Balancing Your Blood Sugar: Whats Healthy How To Measure And More
Your blood sugar is affected by a range of factors. Heres how to tell if yours is healthy.
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Caroline Roberts writes articles and notifications for CNET. She studies English at Cal Poly, and loves philosophy, Karl the Fog and a strong cup of black coffee.
High blood sugar levels are a problem, even if you dont have a family history of diabetes. Blood sugar thats consistently higher than ideal can coexist with Type 2 diabetes and cause serious health conditions like kidney disease, nerve problems or stroke.
While thats no reason to panic, when it comes to our health, its important to know exactly whats going on inside of our bodies. Lets get into what blood sugar means, how to measure it and everything else you need to know.
What Is Blood Glucose Testing
The term blood glucose generally refers to the amount of glucose in your blood. Blood glucose testing is done when a healthcare provider needs to see if a person has diabetes, or how well they are managing their diabetes. People who are diagnosed with diabetes need to check their blood glucose often to make sure their diabetes is in control.
To diagnose and monitor diabetes, healthcare providers test plasma glucose levels or the percentage of glycosylated hemoglobin in your bloodstream with a laboratory test. People who have diabetes test their plasma glucose with a portable meter at home.
Both the fasting plasma glucose and HbA1c tests are used to diagnose diabetes in nonpregnant adults. For an accurate diagnosis, all results must be confirmed by a second test on a different day.
Whats A Continuous Glucose Monitor
A continuous glucose monitor is a wearable device that measures glucose every few minutes, all day and night. A CGM uses a thread-like sensor thats put under the skin and secured in place. Sensors can stay in place for 1014 days before you replace them.
Instead of measuring glucose in the blood directly, a CGM measures the amount of glucose just beneath the skin in fluid surrounding the cells, called the interstitial fluid. Heres how it works: As we digest carbohydrates, glucose enters the bloodstream. Then, it moves into the interstitial fluid on its way to all the cells in the body. It takes a little time for the glucose to move from the bloodstream into the interstitial fluid, so a glucose measurement taken with a CGM will be 510 minutes behind a blood glucose measurement. The benefit of a CGM is that because it measures glucose so often, it gives a more complete picture of how a persons glucose level changes throughout the day.
People with diabetes often choose a CGM because:
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What Is A Blood Glucose Measurement
A blood glucose measurement is the amount of glucose in the blood at a particular time point. Blood glucose levels are variable. They will rise and fall depending on the time of day and influence of exercise, food, stress, hormones, fasting and medication.
In response to this, hormones called insulin and glucagon regulate blood glucose levels within a narrow range to maintain homeostasis. This range is optimally between 4.0â7.8 mmol/l .
How Often Do I Need To Do Blood Tests
How often you should test your blood glucose can vary depending on your type of diabetes.
People with type 1 diabetes should test at least 4 times per day including before each meal and before bed.
People with type 1 diabetes should also be supported by their GP to test up to 10 times a day if factors apply such as taking part in sport, to ensure safe driving and if you have impaired hypo awareness.
People with other types of diabetes on hypo-causing medication should test their blood glucose levels at least once a day. Aim to test at different times of the day to discover whether blood glucose levels are going too low at certain times of day. This will help you to take steps to prevent low or high results from happening and this can be done with help from your doctor.
If on medication that can cause hypos, be prepared to test your blood glucose levels at any time you feel the signs of hypoglycemia
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How Do I Prepare For The Plasma Glucose Level Test And How Are The Results Interpreted
To get an accurate plasma glucose level, you must have fasted for at least 8 hours prior to the test. When you report to the clinic or laboratory, a small sample of blood will be taken from a vein in your arm. According to the practice recommendations of the American Diabetes Association, the results of the blood test are interpreted as follows:
Fasting blood glucose level
- If your blood glucose level is 70 to 99* mg/dL . . .
- What it means: Your glucose level is within the normal range.
*Values between 50 and 70 are often seen in healthy people.
**The condition of “prediabetes” puts you at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and blood lipid disorders.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/21/2018.
Symptoms Of Diabetes That May Prompt An A1c Test
As mentioned by the , a doctor may recommend an A1C test if a person shows signs of poor glucose control, diabetes, or prediabetes.
