Blood sugar refers to the main sugar in your blood, drawn from the food you eat. Carbohydrates are the common sources of sugar in our bodies but other foods also contain trace amounts of sugar that can be converted into energy.
Also known as glucose, it is the body’s main source of energy, transported to various organs by blood. Insulin is an important hormone that plays a major role in how your body uses blood sugar. It acts as an important regulator to keep glucose level at a normal range.
The standard for measuring blood sugar is milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood (mg/dl). For healthy individuals, normal blood sugar levels immediately they wake up (before eating) should be under 100mg/dl.
Two hours after eating, blood glucose levels should be less than 140 mg/dl. In a person with diabetes, the American Diabetes Association states that the normal blood sugar range is 80-130 mg/dl after waking up and less than 180 mg/dl 2 hours after meals.
Unfortunately, blood sugar levels are not always in the normal range. Sometimes it is low (hypoglycemia) and others it is high (hyperglycemia).
The opposite of low blood sugar is high blood sugar (hyperglycemia). Blood sugar is considered to be high if it is above 130 mg/dl after fasting and 180 mg/dl two hours after eating.
High blood sugar is a major concern for people with diabetes and it could cause several complications. It is a situation where your body is unable to process sugar and this could even lead to death if untreated.
Low blood sugar or hypoglycemia is a condition where the numbers fall below 55 mg/dl. This means that cells are deprived of energy, meaning that your body organs are unable to perform normal functions.
Low blood sugar is very dangerous and could cause several complications for the person affected.
It is important to watch out for the telling signs of high blood sugar to avoid putting yourself or a loved one in danger. Symptoms of hyperglycemia do not occur until the condition is elevated. The most common symptoms include:
While some people have high blood sugar, the opposite is also possible. Low blood sugar or hypoglycemia causes short and long-term complications.
Even just after eating, you will suddenly feel ravenous hunger. This feeling of starvation immediately after meals is a sign that your body still needs glucose.
These are as a result of damage to the central nervous system. Low glucose levels lead to the release of catecholamines to encourage the release of more glucose but the side effect of this is shaking and trembling.
Low glucose levels trigger adrenaline release to trigger more production by the liver. The sudden adrenaline rush is the reason for anxiety among people with low blood sugar.
This condition causes nightmares, confusion, night sweats and crying out which all make for very restless nights.
As hypoglycemia becomes worse, you will experience heightened symptoms like:
There are many reasons that your blood sugar might rise;
If it is not treated, high blood sugar/hypoglycemia could result in more serious symptoms such as:
More serious complications of hyperglycemia include eye, heart, kidneys, and heart diseases.
Is the most common and dangerous complication that literally acidifies your body. If not treated, you will fall into a coma and could eventually die. It is therefore important to seek treatment as soon as you notice the symptoms.
Blood vessel injuries are the most common long-term effect of hyperglycemia. Cells usually thicken and block blood flow to vital organs, thereby causing even more serious complications.
Legs and feet suffer severely from hyperglycemia. Poor blood supply to these organs causes them to die; leading to amputations.
The mind is also affected in the long term, resulting in depression, mood swings and other psychological problems. A patient becomes erratic and even develops suicidal tendencies.
When a person develops complications they need to be watched closely round the clock by a professional caregiver.
Non-diabetic high blood sugar can occur from medications such as beta blockers, antipsychotics and abuse of amphetamine. It could also occur if you are taking double action antidepressants like Cymbalta.
There are several reasons why one would have low blood sugar. It often happens when a person with diabetes takes more insulin than needed. Other causes of hypoglycemia include:
If left untreated, low blood sugar could lead to several complications including:
While low blood sugar is associated with diabetes, there are instances when one may have the condition without having diabetes. Reactive hypoglycemia occurs after a meal owing to overproduction of insulin.
It is a warning sign that you may be developing diabetes. Some people have non-reactive low blood sugar which is caused by several things including pregnancy, excessive alcohol intake, certain medications, liver, heart and kidney disorders. You may also have non-diabetic blood sugar if you have hormone deficiencies.
Your doctor will diagnose non-diabetic hypoglycemia by doing a physical exam, checking your symptoms and reviewing your blood glucose levels. They will watch you closely to see if you feel better after eating or drinking to raise your glucose levels.
You can test your levels using a glucose meter to see if they show anything less than 70 mg/dl. The doctor should give you the Glucose Tolerance Test. You will need to fast for at least 8 hours before the test. The doctor will draw a sample of blood and ask you for a urine sample. Blood glucose will be measured and then a sweet drink will be given.
The doctor will keep drawing blood for six hours after you have had the drink. If you exhibit symptoms such as dizziness and confusion, it means your sugar levels have dropped drastically. Blood sugar readings below 70 mg/dl indicate low blood sugar and you should start treatment immediately to avoid complications.
To check your blood sugar levels, the doctor will conduct one of two tests;
This is taken after 8 hours of fasting, just after waking up. The doctor will draw a sample of blood to check the blood sugar reading on an empty stomach. Normal blood glucose levels for a fasting test are 70-100 mg/dl but this depends on the individual.
