What is Blood Sugar?

June 8th, 2012

Welcome to the Blood Sugar Zone.  The goal of this website is to provide informative articles on blood sugar for you and your health.  So, let’s get started, what is blood sugar?

The term “blood sugar” is a colloquial phrase that refers specifically to the amount of glucose that is present in the blood at any given point.  Glucose is a simple sugar that is produced in large part through eating a diet rich in carbohydrates, but is also produced by consuming proteins and fats.  When glucose is produced, it is absorbed directly into the blood stream through the intestinal tract.  Maintaining a healthy blood glucose level is crucial to living a healthy life in a healthy body.

The average body is remarkable at maintaining a steady glucose level regardless of the amount of food eaten and despite variability between meals.  The body uses glucose in conjunction with insulin to produce energy at the cellular level.  Shortly after eating, when glucose enters the bloodstream through the intestines, a signal is sent to the pancreas and insulin is released to counteract the sudden increase in glucose.  The insulin also helps filter the glucose into the body’s cells.  The energy generated during this process allows each cell to perform a specific function for the overall well-being of the body.   And, while other sugars, such as fructose and galactose, exist within the blood stream at all times, glucose is the main sugar type that affects metabolic functioning.

Healthy blood sugar levels in an adult range between 70 mg/dl and 120 mg/dl.  The average blood glucose reading is around 90 mg/dl.  When these levels are not consistently maintained, serious and sometimes fatal diseases occur.  Diabetes, the most well-known blood sugar disease is caused by a deficient pancreas and low insulin levels or by cells that do not respond to the release of insulin.  Hyperglycemia, consistently high blood sugar, and hypoglycemia, consistently low blood sugar, are very serious blood sugar disorders as well.  Untreated hyperglycemia can lead to dehydration and coma while hypoglycemia may lead to strange behavior and loss of consciousness.

Maintaining a healthy blood glucose level is simple for someone with a healthy body.  A healthy pancreas releases enough insulin to counteract any sugars ingested, even after an extremely high-sugar meal or snack.  Health-conscious lifestyle choices also positively affect blood sugar levels.  Avoiding simple sugars and carbohydrates, such as white pastas and breads, candy, cakes, pastries, and other processed foods and replacing them with whole grains and vegetables is a is a great way to help the body manage blood sugar levels.  Also, engage in exercise regularly.  To see the positive health affects of regular exercise, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend 150 minutes a week of moderate (think fast walking) exercise plus two days of strength or resistance training that works each major muscle group.

For a healthy individual, blood sugar levels rise and fall with regular meals and as the pancreas works hard to release insulin throughout the day and night.  For others, blood sugar problems necessitate a change in lifestyle, diet, and perhaps the introduction of medication to maintain sugar levels.