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.
Severe Low Blood Sugar
As your low blood sugar gets worse, you may experience more serious symptoms, including:
- Feeling weak.
- Having difficulty walking or seeing clearly.
- Acting strange or feeling confused.
- Having seizures.
Severe low blood sugar is below 54 mg/dL. Blood sugar this low may make you faint . Often, youll need someone to help you treat severe low blood sugar.
People with diabetes may experience low blood sugar as often as once or twice a week, even when managing their blood sugar closely. Knowing how to identify and treat it is important for your health. Learn how to treat low blood sugar.
Levels In The Morning
The best time to check blood sugar levels in the morning is right when you wake up and before you eat anything. This gives you a glimpse of what may be happening overnight, and it gives you a baseline for the day.
These are goal levels, according to The Joslin Diabetes Center:
- Under 70 mg/dl if you do not have diabetes.
- 70 to 130 mg/dl if you have diabetes.
The dawn effect can often lead to a high morning measurement in diabetes. This is your bodys tendency to get ready for the day by raising blood sugar by increasing levels of counter-regulatory hormones the ones that counteract insulin as in normal blood sugar. For people with diabetes, you do not have the capacity to counterbalance this rise in blood sugar, so levels can be dangerously high.
Ways to lower your morning blood sugar value include:
- Eating dinner earlier
- Checking your medications making sure you are taking them properly and asking your doctor if they are correct
- Going for a walk after dinner
- Including protein with your dinner
Why Your Blood Sugar Level May Be High
Based on the ADA guidelines above, if your blood sugar is above 180 mg/dL two hours after a meal, it is considered above the normal range. What might cause your glucose or blood sugar to rise? Consider the following factors:
- Consuming more carbohydrates or a larger meal than usual
- Not taking enough insulin or oral diabetes medication based on carbohydrates or activity levels
- Reduced physical activity
- Side effects from medications like steroids or antipsychotics
How Can I Prevent Hypoglycemic Episodes
The key to preventing hypoglycemic events is managing diabetes:
- Follow your healthcare providers instructions about food and exercise.
- Track your blood sugar regularly, including before and after meals, before and after exercise and before bed.
- Take all your medications exactly as prescribed.
- When you do have a hypoglycemic event, write it down. Include details such as the time, what you ate recently, whether you exercised, the symptoms and your glucose level.
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Examples Of Appropriate Snacks May Be:
- 6 saltine crackers
- 1 slice toast and 1/2 cup milk
- 1 cup milk
The food eaten for a reaction need not be subtracted from a meal plan.
Obtain a blood sugar when symptoms occur if you are able. If symptoms are severe, treat the reaction first and then obtain a blood sugar. Do not drive nor operate equipment if you feel your blood sugar is low.
If your blood sugar drops low enough for you to become unconscious, you must be taken to the hospital and/or treated with glucagon.
Glucagon is a hormone that causes the blood sugar to rise. It can only be given by injection. It is used to treat a low blood sugar if a person becomes semi-conscious or unconscious due to a severe low blood sugar. Please ask your nurse for instruction on glucagon. Your doctor will need to write a prescription for glucagon so you can have it available at home.
Other Causes Of Low Blood Sugar
While low blood sugar is often associated with diabetes, it can also be affected by other factors. According to Dr. Danine Fruge, Medical Director of the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, Florida, the causes of blood sugar problems can include not only “diabetes, prediabetes , reactive hypoglycemia or other health issues, but also by not eating enough, taking too much insulin or even taking certain diabetes medications.”
Other medications can also cause hypoglycemia, like quinine, or Qualaquin, which is used to treat malaria, or various medications for kidney failure. Exercising more than usual can also cause it, especially while taking such medications.
Some other potential causes for low blood sugar include:
- Heavy drinking without eating
- Eating without ingesting enough carbohydrates
- Eating fewer carbs than usual without reducing insulin amounts, or improper balancing of liquid/solid carbs and timing of insulin
- Hormone deficiencies due to adrenal or pituitary tumor disorders, or in children without sufficient growth hormone
- Long-term starvation, such as that which can occur with anorexia nervosa
- Serious illness like hepatitis, kidney disorders and liver disease
- Pancreatic tumors that make the body secrete too much insulin
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When Blood Sugar Is Too Low
Glucose is a sugar that comes from the foods we eat, and it’s also formed and stored inside the body. It’s the main source of energy for the cells of our body, and is carried to each cell through the bloodstream. Our brains depend on glucose to function, even when we’re sleeping.
