The Power Of Prevention
The high prevalence of adult obesity in America, which is now around 35%, is largely to blame for the prediabetes epidemic, says Dr. Ganda. But if your blood sugar is on the high side, you don’t need to make drastic changes to see improvements. The Diabetes Prevention Program, a landmark study published 15 years ago, showed that cutting out 150 calories per day and walking briskly for 30 minutes, five days a week, cut the risk of developing diabetes by more than half . You should also avoid refined carbohydrates, such as white rice, foods made with white flour, and sugary treats like desserts and sodas. Losing weight is ideal but not absolutely mandatory.
“I tell my patients, don’t be disheartened if you don’t lose weight,” says Dr. Ganda. If you keep exercising regularly, even if your weight doesn’t change, your body composition will change. Losing fat and gaining muscle will improve your response to insulin, as will the exercise itself. “Think of doing exercise as having a little bit of extra insulin on board,” he says.
How To Lower Blood Sugar
Its best to always talk to your doctor about what to do if a certain situation presents itself. For example, your doctor may recommend you take an additional dose of insulin to lower blood sugar. Make sure youre aware of the dose that should be taken, as well as what level it should be taken at.
While lowering blood sugar for some requires taking insulin or other medication, there are some simple things that can be done to help get blood sugar moving in the right direction.
Drinking water is a simple, effective way to help lower blood sugar. It wont get you all the way back to normal when your blood sugar level is very high, but it will usually help get it moving downward. When your body needs to get rid of extra glucose, it can dispose of it through urine. In order for this to happen, you need to be properly hydrated.
Additionally, exercising can serve as a long term proactive means of lowering average blood sugar. When you exercise, your body becomes more sensitive to insulin in your body and can pull sugar from the blood to use for energy. This is another effective way to lower your blood sugar levels naturally. Make sure that the exercise youre doing isnt too strenuous. Even going for a walk can be the exercise the body needs to use some of the excess glucose in the blood.
Blood Sugar And Diabetes
In a person with diabetes, the story is much more complex. The body has largely or entirely lost the ability to regulate blood glucose levels, and as a result glucose levels are likely to be volatile and to inhabit a much wider range of values:
|Below 70 mg/dLBelow 3.8 mmol/L||Low Blood Sugars . When blood sugars drop below this level, you may start feeling hunger, shakiness, or racing of the heart. Your body is starved for sugar . Read how to detect and treat low blood sugars.|
|70 mg/dL to 140 mg/dL3.8 mmol/L to 7.7 mmol/L||Normal Blood Sugar. In this range, the body is functioning normally. In someone without diabetes, the vast majority of the time is spent in the lower half of this range.|
|140 mg/dL to 180 mg/dL7.7 mmol/L to 10 mmol/L||Elevated Blood Sugars. In this range, the body can function relatively normally. However, extended periods of time in this zone put you at risk for long-term complications.|
|Above 180 mg/dLAbove 10 mmol/L||High Blood Sugars. At this range, the kidney is unable to reabsorb all of the glucose in your blood and you begin to spill glucose in your urine. Your body may begin to turn to fat for energy and release ketones in your urine.|
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How To Check Blood Sugar
There are basically two main tests which are conducted to determine whether someone has diabetes.
Impaired fasting glycemia testWhen being tested for diabetes by a impaired fasting glycemia test, blood sugar levels will normally be taken after around eight hours of fasting.
Impaired glucose tolerance testAn impaired glucose tolerance test involves taking a concentrated amount of glucose and then measuring blood sugar levels after two hours.
In a healthy person, a normal blood glucose level is between 72 mg/dL and 108 mg/dL . Read on how to check blood sugar values.
For checking your blood sugar level, you will need:
Medical alcohol to clean the skin where you will prick your finger, a sterile tool to prick your finger, some test strips and a glucose meter to read the test strip.
|Glucose mg/dL or mmol/L level||Value|
A Note About Accuracy
In the USA, a blood glucose meter can be approved for sale so long as the results are consistently within 20% of the accurate value. That means that if your blood sugar is 180 mg/dL or 10 mmol/L, your meter may display a result of 216 mg/dL or 144 mg/dL . In practice, most meters are more accurate than that, but even an expensive hospital blood test using calibrated equipment has a 10% margin of error.
So dont panic if you check your blood sugar and its 140 mg/dL and a few minutes later, its 150 mg/dL . This may just be the normal discrepancy in the measurements. Look for trends over time to truly understand whats happening.
