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.
Normal Blood Glucose Levels: For People With & Without Diabetes
Wondering what your blood glucose levels should be? Well – thatâs a difficult question to answer. It depends on so many factors, including whether you have diabetes or not, the type of diabetes you have, and biological influences. However, if you donât have diabetes, itâs useful to be aware of normal blood sugar levels for a non-diabetic person, especially normal blood sugar levels after eating, as high blood sugar levels can be a sign of diabetes. If you have diabetes, your target blood glucose levels will be different to someone without diabetes. So weâll also cover the ideal blood sugar ranges for people with Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes: Measuring Sugar Levels In Blood And Urine Yourself
Many people with diabetes measure their blood sugar levels themselves. For those who inject insulin several times a day, checking their sugar levels with a blood glucose meter is an important part of their daily treatment.
If someone has diabetes, their blood sugar levels are checked regularly. In type 2 diabetes, once every few months is sometimes enough. But not if insulin injections are part of their treatment.This is because the amount of insulin that is injected at mealtimes depends on the measured blood sugar level, among other things. Sugar levels in blood or urine can be measured in various ways. Its also possible to measure the level of sugar in tissues of the body.
You can learn how to measure your blood sugar yourself in special patient education classes. These are a part of diabetes disease management programs too.
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How Can I Treat Low Blood Sugar
If youve had low blood sugar without feeling or noticing symptoms , you may need to check your blood sugar more often to see if its low and treat it. Driving with low blood sugar can be dangerous, so be sure to check your blood sugar before you get behind the wheel.
Carry supplies for treating low blood sugar with you. If you feel shaky, sweaty, or very hungry or have other symptoms, check your blood sugar. Even if you dont have symptoms but think you may have low blood sugar, check it. If your blood sugar is lower than 70 mg/dL, do one of the following immediately:
- Take four glucose tablets.
- Drink four ounces of fruit juice.
- Drink four ounces of regular soda, not diet soda.
- Eat four pieces of hard candy.
Wait for 15 minutes and then check your blood sugar again. Do one of the above treatments again until your blood sugar is 70 mg/dL or above and eat a snack if your next meal is an hour or more away. If you have problems with low blood sugar, ask your doctor if your treatment plan needs to be changed.
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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Diabetes And Antipsychotic Medication
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How To Measure Blood Sugar Levels
There are two main ways to check your blood sugar levels:
Type 1 diabetics, along with some type 2 diabetics, who require insulin medication, must check their blood sugar at least four times per day, says Mathioudakis. Typically, this should be done before a meal, one to two hours after a meal, and at bedtime.
The timing of these measurements can help determine how much insulin to use. For example, it can be important to use more insulin after a high-sugar meal, or to avoid falling into hypoglycemia while youâre sleeping.
To check your blood sugar at home, you should use blood glucose tests, such as a glucose meter or continuous glucose monitor . Both devices measure blood sugar with the unit mg/dL, which means a milligram of sugar per deciliter of blood.
If you donât have diabetes, but you may be at risk, your doctor might have you take an A1C test during a yearly check-up. This test reports results as a percentage the higher the percentage, the higher your blood sugar has been in the past three months. Those with diabetes should get an A1C test at least twice a year and sometimes every three months.
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Why The Test Is Performed
Your doctor may order this test if you have signs of diabetes . More than likely, the doctor will order a fasting blood sugar test.
The blood glucose test is also used to monitor people who already have diabetes.
The test may also be done if you have:
- An increase in how often you need to urinate
- Recently gained a lot of weight
SCREENING FOR DIABETES
This test may also be used to screen a person for diabetes.
High blood sugar and diabetes may not cause symptoms in the early stages. A fasting blood sugar test is almost always done to screen for diabetes.
If you are over age 45, you should be tested every 3 years.
If you’re overweight and have any of the risk factors below, ask your health care provider about getting tested at an earlier age and more often:
- High blood sugar level on a previous test
- Blood pressure of 140/90 mm Hg or higher, or unhealthy cholesterol levels
- History of heart disease
- Member of a high-risk ethnic group
- Woman who has been diagnosed with gestational diabetes
- Polycystic ovary disease
- Close relative with diabetes
- Not physically active
Children age 10 and older who are overweight and have at least two of the risk factors listed above should be tested for type 2 diabetes every 3 years, even if they have no symptoms.
Caution: Birth Control Pills
Types that have estrogen can affect the way your body handles insulin. Still, oral contraceptives are safe for women with diabetes. The American Diabetes Association suggests a combination pill with norgestimate and synthetic estrogen. The group also says birth control shots and implants are safe for women with the condition, though they can affect your blood sugar levels.
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The Role Of Insulin In Diabetes
To understand why insulin is important in diabetes, it helps to know more about how the body uses food for energy. Your body is made up of millions of cells. To make energy, these cells need food in a very simple form. When you eat or drink, much of your food is broken down into a simple sugar called “glucose.” Then, glucose is transported through the bloodstream to the cells of your body where it can be used to provide some of the energy your body needs for daily activities.
The amount of glucose in your bloodstream is tightly regulated by the hormone insulin. Insulin is always being released in small amounts by the pancreas. When the amount of glucose in your blood rises to a certain level, the pancreas will release more insulin to push more glucose into the cells. This causes the glucose levels in your blood to drop.
To keep your blood glucose levels from getting too low , your body signals you to eat and releases some glucose from storage kept in the liver.
People with diabetes either don’t make insulin or their body’s cells are resistant to insulin, leading to high levels of sugar circulating in the blood, called simply high blood sugar. By definition, diabetes is having a blood glucose level of 126 milligrams per deciliter or more after an overnight fast .