The is the amount of glucose in the blood. When these levels drop too low, it’s called hypoglycemia . Very low blood sugar levels can cause serious symptoms that need to be treated right away.
How Can You Prevent Low Blood Sugar
The best way to prevent glucose levels that are too low is to practice careful diabetes management, checking your glucose often , and learning to recognize its early symptoms. Pay attention to the helpful arrows on your blood glucose meter or CGM if the arrow is pointing down, youll want to monitor your blood sugar to make sure you dont go low.
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Low Blood Sugar: What To Watch Out For
Hypoglycemia can occur in people with diabetes who:
- Take too much medication or insulin
- Are late eating a meal or snack
- Have increased physical activity
- Drink too much alcohol
Symptoms of low blood sugar include feeling weak, sweaty or clammy, confused, hungry and/or irritable. Sometimes people experience a fast heartbeat and some symptoms may make a person appear to be drunk. A severely low blood sugar can result in unconsciousness, seizures, coma or death especially when a low occurs during the night.
Low blood sugar affects many parts of the body, but the most frustrating part can be that hypoglycemia can happen anytime and anywhere even when you think you are closely following the plan for your diabetes care. If low blood sugar is severe, people may need to go to the hospital to help raise their glucose level or miss work due to the side effects.
It can happen during a date, during a business meeting, or even while driving, which is the most dangerous scenario if there is confusion or loss of consciousness while behind the wheel. Its important to use your blood glucose meter to check your blood sugar before you drive to keep yourself and others safe. Frequent testing with your blood sugar meter and taking action when blood sugar is trending low can prevent a severe low and keep your life on track.
What Is Normal Blood Sugar
Normal blood sugar or blood glucose levels are between 80 and 130 mg/dL. That number is an average of what is normal for individuals with diabetes. When blood sugar levels are too high, the person may experience hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia can be characterized by extreme thirst and urination, blurred vision, or shakiness, sweating, dizziness, or confusion. When the person has low blood glucose, they may experience hypoglycemia which can be characterized by sweating, dizziness, or confusion.
The range of normal blood glucose levels for people with diabetes is between 80-130 milligrams per deciliter . A persons individual level will depend on many factors including how old they are, their ethnicity, their weight and height, and the activity theyve performed recently.
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Normal Blood Sugar Levels In Children
Younger than 6 years old mg/dL
Adults who are 20 years or older will have blood sugar levels that range between less than 100-180 mg/dL over the course of a day. When you wake up in the morning, your fasting blood sugar should be at its lowest because you havent consumed food for about eight hours. If youre an adult and struggling with glucose control, your healthcare provider can help you develop a treatment plan to manage your blood sugar better.
Blood glucose levels outside the ranges listed above are categorized as either high or low blood sugar. Blood sugar levels are considered high if theyre over 130 mg/dL before a meal or 180 mg/dL within one to two hours after a meal. Many people wont start to experience symptoms from high blood sugar until their levels are at 250 mg/dL or higher. The highest blood sugar level thats considered safe will depend on the person and whether they have diabetes, but will typically be between 160 to 240 mg/dL.
What You Should Know About Low Blood Sugar
If youre worried about Low Blood Sugar, there are some things that you should know. This article is meant to help you deal with this condition. If youre diabetic, you need to watch your sugar levels carefully. A small amount of glucose can cause dangerous consequences. This can lead to serious complications, like death. You should be aware of the warning signs of hypoglycemia. To help you identify the symptoms, you should learn more about the disease and how to manage it.
Acute hypoglycemic condition that can lead to neuro-glyco-penic levels occurs when the brain is not getting enough glucose. The symptoms of this condition include confusion, drowsiness, changes in behavior, and seizures. In severe cases, a patient may even go into a coma or have a seizure. In this case, a glucose injection is required. There is no treatment available for low blood sugar, but it is important to know what you can do to help yourself.
Before your appointment, make sure you are fasting for at least eight hours. Also, remember to write down all your important information and any medications that youre taking. A diary can also help you determine which changes in your body indicate a low blood sugar level. Keeping a diary of your glucose readings will help you learn the signs and prevent hyperglycemia. This way, youll be able to take action when it strikes you.