Similarly, CGM measurements also have a margin of error , and varies slightly depending on the specific system.
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What Are Normal Blood Sugar Levels
You might want to measure your blood sugar before meals to get a baseline, and then two hours after your meal to measure your normal blood sugar level. Your doctor might also suggest measuring blood sugar before bed to be sure you have been eating well throughout the day and can go to sleep with peace of mind.
These are considered within the range of normal:
- Less than 140 mg/dl if you do not have diabetes.
- Less than 180 mg/dl if you have diabetes.
How Should You Treat Hypoglycaemia
The symptoms of low blood glucose include: weakness, dizziness or feeling light-headed, nervousness, sweating, pounding heartbeat, hunger and thirst, and confusion.
To tackle hypoglycaemia, follow the 15-15 rule: Have 15 grams of carbohydrate or fast-acting sugar, such as half a cup of regular fruit juice or 4 glucose tablets, to raise your blood glucose. Check your level after 15 minutes. If its still below 70 mg/dL , repeat the above step until your blood sugar reaches normal levels. Once your blood glucose is at least 70 mg/dL , have a snack or a meal to ensure it doesnt lower again.
Severely low blood sugarIf your hypoglycaemia is left untreated, or if your blood sugar level remains abnormally low and does not increase, you may pass out. In such cases, you need to be given emergency glucagon and require immediate medical attention.
The people around you, such as your family members, friends, or co-workers, should be taught how to administer glucagon in case of an emergency. They should also remember: NOT to give you insulin, as it will lower your blood sugar even more NOT to give you anything to eat or drink if you are unconscious, as it could cause you to choke.
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What Blood Sugar Levels Are Healthy
Weve established what normal blood sugar looks like, more or less. But normal levels can be challenging for people with diabetes to achieve. At what point does high blood sugar get dangerous?
This is an area of some debate. The long-term studies show that the risk of complications drop off dramatically when an HbA1c is lower than 7%, which is an estimated average blood glucose of 154 mg/dL or 8.6 mmol/L. The risks continue to drop until its below 6%, an average blood sugar of 126 mg/dL or 7 mmol/L. There are many people with diabetes who strive for even lower targets, but there is not much research outlining the benefits of that approach yet.
Its important to note that studies of A1c and the rate of complications are only looking at averages. In reality, there seems to be a huge difference in the risk of complications based on genetics and perhaps other unknown factors. There are many people who have lived for many decades with type 1 diabetes, running high blood sugars almost continuously, and have no complications. There are others who have had well-controlled blood sugars that still get complications.
For most people, its safe to say that striving for an HbA1c of below 7% and probably below 6.5% is a realistic goal for staying healthy.
This chart from the American Diabetes Association lists some of the other factors that may indicate when a patient should target a lower or higher blood sugar level:
What Factors Affect Blood Sugar
You can guess that carbohydrate intake and insulin production are at least partly responsible for your blood sugar levels. But the list is much longer — almost every lifestyle choice you make can affect your blood sugar. Here’s just a partial list.
- Exercise can affect insulin sensitivity, leading to lower blood sugar for up to 48 hours.
- Alcohol intake increases insulin production, causing low blood sugar.
- Stress hormones like cortisol can raise blood sugar, because your body wants access to energy in order to escape what it perceives as a dangerous situation.
- Medications, especially statins and diuretics, can raise blood sugar. Statins are used to treat cholesterol, and diuretics for high blood pressure.
- Diet is a major player in blood sugar. Eating too many simple carbs at once can cause levels to skyrocket, while protein intake leads to a slower increase in blood sugar.
- Dehydration raises blood sugar, because with less water in your body the glucose concentration will be higher.
Other surprising factors can affect your blood sugar, like a sunburn or gum disease, so if you’re dealing with a blood sugar issue and can’t figure out what’s causing your spikes and dips, talk to a health care professional.
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Improving Fasting Blood Sugar Levels
If a person does not have perfect fasting blood sugar levels, yet the levels are not quite high enough to be considered diabetes, they should take it as an opportunity to improve their health and achieve average blood glucose levels prior to developing type 2 diabetes. Usually, high blood sugar levels have to do with a poor diet, but even more often they have to do with a person’s lack of exercise and physical activity.
A number of medical studies have shown a dramatic relationship between elevated blood sugar levels and insulin resistance in people who are not very active on a daily or regular basis. Many of the same studies have also shown that the most efficient way of improving insulin resistance is to increase the amount of physical activity. Doing so helps a person to achieve weight loss, increase blood flow and circulation, as well as lower blood sugar levels.
