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Blood Sugar Levels

Are you looking for a plain and simple explanation of blood sugar levels? For most everyday-people, specifically those folks who are not in the medical or health care field, clear and easy-to-understand information about sugar levels in the blood is what you want and what we hope to provide.

Your reason or interest in learning about blood sugar levels could be that your doctor's office may have called to inform you of the lab results after an annual check-up and told you that your blood sugar level "...was a little high" but that you don't have diabetes... yet. Or maybe diabetes runs in your family and you're concerned that it could develop as you get older. Maybe a friend or family member is newly diagnosed with elevated blood sugar and/or diabetes and you just want to learn more about it. Or just the opposite! Maybe you or someone you know and care about has a problem with low blood sugar.

What ever the reason, information is what you want. Information about blood sugar that can possibly help prevent an illness from developing, or better manage an existing condition, or start out on the road to living a healthier life.

What are Your Blood Sugar Levels?

Let's start with clarifying the word "glucose". Glucose is the medical term for blood sugar. When the word "level" is used, clinically that indicates an amount. Therefore, "blood sugar level" is the amount of glucose that is in the blood. When a sample of your blood is taken from you at the laboratory, be it from a needle into a vial or a tiny droplet from a finger stick, science has made it possible to measure the amount of sugar (glucose) in that sample, regardless of the size.

Over many years of study, science has identified a standard measure for blood sugar tests, which in America is milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) and in Europe or abroad where they use the metric system, the test results are expressed as millimoles per litre (mmol/l) . For purposes of this Internet site, our standard will be mg/dl.

The normal blood sugar level when you wake up in the morning and before breakfast (this is considered a fasting blood sugar) is between 70 to 99 mg/dl. A fasting blood sugar consistently running between 100 to 109 may be considered high normal and described as an unhealthy range.

Blood sugar levels that run between 110 to 120 mg/dl are commonly referred to as "pre-diabetic" and can mean that your body may be becoming intolerant to glucose or resistant to the effects of insulin (a natural hormone released by the pancreas to keep blood sugar levels "in check" [in the right range]; insulin works by picking up the blood sugar molecule floating in the bloodstream and bringing the glucose into the tissues vs. staying in the bloodstream where blood sugar is not meant to linger and would result over time in damage to the blood vessels [especially the tiniest of the blood vessels, like those that feed the retina of the eye and the tissues of the kidney that filter the blood] and eventually the organs that receive), and that you are at greater risk for developing diabetes in the future. Doctors usually counsel their patients to start some basic lifestyle changes to prevent diabetes from developing in the future. Lifestyle changes that are often encouraged (but should be approved by your doctor) include these basic recommendations:

  • If you are overweight or obese, lose weight...especially belly fat.
  • Exercise everyday. Increase your physical activity and make it part of your daily routine.
  • Cut down the amount of food you eat! But eat smarter/healthier...less carbohydrates; eat less starches, sweets, no regular sodas, don't overdue fruit juices.
  • Decrease portion sizes. Look at your plate. Think 9" diameter vs. 12" diameter. Now divide your plate in half. One half should be non-starchy (green) vegetables/salad; the other half should be a combination of some protein (such as fish, lean meat, or poultry) and "good" carbs (such as whole grain/multi-grain noodles, beans, or a bread).
  • Drink water!

If your fasting blood sugar level is running above 120 for two or more consecutive tests, then you are at high risk of becoming diabetic. In fact, your doctor may want you to come in for some extra blood tests to either rule out or confirm diabetes with blood sugar levels in the 120s or higher. Alternatively, some doctors prefer having such patients test their own blood sugars at home for a few weeks using a tiny machine called a glucometer. This is where you get a prescription for a home kit for self-testing. The kit usually includes the glucometer, a supply of blood sugar test strips, a supply of tiny needles called lancets, and a pen-sized lancet holder that automatically pricks the finger for that drop of blood that you touch to the test strip that goes into the glucometer and voila! in a matter of seconds you get a snap shot of what your blood sugar is at that moment! You record the blood sugar readings, go back to see your doctor, and he/she assesses the log of blood sugar readings you recorded over time. The next steps depend on what your range of test results show.

As always, if you think you currently have or may be at risk of developing diabetes or any other blood related disease for that matter, you should contact your doctor as soon as possible. Your blood sugar levels are extremely important to your overall health and should always be looked after.