Warning signs can include:
- increased urination, especially at night
- increased hunger
- numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- slow healing sores
- more than 45 years of age
- family history of diabetes
- long-term use of glucocorticoids, antipsychotics, and certain medications for HIV
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What Is Blood Sugar
Blood sugar, or glucose, is your body’s main energy source. We get glucose from the food we eat, and our blood carries it around to all the cells in the body to give them energy to function. Glucose mainly comes from the carbohydrates we eat, though our bodies can convert protein and fat into sugar too if needed.
Glucose from protein is typically stored in the liver and doesn’t enter the bloodstream, so eating protein-rich foods won’t raise your blood sugar too much. Fats slow down the digestion of carbohydrates, which causes a delayed rise in blood sugar. High blood sugar can be an issue because it usually leads to sugar crashes, which are no fun — symptoms include fatigue, headaches and the jitters. So, eat meals balanced with protein, fat and carbs to avoid this.
Blood sugar is closely related to insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas that helps your body use glucose that’s in the carbohydrates you eat. Insulin helps regulate your blood sugar levels — if you eat more sugar than you need in the moment, the hormone helps store the glucose in your liver until it’s needed for energy.
You probably also know about blood sugar in the context of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is a condition in which people are unable to make insulin, so they need to inject the hormone in order to keep their blood sugar levels stable. People with Type 2 diabetes, which usually occurs later in life, either don’t secrete insulin or are resistant to it.
What Is The Normal Blood Sugar Level For Teens
Teenagers are recommended to have a blood sugar range between 70-150 mg/dL. It’s not easy for a teenager to maintain a tight range, therefore it’s important to aim for these numbers to give them a bit more flexibility.
- Fasting: 70-150 mg/dL
- Preprandial : 90-130 mg/dL
- Postprandial : Less than 140 mg/dL
- Bedtime: 90-150 mg/dL
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How Do I Check
People with diabetes check their blood glucose levels by poking their fingertips and using a blood glucose meter or a continuous glucose monitor to measure the blood glucose level at that moment. Read on to find out how to use a blood glucose meter. To find out more about CGMs, start by talking to your doctor.
Who Is Most At Risk For Developing Diabetes
The following categories of people are considered “high-risk” candidates for developing diabetes:
- Individuals who have overweight or obesity.
- Individuals who are 45 years of age or older.
- Individuals with first-degree relatives with diabetes .
- Individuals who are Black, Alaska Native, American Indian, Asia American, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islanders.
- People 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, which are 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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Low Blood Sugar Levels Symptoms
Low blood sugar levels or also known as hypoglycemia can happen to anyone but is more common in people with diabetes. Low blood sugar levels can occur if you miss a meal, exercise too hard, or take too much insulin.
Signs and symptoms that your blood sugar might be on the low side include:
- Anxiety or feeling of nervousness
If you have any of these symptoms, it’s important to check your blood sugar levels right away. You can use a home glucose meter to test your blood sugar levels. The ADA recommends that people with diabetes keep a fast-acting source of sugar like glucose tablets with them at all times in case they experience low blood sugar levels.
Monitoring Your Blood Sugar
Regular blood sugar monitoring is the most important thing you can do to manage type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Youll be able to see what makes your numbers go up or down, such as eating different foods, taking your medicine, or being physically active. With this information, you can work with your health care team to make decisions about your best diabetes care plan. These decisions can help delay or prevent diabetes complications such as heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and amputation. Your doctor will tell you when and how often to check your blood sugar levels.
Most blood sugar meters allow you to save your results and you can use an app on your cell phone to track your levels. If you dont have a smart phone, keep a written daily record like the one in the photo. You should bring your meter, phone, or paper record with you each time you visit your health care provider.
Sometimes having high blood sugar can feel like a test you didnt pass. But numbers are just numbers. Think of them instead as information. Did a certain food or activity make your levels go up or down? Armed with that knowledge, you can make adjustments and get closer to your target range more often.
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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.