Blood Sugar Levels: What’s Normal What’s Not And How To Measure
What do blood glucose levels mean and what range is healthy? Here’s what you need to know.
Sugar can lead to high blood sugar and contributes to the development of diabetes.
We all want to keep track of our health in every way we can — you may weigh yourself, keep track of your blood pressure or monitor your resting heart rate. But how close of an eye do you keep on your blood sugar?
People with diabetes are all too familiar with their blood sugar levels, but the rest of us might not even think about it much. However, consistently high blood sugar levels can coexist with Type 2 diabetes and cause serious health conditions like kidney disease, nerve problems or stroke.
While that’s no reason to panic, when it comes to our health, it’s important to know exactly what’s going on inside of our bodies. Without further ado, let’s get into what blood sugar means, how to measure it and everything else you need to know.
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When To Get Urgent Medical Attention
Contact your diabetes care team immediately if you have a high blood sugar level and experience the following symptoms:
- feeling or being sick
- a fever for more than 24 hours
- signs of dehydration, such as a headache, dry skin and a weak, rapid heartbeat
- difficulty staying awake
These symptoms could be a sign of a more serious complication of hyperglycaemia, such as diabetic ketoacidosis or a hyperosmolar hyperglycaemic state, and you may need to be looked after in hospital.
High Blood Sugar Symptoms: Causes Signs And Taking Control
If youve had diabetes for any length of time at all, youve probably seen lists of the signs and symptoms of high blood sugar dozens of times. Doctors and diabetes educators hand them out. Hundreds of websites reprint them. Most diabetes books list them. You likely know some of the items on the list by heart: thirst, frequent urination, blurry vision, slow healing of cuts, and more.
But have you ever stopped to wonder why these symptoms occur? How does high blood sugar cause frequent urination, make your vision go blurry, or cause all of those other things to happen? Here are some answers to explain whats going on in your body when you have high blood sugar.
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How Do I Measure Blood Sugar
If you have diabetes, you probably already keep a watchful eye on your blood sugar through the use of a continuous glucose monitor or a blood sugar meter . Blood sugar measurement is also typically included in routine lab work for people without diabetes — your physician will usually order a glycated hemoglobin test, which measures your average blood sugar over the past two to three months.
Say your A1C test comes back with no sign of diabetes — constantly measuring your blood sugar can still be helpful. For instance, some people experiment with using a CGM to see how their body responds to different types of food. However, it’s good to note that this is a fairly cost-intensive way of figuring out your nutrition, and writing down a food diary that includes how you felt after each meal will also help you figure out what to eat.
Check out these blood sugar monitors if you’re looking for recommendations on how to keep track of your levels at home.
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.
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Average Blood Sugar Levels
|140 mg/dL 2 hours after eating|
|180 mg/dL 1 hour after drinking glucose|
|155 mg/dL 2 hours after drinking glucose|
|140 mg/dL 3 hours after drinking glucose|
|95 mg/dL after fasting for glucose-tolerance test for pregnant women|
The results of blood sugar tests vary by testing method and lab but generally doctors consider a fasting blood sugar of up to 100 mg/dL to be within the average range. From blood drawn 2 hours after a person eats, doctors consider a level of up to 140 mg/dL to be average. In a glucose-tolerance test for pregnant women, a level of 95 mg/dL after fasting is considered to be the, ‘target,’ level. A doctor who is concerned might order additional testing at 1,2 and 3 hours after a person drinks glucose. The target levels for those tests are 180 mg/dL, 155 mg/dL and 140 mg/dL. Gestational diabetes is indicated if 2 or more of the 4 levels equal or go over the desired target level.
Nausea Vomiting Confusion And More
These seemingly disparate symptoms are all signs of a rare and life-threatening state called diabetic ketoacidosis , according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. DKA can cause the symptoms above, as well as stomach pain, trouble breathing, dry or flushed skin, fruity-smelling breath, or difficulty paying attention. It usually occurs in people with type 1 diabetes and is sometimes the first sign they are sick, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. DKA happens when the liver is unable to use the sugar in the blood for energy without insulin and begins to break down body fat into a type of fuel called ketones at such a high rate that they become toxic and make the blood acidic, the U.S. National Library of Medicine explains. DKA can be fatal if left untreated, so anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek care immediately.
Over time, untreated high blood sugar can cause additional symptoms, such as:
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