Your Guide To Diabetes
- Diabetes affects roughly two and a half million Canadians. Left untreated, diabetes can lead to many serious complications, including: heart disease, kidney disease, vision loss, and lower limb amputation.
- The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that 5 million Canadians over the age of 20 are currently pre-diabetic. An additional 1 million new cases of pre-diabetes are expected by 2016. Pre-diabetes is a key risk factor for type 2 diabetes, and if left untreated more than half of the people with pre-diabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within 8 to 10 years.
- Although diabetes can lead to serious complications and premature death, there are steps that can be taken to prevent or control the disease and lower the risk of complications. This guide is intended to help you understand diabetes, how certain types can be prevented or managed, and how to live with the condition.
Did You Know?
You may be pre-diabetic and not know it. Pre-diabetes occurs when blood sugar levels are high, but not high enough to diagnose diabetes. Talk to your health care provider to learn more.
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Determining The Right A1c Goal For You
Just because a normal blood sugar range of 70 to 130 mg/dL is considered the healthiest doesnt necessarily mean thats the appropriate goal range for you especially if you have type 1 diabetes, or take insulin as a person with type 2 diabetes.
The reason this may not be the right goal for you is that extremely tight blood sugar management in people taking insulin can potentially lead to frequent low blood sugars which can be dangerous.
Achieving extremely tight blood sugar management, like a range of 70 to 130 mg/dL, also often requires a strict nutrition plan, more frequent than usual blood sugar monitoring, precise medication management, and most importantly, years of experience studying your blood sugar levels.
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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Can I Check My Own Blood Sugar
You can do blood sugar level check by doing a finger-prick test, by using a blood sugar monitor called a flash glucose monitor or with a continuous glucose monitor . You can do this several times a day helping you keep an eye on your levels as you go about your life and help you work out what to eat and how much medication to take. Find out your ideal target range.
Not everyone with diabetes needs to check their levels like this. Youll need to if you take certain diabetes medication. Always talk to your healthcare team if youre not sure whether thats you theyll give you advice on whether to check them yourself and how often.
And theres also something called an HbA1c, which is a blood test to measure your average blood sugar level over the last three months. Everyone with diabetes is entitled to this check.
High blood sugar levels increase your risk of developing serious complications. However you manage your diabetes, stay in the know about your blood sugar levels
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How Can I Treat High Blood Sugar
Talk to your doctor about how to keep your blood sugar levels within your target range. Your doctor may suggest the following:
- Be more active. Regular exercise can help keep your blood sugar levels on track. Important: dont exercise if ketones are present in your urine. This can make your blood sugar go even higher.
- Take medicine as instructed. If your blood sugar is often high, your doctor may change how much medicine you take or when you take it.
- Follow your diabetes meal plan. Ask your doctor or dietitian for help if youre having trouble sticking to it.
- Check your blood sugar as directed by your doctor. Check more often if youre sick or if youre concerned about high or low blood sugar.
- Talk to your doctor about adjusting how much insulin you take and what types of insulin to use.
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Getting The Right Medicine For You
There are many types of Type 2 diabetes medicines that help lower the amount of glucose in your blood.
If eating healthy foods, being active and losing weight are not enough to help lower your blood glucose, you may need to start diabetes medicine.
It can take time to find a medicine and dose thats right for you. Your GP or nurse will support you with this. Over time you may need a combination of medicines to help keep blood glucose at a healthy level.
For some people tablets may not be enough to treat their Type 2 diabetes and the best alternative may be to add insulin treatment. Nowadays insulin can be given easily using a tiny needle inside a pen-like gadget.
Your GP and nurse will support you if you need to use insulin treatment.
Eating healthily, being active and being a healthy weight are still important parts of treating your diabetes, even if you are taking medicine to help reduce your blood glucose.
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Measuring Blood Sugar Levels In A Laboratory
Blood sugar levels can be measured a lot more accurately by taking a blood sample from a vein and having it tested in a laboratory. Blood sugar is sometimes measured as part of a routine blood test in hospital or at the doctors. A special kind of test called a glucose tolerance test involves taking blood samples to see how the body deals with larger amounts of sugar. You have to drink a liquid with a lot of sugar in it before the blood samples are taken.
Most people with diabetes have the HbA1c levels in their blood measured regularly. HbA1c is a measure of how high your blood sugar levels have been on average over the last two to three months This indicates how well controlled your blood sugar is and whether your diabetes treatment might need to be adjusted.
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Diagnosing Prediabetes Type 2 And Type 1 Diabetes
Depending on which country or medical organization you ask, the qualifying numbers for normal versus prediabetes versus diagnosed type 1 or type 2 diabetes can vary slightly.
The following blood sugar and A1c results are used to diagnose prediabetes and diabetes according to sources including the American Diabetes Association and Diabetes UK:
- HbA1c: 5.7 to 6.4 percent
- Fasting: 100 to 125 mg/dL
- 2 hours after a meal: 140 mg/dL to 199 mg/dL
Type 1 or 2 diabetes
- HbA1c: 6.5 percent or higher
- Fasting: 126 mg/dL or higher
- 2 hours after a meal: 200 mg/dL or higher
Please note:Type 1 diabetes tends to develop very quickly which means that by the time symptoms are felt, blood sugar levels are generally well above 200 mg/dL all the time. For many, symptoms come on so quickly that they are dismissed as the lingering flu or another seemingly ordinary virus.
By the time blood sugar levels are tested, many newly diagnosed type 1 patients will see levels above 400 mg/dL or higher. If you do suspect that you or a loved one has type 1 diabetes, visit your primary care or urgent care immediately and ask for a urine test to measure ketones in addition to testing blood sugar levels and A1c.
Read more about ketones at diagnosis in ourDiabetic Ketoacidosis Guide.