Diabetes--How low should my blood sugar be? A guide to blood sugar levels
We all know that self monitoring our blood glucose levels are essential for good diabetic care, but how high is high, and how low is low? If you're not a healthcare professional, I'm sure it'll take forever to memorize these values. But fret not, little Georgie is here to help!
For starters, let's see what blood sugar levels mean for those that HAVE NOT started any diabetic treatment. In Malaysia, we adopt the European unit of measure, using mmol/L. If you have a meter programmed to use the American unit mg/dL, just divide the value by 18 to convert it into mmol/L.
If your blood sugar falls within this range, then you are a healthy, normal human being. Nothing to worry about here, and you can continue your healthy lifestyle as usual.
If your blood sugar level falls into this range, you are considered a PREDIABETIC. Most people will be confused by this term, but strictly speaking, you are NOT a diabetic...at least not yet. This term was coined to give a stern warning to all who fall into this group that if no changes are made to their diet and lifestyle (for the better), they will PROBABLY end up a diabetic within 5 years.
If your blood sugar falls into this category, most likely you are a diabetic. Of course a doctor's diagnosis is still the definitive way of diagnosing diabetes. Here, your pancreas has started to fail, and insulin levels have started to plunge. Medical treatment is compulsory at this stage.
If you blood sugar falls into this category, you are in urgent need of treatment! If you are in the MILD category, take 10-20g of sugar or sugary drinks to increase your blood sugars the express way. This can be anything from 2 sugar cubes to 1-2 table spoons of honey or half a glass of sweet drinks. DO NOT use diabetic sugar replacements (like equal or pal sweet) for the purpose of treating hypoglycemia. It is also a good idea for diabetics under medication to bring along some sweets at all times.
If you call in the SEVERE category, get a friend/relative to get you to a hospital/clinic. Glucagon injections may be needed in these cases. Also, a simple dextrose drip will also bring sugars back up almost immediately.
For those ALREADY ON DIABETIC TREATMENT, below is the blood sugar level you should be aiming for with treatment.
If you can make sure your sugars fall into this category ALL the time, chances are, your HbA1c level will be less than 6.5%, and that means, you are just as healthy as a non-diabetic. In this sugar range, you do not have any higher risk of developing diabetic related complications (like heart attack, foot gangrene, kidney failure etc) as compared to a non-diabetic. You should be extra happy! :)
Any increase of sugar level above this category will directly translate into increased risk of complications. so DO talk to your healthcare professional on how to get your values into this range if they are not.
And lastly, if you are getting your blood results checked in a hospital, you would probably have noticed a test called "HbA1c". What is HbA1c?
HbA1c is a test of your overall glucose control, for the past 3 months or so. The beauty of this test is, it doesn't matter if it's taken before or after a meal. Also, it's much harder for patients to "cheat"--meaning that for those who like to "jaga diet" only one day before seeing the doctor, this test not be influenced by any last minute dieting.
In reference to the IDF guidelines, a diabetic should not have HbA1C levels more than 6.5% (it is calculated as a percentage). According to the UKPDS trial, an increase by just 1% in HbA1c level (example from 6.5% increase to 7.5%) can mean a 35% increase in the risk of complications.