Blood Glucose: What It Is, How It Works, Why It Matters
Blood glucose is a very important part of staying healthy. It is a sugar that the bloodstream carries to all cells in the body to supply energy. A person needs to keep these levels within a safe range to reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Monitoring does measure the amount of sugar that the blood is transporting during a single instant.
Many factors play a role. For example, the food you eat, your physical activity and your medicines, can cause your glucose to be higher or lower than your target range. It is important to try and keep your levels in your target range to prevent issues with your heart, feet, kidneys, and eyes.
Blood Glucose: Managing The Levels
Hyperglycemia (high blood glucose) happens when there is too much glucose (sugar) in your blood. Hypoglycemia (low glucose) is when your blood glucose levels go too low. This is usually less than 70 mg/dL on a meter.
Several factors can affect your levels:
- Missing a dose of medicine
- Eating more than usual
- Exercising less than usual
- Being stressed by being sick with a cold or the flu
- Feeling stressed because of family conflicts, work, or other problems
Signs of high glucose
- A glucose reading above your target range on a blood glucose meter
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
- Blurry vision
- Fatigue or unusual tiredness
On the other hand, low levels have their own specific symptoms:
Symptoms of low glucose
- Feeling shaky
- Being nervous or anxious
- Sweating, chills, clamminess
- Mood swings, irritability, or impatience
- Fast heart beat
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- Hunger or nausea
- Feeling sleepy
- Feeling weak, having no energy
- Blurred/impaired vision
- Tingling or numbness in lips, tongue, or cheeks
- Coordination problems, clumsiness
- Nightmares or crying out when sleeping
Blood Glucose: Keep Tabs, It’s Important
Your doctor may ask you to check your glucose at certain times each day for several days, and to bring the readings to the office. This is important so your doctor can understand how daily things like your meals, exercise, and medicines make your blood glucose go up and down. This information will help you and your doctor decide on the best treatment plan.
Common times to check glucose levels include:
- First thing in the morning. Checking your glucose before you eat or drink in the morning is called your “fasting blood glucose.”
- Right before you go to bed. Be sure to write down the last time you ate.
- Middle of the night. Checking your blood glucose in the middle of the night can help you and your doctor see how your medicine is working.
Sometimes you might want to check in pairs:
- Check your blood glucose before and 2 hours after a meal to learn how that meal changed your numbers. Different types of foods will cause different results.
- Check at bedtime and then first thing in the morning (before you eat or drink) to learn how your medicine is working.
- Check before and after exercise to see how different types of activity change your blood glucose levels.
Track your levels by writing down your numbers. This can help you learn how different things affect it, such as medicine, exercise, and food.
Write the date and the time that you checked. Add notes about the things that might have made your glucose go up or down. Remember, tracking your glucose is an important tool to help you and your doctor.