Blood sugar levels are the most important statistics in a diabetic’s life. It is necessary for a diabetic person to monitor their blood sugar level regularly to check if they have normal blood sugar levels. Moving out of the normal blood sugar levels, either high or low, is dangerous and could lead to serious complications.
What is blood sugar level?
Blood sugar level, also known as the blood glucose level, is the amount of glucose present per unit of blood. It is usually measured in mg/dL. The pancreas produces insulin to break down glucose to produce energy for the functioning of the body. When the body cannot produce enough insulin or if the cells have developed insulin-resistance, it leads to high blood sugar level, also known as hyperglycemia. This condition requires the person to take medicines which increase insulin secretion or slow down glucose absorption for the insulin to act on the sugars or to supplement insulin through an external source, to attain normal blood sugar level. On the other hand, in some cases, the blood glucose level can go down to very low ranges compared to the normal blood sugar level. For example, consumption of alcohol can decrease the blood sugar to dangerously low levels and this low blood sugar level is called hypoglycemia.
Factors affecting blood sugar level:
Various factors affect the blood sugar level. Fluctuations from normal blood sugar level may be due to the following factors:
- Physical activity and exercise
- Type of food eaten
- Amount of food, especially the amount of carbohydrate intake (fasting or feasting)
- Illness or any medical condition
- Menstrual periods
- Alcohol consumption
Normal blood sugar level range
The blood glucose level is maintained at an optimal range by the pancreatic secretions. The normal blood sugar level of a non-diabetic patient lies between 72-99 mg/dL. However, the realistic normal blood sugar level varies for diabetics. Diabetics are advised to maintain their blood sugar levels between 80 and 130 mg/dL. The normal blood sugar level also varies for people of different age groups. The following table provides the normal blood sugar level for different age groups.
|Fasting blood sugar level||Before meals||1-2 hours after eating||Bedtime|
|Children (under 6 years)||80-180||100-180||Near 180||110-200|
|Adolescents (Age 6-12)||80-180||90-180||Upto 140||100-180|
|Teens (Age 13-19)||70-150||90-130||Upto 140||90-150|
|Adults (Above 20)||Below 100||70-130||Less than 180||100-140|
All values are in mg/dL.
The A1c test is another way to test the average blood sugar level of a diabetic. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that the A1c level less than 5.7% is the normal blood sugar level.
High blood sugar level
Hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar level, occurs when your blood sugar levels rise above the normal blood sugar level. The usual threshold is 180mg/dL and having a sugar level above this is a cause for concern. The A1c level above 6.5% is also indicative of high blood sugar levels. The blood sugar level between 180 and 250 mg/dL is a yellow flag in hyperglycemia. Usually this level can be managed with in-house treatment. Blood glucose level above 250mg/dL is a red flag and requires medical attention. Doctors can also prescribe a ketone test in this case. A red flag in high blood sugar level is an indication of an ineffective diabetic management plan, faulty insulin injecting device or unhealthy lifestyle.
High blood sugar levels can be caused due to various reasons in diabetics. These include stress, heavy diet, sedentary lifestyle, skipping medications/insulin shots and consumption of food high in sugar levels. The symptoms of high blood sugar levels are increased urination, increased thirst, headaches, vision impairment, fatigue and weight loss. Untreated hyperglycemia can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis resulting in increase in ketone concentration in blood and decrease in blood pH which could be fatal.
The remedies which can be undertaken to achieve normal blood sugar level are drinking water, non-sugary drinks to stay hydrated, altering medications to meet the new requirements, managing diet for the following days and exercise if ketone levels are significantly low.
Low blood sugar level
The blood sugar level also drops to dangerously low levels. A person can live his whole life without his sugar levels lowering below 60mg/dL, even in case of long fasting. However, diabetes also has the risk of bringing down the glucose levels. Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar level, occurs when the blood glucose levels drop down below 70mg/dL. A blood sugar level between 50 and 70mg/dL is a yellow flag in hypoglycemia. It can be treated with rapid-acting carbohydrates. If the sugar levels drop below 50mg/dL, it is a critically low blood sugar level and might require a hospital visit.
Low blood sugar levels can occur due to fasting, indulging in excessive physical exercise, overdosage of medications, alcohol consumption, endocrine disorders, kidney and liver diseases and heart related problems.
The symptoms of low blood sugar level are sweating, shaking of hands, dizziness, numbness in extremities, excessive hunger, confusion, having a fast heart rate, irritability and severe cases can even put a person in coma or lead to death.
Low blood sugar level can be dealt with by taking measures to increase blood glucose level like intake of rapid-acting carbohydrates, reducing dosage of medications and insulin and application of glucagon kits. Normal blood sugar level can also be achieved by reducing physical activity.
Diabetics should monitor their blood glucose levels regularly. Managing diabetes requires proper planning of meals and activities for the day and the information regarding blood sugar levels can help you make informed decisions. Strive to maintain a normal blood sugar level as long as possible. A normal blood sugar level leads to a normal life.
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