Learn About the Importance of Blood Sugar Levels

Knowing the true significance behind blood sugar level readings and what high or low blood sugar can do to your body is essential for diabetes management.

Having diabetes means that you have persistently elevated blood sugar levels. Over time, high sugar levels damage the body and can lead to multiple health problems associated with diabetes.

Normal Blood Sugar Levels

Normal blood sugar levels are currently considered to be anything less than 100 mg/dL when fasting, and less than 140 mg/dL two hours after eating. However, in most healthy people, sugar levels are even lower. People without diabetes have sugar levels that hover around 70 to 80 mg/dL before a meal. In some people, 60 mg/dL is considered normal as well.

Low blood sugar levels vary widely. Many people have sugar levels that will never fall below 60 mg/dL, even with prolonged fasting. When you diet or fast, the liver keeps sugar levels normal by turning fat and muscle into sugar. A few people's sugar levels may fall somewhat lower.

Diabetes and Prediabetes

A person is said to have diabetes if his or her fasting blood sugar level is higher than 126 mg/dL after fasting for eight hours. Furthermore, if sugar levels are greater than 200, and a person is experiencing symptoms such as increased urination, thirst and/or weight loss, the person is considered to have diabetes.

A blood sugar levels that is higher than normal, but that does not meet all the other previously mentioned criteria for full-blown diabetes, is considered prediabetes. Like diabetes, prediabetes can put you at greater risk for developing cardiovascular disease, although not as much as diabetes. It's possible to prevent a progression into diabetes through diet and exercise.

The Risk of High Blood Sugar Levels

Although glucose can be considered to be precious fuel for all the cells in your body, if there is an imbalance it can behave like a slow-acting poison. High sugar levels can slowly erode the ability of cells in the pancreas to make insulin. The pancreas is then forced to overcompensate, and insulin levels remain overly high. If this persists over time, the pancreas will become permanently damaged.

The elevated sugar in the blood also causes changes that lead to atherosclerosis, which is a hardening of the blood vessels. High sugar levels and damage to blood vessels can cause many complications such as:

  1. Kidney disease or kidney failure, which will require dialysis.
  2. Increased danger of experiencing a stroke.
  3. Increased danger of heart attacks.
  4. Eye problems like partial visual loss or blindness.
  5. Immune system suppression, with increased risk for infections.
  6. Erectile dysfunction.
  7. Nerve damage, which is also known as neuropathy.
  8. Poor circulation to the legs and feet, which is also accompanied by poor wound healing.

If you are concerned about your blood sugar levels because you have been diagnosed as diabetic or prediabetic, it is important to work closely with your doctor to monitor and interpret your results. Talk to your doctor about whether you should be testing your blood glucose at home. If you are checking your own blood glucose levels make sure to write down your results and review them to see how food, activity and stress have affected your levels.

Keep a close eye on your weekly readings to discover any patterns or sudden changes. Make sure to ask your doctor or nurse if you should report results out of a certain range at once by phone. Remember that blood glucose results can trigger strong feelings. It's easy for your numbers to cause frustration and anger. Try to avoid using them, and to judge yourself and your progress. Try to maintain a positive attitude, and focus on the fact that you may simply need to make a change in your diabetes plan.

Source: WebMD.com and The American Diabetes Association

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