What Is Blood Sugar?
Blood sugar is the glucose that your blood transports to your body’s cells to give them energy. Your blood sugar can be measured. This measurement indicates the amount of glucose carried by the blood during one moment of time.
This glucose comes as a result of the foods that we consume. In the normal human body, the level of blood glucose is regulated so that it is neither too high nor too low.
Blood sugar is different than the sugar that we normally eat. Table sugar is sucrose. The sugar in the bloodstream is glucose.
Your blood glucose level changes depending upon what you are doing. When you eat, the level rises. It returns to a lower level after about an hour’s time. Your glucose level is at its lowest point when you first awake, before eating.
How Sugar Enters the Cells of the Body
If you eat carbohydrate, your body will break it down into glucose. Glucose can simply be converted into energy. However, glucose can only gain entrance to cells via insulin. The pancreas is the organ that produces insulin. After you eat, your blood sugar rises. As the cells absorb the glucose, the level in the blood returns to normal.
Excess glucose is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen. If you don’t eat for a certain period of time, then your blood glucose level drops. The pancreas will then release a hormone called glucagon. Glucagon causes the breakdown of glycogen into glucose. This elevates blood glucose back to where it needs to be.
Normal Blood Sugar Levels
The normal person has a fasting glucose level below 99 milligrams per deciliter. People with diabetes have elevated glucose levels. The American Diabetes Association advises that diabetics maintain their glucose level between 70 and 130 mg/dL before eating and less than 180 mg/dL two hours after eating.
Elevation in blood sugar levels is known as hyperglycemia. People with diabetes have generally elevated glucose levels when they are untreated. Hyperglycemia occurs either because the body does not have enough insulin, or the body does not properly use the insulin. When the body doesn’t properly use the insulin, it is called insulin resistance.
Symptoms of hyperglycemia include:
- Dry mouth
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
Long-term complications of diabetes include:
- Kidney disease
- Erectile dysfunction
- Nerve damage
Hypoglycemia occurs when glucose levels go below normal. If you have diabetes, then you have a higher risk of both hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia include:
- Pale face
Things that Influence Blood Sugar Levels
In terms of what you eat, your glucose level is influenced by the amount and type of carbohydrates that you eat. Simple carbohydrates, such as unrefined sugar, are broken down quickly by your system. Therefore, they enter the bloodstream rapidly and can cause spikes in blood sugar. Complex carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes, take longer to enter the bloodstream. They, consequently, don’t cause spikes in blood sugar.
The exercise that you do can also influence your blood sugar levels. To maintain normal blood sugar levels, diabetics combine diet, exercise, and medication. Some diabetics can control their illness with diet and exercise alone.
Measuring Blood Sugar
Diabetics measure their sugar a few times a day with a device called a glucometer. The targets for the glucose levels have already been mentioned.
Another test which is useful in the diagnosis and maintenance of diabetes is the hemoglobin A1C. This test measures the average sugar levels over the last three months.
An A1C below 5.7 is considered normal. An A1C between 5.7 and 6.4 signals pre-diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed when the result is over 6.5 percent. The goal for diabetics is to lower this reading.
Your A1C goal is specific to your case. Several factors come into play that determine your target. A typical goal for people with diabetes is less than seven percent. Keeping your reading below your target is a good way of stemming the tide of possible long-term complications of diabetes.
Ways of Controlling Blood Sugar
If you have diabetes or are concerned about your blood sugar levels, then there are changes in lifestyle that you can take on to control blood sugar.
- Get more exercise.
- Eat a balanced diet with appropriate portion sizes.
- Stick to a schedule.
The science of blood sugar is relatively easy to understand. So are the tips that have been mentioned to regulate blood sugar. For those with diabetes, a treatment plan must be developed under the care of a doctor. The truth is that everyone can use the advice of a good dietitian to optimize their diet plan.