Keeping your blood sugar level in check is the key to the effective management of diabetes. Whether you monitor your normal blood glucose level in your blood with a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) or a fingerstick meter, it is an essential daily activity if you are living with diabetes.
But what is the ‘normal range’ when we talk about blood sugar? Everyone has different experiences with diabetes. Due to this, their target goal will also vary depending on a variety of factors.
Blood glucose is the sugar that accumulates in your blood. It is derived from the food you consume. Foods such as pasta, bread, and fruit contain carbohydrates, which contribute greatly to blood glucose. Our body uses glucose to produce energy, which we require to breathe, think, move, and learn. Your brain also utilizes half of the energy produced by the breakdown of glucose.
When you eat food, your pancreas releases an enzyme to help break down the foods you consume. The hormones in your body work to manage the influx of glucose in the blood. One such hormone, known as insulin, plays a major role in managing the levels of glucose.
When things go awry and the pancreas is unable to produce and release enough insulin required for maintaining a normal range of sugar in the blood, its level starts rising in the blood, as in the case of diabetes type 1. Similarly, if the pancreas produces insulin but your body cells are unable to use it properly, it can lead to insulin resistance, which is associated with type 2 diabetes.
On average, people are recommended to keep the normal glucose levels in their blood below 140 mg/dL. The normal range of glucose varies from:
● Fasting Blood Sugar
○ For a person without diabetes: 70-99 mg/dl
○ For a person living with diabetes: 80-130 mg/dl
● Blood sugar after 2 hours of meals
○ For a person without diabetes: Below 140 mg/dl
○ For a person living with diabetes: Below 180 mg/dl
● HbA1c (measures the amount of glucose attached to the hemoglobin)
○ For a person without diabetes: Below 5.7%
○ For a person living with diabetes: Below 7%
Common symptoms of high blood sugar include:
● Weight loss
● Frequent trips to the bathroom
If not managed, high levels of blood glucose can lead to a serious condition known as Diabetic Ketoacidosis. It can result in complications related to important organs such as the kidney and the heart and even cause eye or nerve damage.
You may not be able to feel that your normal level of glucose in your blood is off. You may not even experience any symptoms unless the levels fall into dangerous blood sugar levels. Many people living with type 2 diabetes do not experience any symptoms. Due to this, the condition often goes undiagnosed for years.
The easiest and most convenient way to check your blood sugar level is to use a glucose meter. This can be done using a finger-stick device. This involves using a lancet to extract a drop of blood which is then added to a test strip. The test strip is then inserted into the meter and you will get a reading.
Besides this, for more grave cases and clinical diagnoses, a myriad of blood tests are available to test the level of sugar in your blood. These tests include:
● Random Plasma Glucose Test
The blood sample for conducting a random plasma test can be extracted at any time of the day. There is no need for planning this test. Due to this, it is used for diagnosing type 1 diabetes when a timely diagnosis is of utmost importance.
● Fasting Plasma Glucose Test
A fasting plasma glucose test can be conducted after a minimum of 8 hours of fasting. Due to this, the blood sample is usually taken first thing in the morning. If you get a blood glucose range between 5.5 to 6.9 mmol / l, it means that you are at risk of developing type-2 diabetes.
● Oral Glucose Tolerance Test
The oral glucose tolerance test is a multi-step test conducted over a few hours. The first step is to take a fasting blood sample after a minimum of 8 hours of fasting. After this, you have to drink about 75 g of a very sweet drink containing glucose. Subsequently, you have to stay at rest till the next blood sample can be taken after a gap of 2 hours.
● HbA1c test
The HbA1c test does not measure blood glucose levels directly. However, this test is used to check how low or high your levels of blood glucose have been over the last 2-3 months.
This criterion for the range of sugar is used to diagnose prediabetes and diabetes. The criteria differ according to the type of test performed.
Understanding how your blood glucose levels work is the key to managing diabetes well. If you are living with diabetes, and have a glucose meter and test strips, it is important to understand what the readings on the meter mean.
Maintaining a normal range of sugar in your blood is important as excessively high sugar levels for extended periods can lead to several complications such as:
● Heart Disease
● Retinal Disease
● Kidney Damage
● Nerve Damage
These diseases are quite scary but it is important to understand that the possibility of these problems can be reduced by maintaining normal glucose levels in the blood. Many small changes in your diet and lifestyle can make a huge difference as long as you stay dedicated and maintain these alterations.
Maintaining a normal range of sugar in your blood is necessary for the proper management of diabetes. Though there are target blood sugar ranges according to clinical guidelines, the number may still vary from one person to the other. Contact your endocrinologist to closely monitor your glucose levels and devise a customized care plan for your needs.