta and fruit are the main contributors to blood glucose. The cells in our bodies need glucose for energy and we all need energy to move, think, learn and breathe. The brain, which is the command center, uses about half of all the energy from glucose in the body.
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Learn To Manage Your Stress
We all have stress. However, some people can manage it better than others. Personally, Im a Type-A, and Ive had to work hard and learn ways to manage stress.
Chronic stress takes a toll on your immune system. It makes you more likely to contract a cold or flu, or even develop a chronic autoimmune disease. Stress also raises your cortisol levels, which in turn raises your blood sugar. Its a major cause of high fasting blood sugars.
To manage stress, try any or all of these things:
- Yoga or tai chi
- Keep a gratitude journal
- Use adaptogenic herbs like Tulsi or one of my favorites Ashwagandha
Adaptogens are class of herbs that help your body adapt to various types of stressors. They have long been used in Ayurvedic medicine. Tulsi is one of my favorites and it happens to be another ingredient in Herbaly Wellness Collection tea. Tulsi been shown to enhance your immune system, reduce cortisol levels, and improve blood sugar.
Why Your Blood Sugar Level May Be Low
If blood sugar drops below 70 mg/dL, it is below normal levels. This can be caused by a variety of factors, such as:
- Not eating enough or missing a meal or snack
- Reducing the amount of carbohydrates you normally eat
- Alcohol consumption especially if youre drinking on an empty stomach
- Taking too much insulin or oral diabetes medication based on carbohydrates or activity levels
- Increased physical activity
- Side effects from medications
If you have diabetes, keep your blood glucose meter and sources of fast-acting glucose close by in case your blood sugar drops. This is especially important for people with hypoglycemia unawareness, which is a condition that causes symptoms of low blood sugar to go unnoticed.
Eating balanced meals and snacks at regular times throughout the day is a big part of maintaining normal blood glucose levels. Check out our article on meal planning for diabetes to better understand the three macronutrients where calories come from and which have the biggest effect on blood sugar.
Everyone will respond differently to certain factors, which is why its important to have individualized target glucose levels. To help you reach your target blood glucose goals, work with your healthcare provider to discuss modifications to your diet, physical activity, or medications, and alert them of other factors like a recent illness or stressful event.
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Diabetes Blood Sugar Level Goals
Upon waking before breakfast
- 4.0-7.2 mmol/L
Two hours after meals
- Under 10.0 mmol/L
- 5.0-8.3 mmol/L
As suggested earlier, there is some variation in the blood sugar levels goals set by different organisations. Additionally, your doctor or healthcare team may set your goals at a more stringent level.
For instance, fasting levels:
- 4.0-8.0 mmol/L
- 4.0-7.2 mmol/L
Once you have a type 2 diabetes diagnosis, the overall goals you should aim for is to get your blood sugar levels as close to normaloptimal levels as you possibly can.
BUT, as suggested above, often goals are set with higher targets initially. For instance, if you start out with a high reading of 13.0 or 17.0, your doctor or health practitioner may recommend 11.1 be an initial goal, then 10.0, before gradually working toward 7.8 and lower.
The reason this is often recommended is you can experience symptoms of hypoglycemia if you bring your levels down very quickly. So working toward tighter and tighter control does take some time.
You should work with your healthcare team on this. But overall the most optimal targets to work toward are a fasting glucose under 6.0 mmol/L. And an after-meal reading below 7.8.
Who Is Most At Risk For Developing Diabetes
The following categories of people are considered “high-risk” candidates for developing diabetes:
- Individuals who are overweight or obese
- Individuals who are 45 years of age or older
- Individuals with first-degree relatives with diabetes
- Individuals who are African-American, Alaska Native, American Indian, Asia American, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islanders,
- Women who developed diabetes while they were pregnant or gave birth to large babies
- Individuals with high blood pressure
- Individuals with high-density lipoprotein below 25 mg/dl or triglyceride levels at or above 250 mg/dl
- Individuals who have impaired fasting glucose or impaired glucose tolerance
- Individuals who are physically inactive engaging in exercise less than three times a week
- Individuals who have polycystic ovary syndrome, also called PCOS
- Individuals who have acanthosis nigricans — dark, thick and velvety skin around your neck or armpits
In addition to testing the above individuals at high risk, the American Diabetes Association also recommends screening all individuals age 45 and older.
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Now That Youre Checking Your Blood Glucose What Do The Numbers Mean
Depending on your diabetes treatment plan, your doctor or diabetes educator may advise you to check once a week, once a day or up to 10 times a day . But what does it mean when you see a 67, 101 or 350 on your meter? And what is a normal blood sugar, anyway? Great questions! After all, if you dont know what the numbers on your meter mean, its hard to know how youre doing.
The American Diabetes Association provides guidelines for blood glucose goals for people with diabetes, and the goals vary depending on when youre checking your glucose:
Fasting and before meals: 80130 mg/dl
Postprandial : Less than 180 mg/dl
By the way, these guidelines are for non-pregnant adults with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Children, adolescents and pregnant women may have different goals.
Your blood glucose goals may be different, however. If youre younger, have had diabetes for a shorter amount of time or are not taking any medicine for your diabetes, your glucose goals might be a little tighter, or lower. Likewise, your blood glucose goals may be higher than what ADA recommends if youre older, have diabetes complications, or dont get symptoms when your blood glucose is low.
Bottom line: talk with your health-care provider about the following:
When to check your blood glucose How often to check your blood glucose What your blood glucose goals are
Hba1c The Big Picture On Blood Glucose
Your GP or specialist may request you to have a HbA1c blood test. This blood test provides an average measure of your blood glucose over the previous two to three months.
HbA1c is an important complement to selfmonitoring at home . Understanding your HbA1c levels can help you and your health care team make more informed decisions about your diabetes management. Some medications, treatments and inherited blood conditions can affect HbA1c results. Your doctor should be aware of your medical history to ensure an accurate HbA1c.
Your doctor will recommend a HbA1c target based on your life stage and particular circumstances. Usually this will be around 7% , although this can vary depending on your personal circumstances.
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What Are Common Complications From Living With Diabetes
- Over time, diabetes can damage arteries, which may result in high blood pressure.
- If not controlled, this can lead to stroke, heart failure or heart attack.
- People with diabetes need to keep their blood pressure and cholesterol under control.
- Kidney damage can develop in some people with diabetes.
- If left untreated, this can lead to more severe kidney damage or kidney failure.
- If you have diabetes, you should have your kidney function tested regularly.
Did You Know?
A healthcare provider can help with monitoring blood glucose levels, as well as ensuring that necessary preventive care treatments and advice are received in a timely manner.
- Diabetic eye disease can lead to loss of vision and blindness.
- Regular eye exams can help find problems that can be treated if found early.
Lower Limb Amputation
- Over time, diabetes can damage sensory nerves, especially in the hands and feet.
- As a result, people with diabetes may not feel a foot injury, such as a blister or cut. Even a small injury, if left untreated, can quickly become infected. This can lead to serious complications such as amputation.
- People with diabetes should regularly check their feet and skin for ulcers and wounds .
People with diabetes are likely to develop other conditions such as dental disease and mental illness .