Glucose and blood sugar. What do these have to do with each other? Sugar levels can get too high in diabetes and pre-diabetes, but you also don’t want them to get too low. In this blog we’ll clarify exactly what blood sugar is, why you need it in your body, and when blood sugar is too high and can put you at metabolic risk.

Blood glucose: what is it exactly?

Blood glucose refers to the levels of glucose (or sugar) within your bloodstream. Glucose is a type of simple carbohydrate, a type of sugar. Your body needs carbohydrates, which it converts to glucose to be used for energy. 

After eating, blood sugar levels appropriately rise. In response, the pancreas produces insulin to control the levels of blood sugar and keep the level within a safe and normal range. This range will be different, of course, after one eats as compared to the blood glucose when we are fasting. Managing healthy blood glucose is a constant metabolic process and our bodies have an intricate system of maintaining homeostasis or balance. But there are circumstances in which the insulin made by our bodies falls short and cannot effectively manage the body’s blood sugar, or put another way, the blood sugar is too high and exceeds the body’s ability to manage it. 

This commonly occurs because of unhealthy weight gain. Weight gain results in insulin resistance which will first present itself as borderline elevations of blood glucose and/or elevated insulin levels. You may show impaired fasting glucose on or an elevated fasting sugar level on a blood test, a higher than expected non-fasting blood sugar level or elevated insulin levels, all signs of pre-diabetes. Left unchecked, these conditions can all result in diabetes.

Normal blood sugar levels

So what are normal blood glucose levels? Normal fasting levels (often required before some blood tests, or say you’re testing yourself first thing in the morning before eating) are 100 mg/dL. If testing about 2 hours after eating, they should be less than 140 mg/dL.

The lower limit is harder to put a number to, since normal blood sugar levels can vary from person to person. However, most people won’t go below 60 mg/dL.

What issues can arise from consistently high blood sugar levels?

Persistently elevated blood sugar that can occur in uncontrolled diabetes, can result in systemic problems to develop such as: heart disease, nerve damage, infections and dehydration,among other conditions. 

The good news is that the body is very forgiving! Even 5-10% weight loss, think 6 pounds in someone who weighs 180, can result in reductions of blood sugar and improvement in insulin resistance. It doesn’t take a whole lot of weight loss to begin to achieve metabolic benefits!

It is important to keep up with regular yearly well-visits to your doctor to determine if you are at risk and need blood tests to determine your sugar or screen for pre-diabetes/ diabetes.  These tests will allow you to detect abnormalities of blood sugar in advance, before developing problems that take a long time to occur. If diagnosed with prediabetes, you’re at risk for developing diabetes, but there are strategies to reverse it. Take to your doctor about strategies and next steps.