The purpose of treating diabetes with medication or a natural approach involving diet and lifestyle is to keep blood sugar levels within a normal range. Maintaining a normal blood glucose level can dramatically decrease the incidence of diabetes related complications.
It’s absolutely essential that you clearly understand how to monitor your blood sugar and take action to control blood sugar levels. Growing in knowledge is the foundation of learning how to successfully manage or even reverse type 2 diabetes.
What Are Normal Blood Sugar Levels?
The first step of your diabetes journey is to understand the distinction between sugar and glucose. The term sugar refers to sweet carbohydrates that are easily dissolved in water.
Baked goods, candy and other sweet foods should immediately come to mind. Carbohydrates consist of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen and are easily and quickly broken down during the digestive process.
There are several types of sugar contained in carbohydrate rich foods. Glucose is the sugar that your body prefers and readily converts to energy.
Other familiar types of sugar include lactose from milk and fructose from fruit. Lactose and fructose are ultimately converted into glucose to fuel your body. The body also converts starch, a mixture of two polysaccharides manufactured from glucose, into glucose and energy.
Potatoes, rice, wheat and bananas are common sources of dietary starch.
Anyway, you should be aware that most people use the terms blood glucose and blood sugar synonymously when talking about diabetes. What constitutes a safe level of blood glucose? Blood sugar is typically measured in milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood, or mg/dl.
Measuring blood glucose is a finely tuned and precise process. For example, a milligram equals about 0.00018 of a teaspoon. This means that a deciliter is only about 3 1/3 ounces.
It should be noted that blood glucose is measured in millimoles/liter, or mmol/L, in the United Kingdom and Canada. Simply multiply blood glucose levels from Britain or Canada by 18 to calculate the American equivalent.
This simple conversion formula may prove useful when reading articles and research studies from the United Kingdom or Canada. A fasting blood glucose level of 7 in Canada, for example, converts to an American glucose level of 126 mg/dl.
Normal Blood Glucose Levels?
As one might expect, blood glucose levels are subject to change throughout the day. A fasting blood sugar level under 100 mg/dl just after waking up is considered normal for someone that doesn’t have diabetes.
Similarly, a blood sugar level range of 70–99 mg/dl is normal for a non-diabetic just before a meal. A blood sugar reading of less than 140 mg/dl two hours after a meal, or postprandial reading, is also considered normal.
On the other hand, the American Diabetes Association recommends that you should maintain the following blood sugar levels if you have diabetes:
- Fasting blood sugar level of 80–130 mg/dl or 4.4–7.2 mmol/L
- Blood sugar level two hours after a meal of less than 180 mg/dl or 10.0 mmol/L
- HbA1c of less than 7.0%
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, your medical provider may still recommend that you maintain blood sugar levels similar to those of someone without diabetes.
This is the best strategy for avoiding diabetes related complications, including
- diabetic retinopathy
- kidney disease
- nerve damage
- eye disease
- heart disease
- and stroke
Achieving this lower range of blood sugar levels will demand fairly strict adherence to a diabetes friendly diet, frequent blood sugar monitoring, regular exercise and other beneficial lifestyle choices.
Another way of measuring blood sugar levels is a long-term test known as a hemoglobin A1c. The test may also be referred to as HbA1c or A1C. The Hemoglobin A1c test calculates the glucose level average during the previous two to three months.
HbA1c results are presented in the form of a percentage. A reading of less than 5% is considered normal for someone without diabetes. An HbA1c result of 7.0% or less is an acceptable target for most diabetics according to the American Diabetes Association.
Although many diabetics strive for a lower HbA1c test result, higher HbA1c targets may be recommended for older diabetics with significant health problems in order to avoid low blood sugar levels.
High blood glucose levels tend to induce inflammation in the body’s nerves and blood vessels. This ultimately leads to the diabetes related complications mentioned previously. That’s why it’s so important to avoid higher than normal blood glucose levels.
Normal insulin function maintains blood sugar levels within a healthy range in individuals without diabetes.
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, it means that your insulin function has been damaged by inflammation. Now is the time to introduce a new approach to living with diabetes in the 21st century.
Your body is screaming for a diabetes friendly diet, adequate exercise, a few recommended herbs and lots of tender loving care.
Low blood sugar levels can also be a problem, especially if you take insulin, meglitinide or a sulfonylurea drug. Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, may induce symptoms such as confusion, dizziness and fainting.
Even if you don’t have diabetes, you should be aware of the most common symptoms caused by high or low blood sugar.
Testing Blood Glucose Levels
You can use a fingerstick blood test and glucose meter to measure the amount of glucose circulating in your blood. The fingerstick method is a little uncomfortable, but the test results are pretty accurate. You’ll also have to purchase test strips to obtain the invaluable information that will allow you to live successfully with diabetes.
A continuous glucose monitor, or CGM, provides even more information and eliminates the pain of fingersticks. Continuous glucose monitors use a laser or sensor inserted under the skin to constantly measure your current glucose level.
Frequent blood glucose testing is recommended for anyone taking rapid or intermediate-acting insulin. It’s important to take just the right dose of insulin to avoid low blood sugar.
If you are a type 2 diabetic and you do not take insulin, you should discuss how often to test your blood glucose level with your health care provider.
If you want to monitor your health closely, simply test your blood glucose level after eating certain foods or engaging in particular activities to determine how they affect your circulating blood glucose.
Keeping a comprehensive record of test results and related information is ideal for improving perspective and making lifestyle choices.
It doesn’t seem to matter whether you test your blood glucose level at the same time of the day. Testing your blood sugar level after waking up in the morning and prior to the evening meal is a common strategy.
It’s always a good idea to temporarily increase the frequency of blood sugar testing when you start taking a new medication, change a dosage or add a supplement to your daily routine.
The process of monitoring blood glucose levels may seem complicated at first, but everything eventually merges into a familiar routine.
Keeping track of your blood glucose levels recommended by the American Diabetes Association and regular consultations with your doctor should keep you on track to manage and even reverse your diabetes.
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