Glucose, a type of sugar in the blood, is an important source of energy for the body, and many people have difficulty maintaining proper blood sugar levels. Levels that are either too high or too low can lead to significant health issues, including diabetes.
Where should your blood sugar levels be normally, and what are the health effects of abnormal levels?
Normal Blood Sugar Levels
Standard blood sugar levels usually depend on how long it’s been since you’ve eaten. If you’ve fasted for at least the past eight hours, levels should remain under 100 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter). If you’ve eaten within the last two hours, they should be under 140 mg/dL.
During the daytime, levels tend to be at their lowest before meals. For people without diabetes, blood sugar levels hover around 70 to 80 mg/dL, though this varies between individuals.
High Sugar Level Risks
According to the American Diabetes Association, 86 million people in the United States have prediabetes—a condition characterized by blood sugar levels that are higher than normal, but has not yet developed into diabetes. Prediabetes is still unhealthy, and can raise the risk of heart disease.
High glucose levels can almost be described as a slow-acting poison in your body. Its impact on the body includes:
- • Slow erosion of the ability of the cells in the pancreas to make insulin. The pancreas then overcompensates, and insulin stays too high. This causes permanent pancreas damage over time.
- • Changes that lead to hardening of the blood cells (known as atherosclerosis).
Too much sugar can damage blood vessels all over the body, and these can lead to issues including:
- • Kidney disease or kidney failure
- • Stroke
- • Heart attack
- • Vision loss or blindness
- • Weakened immune system (greater risk of infection)
- • Erectile dysfunction
- • Nerve damage (neuropathy) that leads to tingling, pain or loss of sensation in the feet, legs and hands
- • Poor circulation in legs and feet
- • Slow wound healing
Low Sugar Level Risks
Risks of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) can include:
- • Blurry vision
- • Rapid heartbeat
- • Sudden mood changes or nervousness
- • Unexplained fatigue
- • Pale skin
- • Headache
- • Hunger
- • Shaking
- • Dizziness
- • Sweating
- • Trouble sleeping
- • Tingling skin
- • Trouble thinking clearly or concentrating
- • Loss of consciousness, seizure or coma
Maintaining Stable Blood Sugar
Along with maintaining a healthy weight and regular exercise, the right kind of diet can help keep blood sugar levels stable. Here are tips in a few important areas:
- • Carbohydrates: Every diet needs carbs, particularly whole grains like barley and brown rice. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, milk, yogurt and legumes while avoiding refined or heavily processed carbs.
- • Protein: Choose healthy sources of protein, including chicken, low-fat dairy, fish and shellfish. Avoid meats you can eat rare, which have more fat than most meats.
- • Dairy: Dairy is good, but it also provides a lot of fat. Look for 1 percent dairy from healthy sources, including plain and Greek yogurt.
- • Fat: A diet must include fat, but try plant-based fats rather than animal fats. Eat avocados and nuts for healthy fats, but even these should be eaten in moderation.
For more information on how you can regulate blood sugar levels, speak to your doctor.
Our Utah County Endocrinologist is able to help diagnose and treat endocrine system disorders—even complex cases in which conventional treatments don’t work. As trained specialists, our providers know the latest treatments and technologies to treat a variety of disorders.
“High Blood Sugar, Diabetes, and Your Body.” WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/how-sugar-affects-diabetes#1
“What to Eat to Keep Your Blood Sugar in Check.” WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/features/diabetes-food-blood-sugar
“Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia).” Healthline. http://www.healthline.com/health/hypoglycemia#overview1