The main aim of diabetes treatment is to keep blood sugar levels within a specified target range. The key is balancing your food with your activity, lifestyle and diabetes medicines. Blood glucose monitoring can help you understand the link between blood glucose levels, food, exercise and insulin.
Blood Sugar Levels or Blood Glucose Levels?
First, what is the difference between ‘glucose’ and ‘sugar’? Well, sugar is the common name for sweet carbohydrates that dissolve in water. There are different types of sugars. The one used by our body the most is called ‘glucose’. Other sugars we eat, like fructose from fruit or lactose from milk, are converted into glucose in our bodies. Then we can use them for energy.
So when people talk about “blood sugar level”, they actually mean “blood glucose level”. The two terms mean the same thing.
Let us first have a quick note on how we measure blood sugar levels. In the USA, blood sugars are measured by weight in milligrams per deciliter, abbreviated as mg/dL. Most everyone else uses millimoles per litre, abbreviated mmol.
Normal Sugar Level Range
For a majority of healthy individuals, normal blood sugar levels are as follows:
Between 4.0 to 6.0 mmol/L (72 to 108 mg/dL) after a night of fasting. It is also referred to as fasting blood sugar.
Up to 7.8 mmol/L (140 mg/dL), two hours after eating or drinking a sugary substance post an overnight fast. This is known as glucose tolerance test.
Lower than 11.1 mmol/L (200 mg/dL) at any arbitrary point in time. This is known as random blood sugar level.
Diabetes Sugar Level Range
For people suffering from diabetes, normal sugar level in blood is as follows:
Before meals: 4 to 7 mmol/L for people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
After meals: under 9 mmol/L for people with type 1 diabetes and under 8.5mmol/L for people with type 2 diabetes.
When glucose levels get higher than normal, they start to cause inflammation in blood vessels and nerves. This is where all the complications of diabetes arise from. So you don’t want a high blood sugar level.
In people without diabetes, insulin function maintains normal sugar levels. When you have diabetes, insulin function is damaged. You need to give your body conscious help, by eating right, exercising, taking medications or herbs, and reducing stress. You can learn what your blood glucose is at a given moment with a finger stick blood test, using any available glucose meter. It hurts a little, and the test strips cost money, but you can get useful information.
Right Time to Test Blood Sugar Level
When you should test your blood glucose levels and how often you should test them varies with each individual, the type of diabetes, the tablets and the insulin being used.
Your doctor will help you decide how many tests are needed and the levels to aim for. Possible times to test are:
Before breakfast (fasting)
Two hours after a meal
Before rigorous exercise
When you are feeling unwell
Testing four times a day is usually recommended for people with type 1 diabetes. However many people test more often, such as those using an insulin pump (CSII – Continuous Subcutaneous Insulin Infusion).
Even though your meter may have a memory, it is important to keep a record of your normal sugar levels in a diary and to take this with you to all appointments with your doctor. Regular testing and recording of your blood glucose level can reinforce your healthy lifestyle choices, and if there are pattern changes, it can alert you and your doctor to a possible need for a change in how your diabetes is being managed.
Effective diabetes management is all about aiming for a careful balance between the foods you eat, how active you are and the medication you take for your diabetes. Because this is a delicate balance, it can be quite difficult to achieve ideal control all the time.
Diabetes range will vary depending on the individual and an individual’s circumstances. While it is important to keep your blood glucose levels as close to the target range as possible i.e. between 4 to 6 mmol/L (fasting) to prevent complications, it is equally important to check with your doctor or Credentialled Diabetes Educator for the range of blood glucose levels that are right and safe for you.