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What Level Of Blood Sugar Is Dangerous
Knowing what level of blood sugar is dangerous is crucial for people with diabetes and those without. High levels of blood sugar are very serious and can lead to coma. The University of Michigan suggests that individuals with a blood sugar level of 300 mg/dL or higher should call their physician. Other symptoms include confusion, nausea, and dizziness. The best way to prevent this problem is to eat nutritious foods and get regular blood sugar checks.
A low blood sugar level is known as hypoglycemia, which is a condition when blood glucose falls below the recommended range. This is dangerous and should be treated immediately. If a person has a history of low blood sugar, they are at an increased risk of this condition. In the event that their blood sugar is dangerously low, they should seek medical attention immediately. The first step is to monitor their blood glucose levels. If they are low, they should check their urine, but not their bodies.
If your blood sugar is too high, it can cause fluid imbalance in the body and lead to dehydration. Treatment for this condition requires intravenous insulin and IV fluids to correct dehydration. A level of 300 mg/dL is dangerous and should be treated as soon as possible. Your doctor can give you reassurance and give you a personalized treatment plan that will work for your needs. If you are concerned, call your doctor right away.
Blood Sugar Levels & Ranges Chart
The normal ranges for blood sugar levels in adults who do not have diabetes before eating or fasting the range begins at 72-99mg/dL while fasting ranges for those being treated for type 1 or type 2 diabetes range from 80 -130 mg/dL, A fasting blood glucose reading of 6.1 mmol/L or less is considered normal, Hypoglycemia means having low blood sugar levels and can actually be a dangerous condition, or blood glucose, Normal blood sugar levels for people without diabetes, they use these charts to monitor your diabetes problem and also provide you with the best viable treatment.
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Low Blood Sugar Symptoms
Hypoglycemia happens when blood glucose levels drop too low. Low blood sugar can be caused by many things including the two different types of diabetes, certain medications, alcohol, endocrine disorders, eating disorders, pregnancy , and disorders of the liver, kidneys, or heart.
Here are some of the most common symptoms that someone with low blood sugar might experience:
- Tingling lips
If your blood sugar is low you might start to feel some of the first signs of hypoglycemia like dizziness, lightheadedness, or sweating. The only way to know for sure if your blood sugar is low is to test it with a glucose meter or other glucose monitoring device.
If you dont have access to these tools and start to feel the symptoms of low blood sugar, consume 15 grams of carbs or take a quick dissolve glucose tablet to raise your blood sugar levels and avoid further symptoms, according to the American Diabetes Association . Once your blood sugar is back in its target range, you can have a snack or meal to make sure it doesnt drop again.
Here are some other lifestyle and medicinal treatments that can help treat hypoglycemia:
- Eat a healthy diet full of whole foods that are minimally processed.
- Take prediabetes or diabetes medications as recommended by your healthcare provider.
- Use a glucagon kit in emergencies. Glucagon is a hormone that raises blood sugar levels quickly.
What Is Glucose And Why Is It So Important
Glucose is a simple sugar, a component of the carbohydrates found in most foods. When broken down, glucose is the main form of energy for the body, particularly for our muscles and brain its the fuel that the brain runs on. Though glucose is necessary for the body, the amount of glucose in the blood must be tightly regulated: too much or too little glucose in the blood can lead to hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, and long-term health complications. As glucose circulates in the blood and comes into contact with muscle and fat cells, insulin is required to allow glucose to enter the cells to be used or stored for energy. Between meals, the liver produces glucose to fuel the body.
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What Is Considered Normal Blood Sugar Levels
You can measure blood sugar levels with an at-home finger-prick test that gives you an instant reading of the mmol’s of sugar per liter of your blood. Generally, depending on the time of day and when you last ate, this can vary between 5.0-10mmol/L.
But what is a normal blood sugar level in Canada? Here is a handy blood sugar level chart based on the guidelines by Diabetes Canada:
After eating : 5.0-10.0mmol/L
Most diabetic adults: 4.0-7.0mmol/L fasted state, 5.0-10mmol/L after eating
Diabetics who are pregnant: < 5.3mmol/L fasted state, < 6.7mmol/L after eating
Gestational diabetics: < 5.3mmol/L fasted state, < 6.7mmol/L after eating
Children with diabetes: 4.0-8.0mmol/L fasted state, 5.0-10.0mmol/L after eating
The wide ranges in each group allow for individual differences. For example, we know that sugar regulation deteriorates with age and in pregnancy. So, if you are elderly you may find that you are on the higher end of each range.
However, each person is different and if you think your blood sugar is not in a normal range, it is important to seek medical advice.