Levels are abnormal if the blood sugar readings are 100-125 mg/dl. Any number higher than 125 mg/dl for a fasting blood sugar test mean that you have diabetes.
This is a test done at random times without the need for you to fast. Normal readings for this test are 79-160 mg/dl. Readings between 160-200 mg/dl signal prediabetes and any numbers above 200 mg/dl mean you have diabetes.
Blood sugar test kits are an important asset to have at home. The most common is a glucose meter that tests your levels in a small drop of blood. You will need to prick your finger with a lancet and carefully place it on the testing strip before checking the reading.
For people with high blood sugar, treatment means reducing glucose levels. This can be done by:
Insulin and other medications can be used to regulate high sugar levels.
Physical activity is known to lower blood sugar so be open to exercise to normalize things.
The food you eat plays a great role in managing sugar levels. The trick is to avoid carbs and foods that contain too much sugar. Cinnamon which is rich in chromium that is known to quickly reduce blood sugar. Other foods include beans, carrots, kelp, spirulina, and legumes.
High blood sugar management is all about bringing blood sugar down. It helps patients avoid serious complications that occur gradually.
This must be done several times a day using a home glucose monitor. The doctor will recommend how many times you need to check depending on your needs.
Research shows that a low-carb, high protein diet is effective at lowering blood sugar. Eating fewer carbohydrates reduces the chances of a dangerous spike in blood sugar levels.
These are foods that will keep you feeling fuller so you are not tempted to eat sugary snacks. Legumes, fruit and whole grains are excellent sources of fiber.
People who are overweight are more likely to have insulin resistance and suffer from hyperglycemia than the rest of the population. Eating a healthy diet, regular exercise and portion control will help you lose extra weight and maintain it to reduce your chances of insulin insensitivity.
Drinking enough water will prevent dehydration and help your kidneys flush out excess sugars from your system. When seeking to lower blood sugar, keep away from sugary fluids as these will only aggravate the situation. People with hyperglycemia should reduce their alcohol intake to avoid dehydration.
Other than medications, some people choose natural treatments for high blood sugar. These include;
Herbs like ginger, Aloe Vera, cinnamon, okra, fenugreek, bitter melon and bilberry extract. These are rich in magnesium, chromium and other elements that are excellent at bringing down blood sugar levels.
Eating clean protein such as wild caught fish, grass-fed beef, and organic chicken.
Acupuncture is an ancient form of treatment designed to deal with, pain, nerve damage and depression. Many people turn to it as a natural treatment for diabetes rather than having to take their meds while others use it in combination.
Biofeedback is a form of alternative medicine where patients become more aware and learn how to react to the body’s response to pain. It involves stress reduction and relaxation techniques as opposed to medication.
For low blood sugar, the best treatment is one that helps increase the levels of glucose in your bloodstream. For people with diabetes treatment means being careful not to take too much insulin.
Non-diabetic hypoglycemia can be treated with carbohydrates and sugary fruits. Low blood sugar diets should include all food groups to ensure balance. The five main methods of treating hypoglycemia include:
Low blood sugar is an easy condition to manage following these tips whenever you have low blood sugar:
This involves taking small regular meals throughout the day and limiting choices with high sugar. You should also include a variety of meals in the diet in order to diversify your sources of glucose. Discuss an appropriate meal plan with a certified dietician to make sure that you eat healthy meals that will not cause a major dent in your sugar levels.
If you are taking medication that causes hypoglycemia, discuss it with your doctor so they can change it. For those whose problems are caused by a tumor, surgery may be the only way to treat low blood sugar.
Even if you have tested at home, the doctor will order a number of tests to ascertain that you really have low blood sugar. For fasting non-diabetic hypoglycemia your blood sugar levels will be checked every few hours for a fast lasting some days.
You might be given a mixed-meal tolerance test to investigate if you have non-reactive hypoglycemia. The MMT involves getting a special drink full of proteins, fats, and sugar. This will spike your glucose levels and the doctor will keep checking every few hours.
It is important that you know what exactly is causing your low blood sugar in order to have it treated accordingly. If it is due to medication you might need to adjust the dosage or change it altogether.
Your best bet at preventing hyperglycemia is proper management and learning early detection methods so you can treat the condition early. It is important to be watchful about your diet and calories as this is the main reason why people get high blood sugar.
To prevent the disease, you must make deliberate lifestyle changes like exercising more often, quitting smoking and alcohol as well as portion control. Refined sugars should never appear on your plate. You also need to keep testing your blood sugar levels whether at home or at the doctor’s office.
You have to be very careful to prevent a hypoglycemic attack. If you are at risk, never delay or skip meals and always have a sugary snack within reach. If you go drinking, make sure there is a sweet snack nearby.
If you participate in physical activity, adjust your diabetes medication accordingly. Your medication should be taken on time and always measured carefully as overdosing could dangerously lower your blood glucose levels.