The body’s level of blood sugar, or blood glucose, varies throughout the day. The amount of glucose in the blood will be higher immediately after eating and lower between meals or after a fast. This is normal. The body is remarkable at stabilizing the blood sugar and, in a healthy individual, is able to take the sugar from a high fat or high glycemic index meal and convert it to energy fast enough to maintain a healthy blood sugar level.
This metabolic process, called cellular respiration, is the body’s main source of energy. After eating, the body converts foods to sugar to be transferred into the blood stream. The pancreas then releases insulin to help the sugar enter the cells to be used as energy. Sugar in the blood, therefore, is a normal and healthy part of life. Without sugar, there is no energy.
While sugar in the blood is a normal part of healthy body function, concentrations of sugar in the blood that are too high or too low can cause serious health problems. Some factors that affect blood glucose levels include diet, stress, alcohol consumption, smoking, and eating or drinking less than eight hours before a fasting test or eating or drinking less than two hours before a postprandial test. If diabetes is a concern, there may be damage to the pancreas or liver, adding to the changes in blood sugar levels. Also, certain medications can cause changes in blood sugar. Exercise helps filter the glucose into the cells to be used up by the muscles, so blood sugar may drop after exercise as well.
There are several medical conditions that result from abnormal blood glucose levels. In people with diabetes, blood sugar levels are continuously high or too high too often. For individuals who suffer from hypoglycemia, blood sugar levels become too low. Diabetic coma, loss of consciousness, dehydration, and death are just some of the complications of abnormal blood sugar levels.
So what is normal? According to the American Diabetes Association, at any point an adult should have between 70 and 125 mg/dL of glucose in her blood. After fasting, the number should be between 70 and 99 mg/dL, whereas within two hours of eating, blood sugar should be in the 70 to 145 range. Blood sugar levels rise and fall throughout the day and one spike or one drop every once in a while is not a big concern. If, however, blood sugar levels fluctuate frequently, it is time to talk to a healthcare professional.
Depending on each individual, healthcare providers may suggest different healthy blood sugar levels outside of these generic guidelines. Considerations to tighten blood sugar control must be given based on certain factors. Life expectancy, how long the patient has lived with diabetes, microvascular complications, and various other physical considerations all affect how stringent the doctor is. These considerations will also determine the course of treatment the physician and patient take. With the right counsel, proper diet, exercise, some careful monitoring, and perhaps some drug supplements, it is possible to help your body regulate fluctuating blood sugar levels.