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High Blood Sugar Levels Symptoms
High blood sugar levels or also known as hyperglycemia can occur if you don’t take enough insulin, you miss a meal, or you exercise too little. High blood sugar levels can also be caused by stress, illness, or some medications.
Signs and symptoms that your blood sugar might be on the high side include:
- Increased urination
It’s important to treat high blood sugar levels quickly to avoid more serious problems. You can treat high blood sugar levels by drinking water and taking your diabetes medication or insulin.
It’s important to check your blood sugar levels right away and keep doing that every hour until your sugar levels are back in the normal blood sugar range.
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Example #: In The Meter Reading My Fasting Rating Was 100 So I Wanted To Know If I Have Prediabetes
100 is right on the cusp!
Remember that meters can be off by as many as 20 points and still be considered accurate, so if this was only one time and doesnt happen again, youre probably fine. Your meter may have just run a bit high.
However, if you are seeing these numbers consistently, you probably have pre-diabetes. This is a great spot to be in because you still have the potential to ward off a full diagnosis of diabetes through lifestyle changes!
If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes and you are seeing numbers in this range, thats AMAZINGgreat job improving your control!
While diagnostically, you wouldnt be classified as pre-diabetes but rather controlled diabetes, your hormones and blood glucose control is equivocal to that of prediabetes. Complications are minimized or absent in this range.
When To Check Blood Glucose
Testing with a glucometer is an easy and effective way to get instant feedback on how diet, lifestyle and medication are effecting your blood glucose. This information is necessary for creating a treatment plan to normalise blood sugars and improve insulin sensitivity. We encourage you to test blood sugars as much as possible, especially in the beginning. This will give you a comprehensive understanding of your personal metabolic health and how to improve it. Once youâve reached target blood glucose levels, you wonât need to test as much as youâll have developed an understanding of how to keep blood sugars within normal range. Below are some suggestions for when to test blood glucose.
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Is Blood Sugar Of 135 High
A blood sugar level of 135 is not considered high. However, it is still important to take steps to lower your blood sugar levels if they are above your target range. You can do this by making changes to your diet and exercise routine. You should also talk to your doctor about ways to lower your blood sugar levels.
What Is A1c And What Numbers For Percentage Indicate A Healthy Range
A1c, or Hemoglobin A1c, is a percentage of glycated red blood cells in a given person at the time of a blood draw. Because red blood cells turn over every 3 months, this provides a nice 3 month average of how blood sugar levels have been running.
However, it does not capture day to day variation. For example, if your A1c is 7, your sugars have been running 154 on average. It does not tell you when blood sugars are problematic .
A1c of < 5.7 is considered normal , 5.7-6.4 is pre-diabetes and above 6.5 is diabetic range. Generally, if a person with diabetes keeps their A1c under 7, thats a great goal. If you are able to knock it under 6 that would be optimal.
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How Can One Tell If I Have Diabetes By Examining My Blood
Your body converts sugar, also called glucose, into energy so your body can function. The sugar comes from the foods you eat and is released from storage from your bodys own tissues.
Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas. Its job is to move glucose from the bloodstream into the cells of tissues. After you eat, the level of glucose in the blood rises sharply. The pancreas responds by releasing enough insulin to handle the increased level of glucose moving the glucose out of the blood and into cells. This helps return the blood glucose level to its former, lower level.
If a person has diabetes, two situations may cause the blood sugar to increase:
- The pancreas does not make enough insulin.
- The insulin does not work properly.
As a result of either of these situations, the blood sugar level remains high, a condition called hyperglycemia or diabetes mellitus. If left undiagnosed and untreated, the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart, blood vessels and other organs can be damaged. Measuring your blood glucose levels allows you and your doctor to know if you have, or are at risk for, developing diabetes.
Much less commonly, the opposite can happen too. Too low a level of blood sugar, a condition called hypoglycemia, can be caused by the presence of too much insulin or by other hormone disorders or liver disease.
How Do You Manage Blood Sugar
Its not easy to manage your blood sugar, but its important to do so if you have diabetes. There are many things you can do to keep your blood sugar levels in the healthy range.
The first step is to understand what causes your blood sugar levels to go up and down. This will help you make choices that keep your blood sugar levels within your target range.
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