What Are Blood Sugar Levels?

April 10, 2012 in Diabetes, Diabetes Management, Health by Mary Ireland

Diabetes and the diabetes epidemic have been in the news a lot lately. It can be difficult to understand the mechanisms that cause diabetes. I thought I would discuss one, very important aspect of diabetes -- blood sugar levels.

Your blood sugar level is the amount of sugar, in the form of glucose, present in your blood. Blood sugar, in the form of glucose is necessary and important because it is the primary source of energy for your body's cells and the only form of energy that the brain can use. If the body doesn't have a source of glucose from food, it will make glucose from protein, stored in the body as muscle, or it will make glucose from fat stored in the body. Insulin is required for the cells in the muscles to absorb glucose. Typically when you eat, your blood sugar (glucose) levels rise; the body then releases more insulin to reduce the blood sugar levels. A healthy human body tightly regulates blood sugar levels as a part of metabolic homeostasis by the liver and through the use of insulin.

Glucose comes directly from carbohydrate foods. Sugary foods are primarily glucose and don't require the body to break them down; therefore, sugary foods raise blood sugar levels quickly after you eat them. Processed starch, such as crackers, white bread, white rice, is broken down into glucose by amylase in your mouth as you chew your food. Processed starches also raise your blood sugar levels quickly after you eat them. Complex carbohydrates, because they contain fiber, are broken down more slowly and result is a slower rise in blood sugar levels.

It is important to note that just eating too much food (including protein and fat) can also drive up the blood sugar. All foods are broken down to energy if not needed for their basic function. For example protein provides amino acids to build enzymes, muscle and many other things; fat builds cholesterol, brain and cell membranes and many other things. If the body has enough protein and fat, it will use the extra fat and protein for energy or store it as fat. If there are excess calories/glucose, the blood sugar can be easily driven up.

The range of normal blood sugar levels in humans is approximately between 70 mg/dl (milligrams/deciliter) and 140 mg/dl. Blood sugar levels fluctuate throughout the day -- usually they are lowest in the morning, before the first meal of the day and rise slightly after meals for an hour or two. However, it is not uncommon for a diabetic's blood sugar to rise while they are asleep.

Persistently high levels of blood sugar is referred to as hyperglycemia; low levels are referred to as hypoglycemia. Diabetes mellitus is characterized by persistent hyperglycemia. A blood glucose test is required to measure your blood sugar level. Several different types of blood glucose tests are used.

  • Fasting blood sugar(FBS) measures blood glucose after you have not eaten for at least 8 hours.
  • Two-hour postprandial blood sugar measures blood glucose exactly 2 hours after you start eating a meal.
  • Random blood sugar(RBS) measures blood glucose of when you last ate. If this test is used, several measurements may be taken throughout the day. This test is also called a casual blood glucose test.
  • Oral glucose tolerance test is commonly used to diagnose prediabetes and diabetes in pregnant women. An oral glucose tolerance test is a series of blood glucose measurements taken after drinking a sweet liquid that contains glucose.

Blood sugar levels are very important because levels that remain high over time can damage your eyes, kidneys, nerves, and blood vessels. Cells in the muscle, liver, and fat need insulin to receive glucose. However, cells in the nervous system, heart, blood vessels and kidneys pick up glucose directly from the blood without using insulin. Damage can occur when these cells are exposed to high levels of glucose.

Blood sugar levels can be managed by actions you read about in our blogs:

  • Exercising
  • Getting adequate amounts of sleep
  • Reducing stress
  • Restricting or eliminating refined sugars and refined grains
  • Eating healthy foods that contain a lot of nutrients and fiber such as
    • Fruits
    • Vegetables
    • Beans and legumes
    • Tree nuts
    • 100% Whole grains
  • Losing weight

See Dr. Grandma's blogs, Reduce Your Diabetes Risk -- Just Do It and Running toward Whole Grains, Vegetables, Beans and Fruit for more detailed information about reducing your diabetes risk.

Remember too that Dr. Grandma's products are 100% organically grown, whole grain. Cooked wheat berries sprinkled with a sweetener of your choice make an excellent breakfast. You can add variety to your breakfast with Dr. Grandma's Whole Wheat Pancake and Dr. Grandma's Whole Wheat Muffin mixes. Adding wheat berries to salads, soups, casseroles -- almost anything -- is an easy way to add nutrition and help control blood sugar levels.