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What is Blood Sugar?

Blood sugar, or blood glucose, needs to be in the right range for you to be healthy. At least some glucose is necessary for your muscle, liver, and some other cells to use as fuel so they can function. A blood sugar chart can help you remember which levels you should opt for.

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Different Levels and What They Mean


The ranges of safe levels of blood glucose depend on factors such as what time of day it is and when you last ate. Safe levels of blood sugar are high enough to supply your organs with the sugar they need, but low enough to prevent symptoms of hyperglycemia or complications of diabetes. Dangerous levels of blood glucose are outside of this range.

The target levels can also vary if you have diabetes. For example, if you are diabetic and are monitoring your blood sugar, you might get a reading of 65 mg/dl. That is considered to be mild hypoglycemia, and you would be wise to eat 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates and retest your blood sugar in 15 minutes. 

If you were not diabetic, you probably would not know that your sugar was low because you would not test and because you would not symptoms, and you would not act. That is fine because your body is capable, under normal circumstances, of raising your blood glucose to healthy levels when needed, even if you have not eaten.

What is the Normal Range for Blood Sugar?


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These are considered within the range of “normal”:

  • Less than 140 mg/dl if you do not have diabetes.
  • Less than 180 mg/dl if you have diabetes.

Blood Sugar Levels in the Morning


The best time to check blood sugar for 1 last update 07 Jul 2020 levels in the morning is right when you wake up and before you eat anything. This gives you a glimpse of what may be happening overnight, and it gives you a baseline for the day.The best time to check blood sugar levels in the morning is right when you wake up and before you eat anything. This gives you a glimpse of what may be happening overnight, and it gives you a baseline for the day.

These are goal levels, according to Joslin. [3]

  • Under 70 mg/dl if you do not have diabetes.
  • 70 to 130 mg/dl if you have diabetes.

The dawn effect can often lead to a high morning measurement in diabetes. This is your body’s tendency to get ready for the day by raising blood sugar by increasing levels of counter-regulatory hormones – the ones that counteract insulin. With diabetes, you do not have the capacity to counterbalance this rise in blood sugar, so levels can be dangerously high.[4]

Ways to lower your morning blood sugar value include:

Blood Sugar Levels after Eating


Many foods have types of carbohydrates called starches and sugars. When you eat foods with these types of carbohydrates, your body breaks them down into glucose, which is a type of simple sugar, and releases the glucose into your bloodstream. Aside from glucose produced by your liver, food is the main source of blood glucose.

After eating, your blood sugar levels rise. They rise more when you eat more carbohydrates, when you do not eat fiber, fat, or protein with your carbs, and when you eat certain types of carbohydrates, such as refined sugars and starches.

These are target values. [5]

When Measured Goals for Healthy Adults Goals with Diabetes
Before lunch, dinner, or a snack
Less than 110 mg/dl
70-130 mg/dl
2 hours after you eat
Less than 140 mg/dl
Less than 180 mg/dl
Before bedtime
Less than 120 mg/dl
90-150 mg/dl

Blood Sugar Levels During Pregnancy


Gestational diabetes is high blood sugar that occurs during pregnancy if you were not diabetic before getting pregnant. [6] Healthy blood sugar during pregnancy can help lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes later. It can also lower the risk of your baby being born prematurely, at a high birth weight, and having respiratory problems.

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These are the steps for the 2-step strategy.

  • Drink a solution with 50 grams (200 calories) of glucose – about the amount in 1 16-oz. bottle of a soft drink.
  • Get your blood drawn after 1 hour. IF the value is high, retest…
  • Fast overnight.
  • Drink a solution with 100 grams (400 calories) of glucose – about the amount in 12(!) peanut butter cups.
  • Get your blood drawn immediately and after 1, 2, and 3 hours.

Or, your doctor might use the 1-step strategy with a 2-hour OGTT.

  • Fast overnight.
  • Drink a solution with 75 grams of glucose (300 calories – about the amount in 2 cans of soda).
  • Get your blood drawn immediately and after 1 and 2 hours.

These are some values to know related to gestational diabetes and healthy blood sugar in pregnancy. [8]

Time or Situation Blood Sugar Values  
Diagnosis – 1-hour OGTT

 

Any of the the 1 last update 07 Jul 2020 following are indicative of gestational diabetes.Any of the following are indicative of gestational diabetes.

Fasting: 92 mg/dl
1 hour: at least 180 mg/dl
2 hours: at least 153 mg/dl
 
Diagnosis – 2-hour OGTT

 

Getting 2 or more of the values shown is indicative of gestational diabetes.

Baseline: at least 95 mg/dl
1 hour: at least 180 mg/dl
2 hours: at least 155 mg/dl
3 hours: at least 140 mg/dl
(Alternative Method)
Baseline: at least 105 mg/dl
1 hour: at least 190 mg/dl
2 hours: at least 165 mg/dl
3 hours: at least 145 mg/dl

Hemoglobin Chart


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Measuring your A1C is an alternative to measuring fasting blood glucose. Measuring blood glucose directly with a finger prick or a blood draw at your doctor’s office lets you know your blood sugar at that moment, while the A1C value you get provides an estimate of your average blood sugar levels over the past 3 months.

For example, if your A1c value is 7.8 (a reading between 140-199 mg/dl) would be considered high.

Glycated Hemoglobin (A1C) Value Estimated Average Glucose (EAG)
5.6% (Highest “normal” value)
114 mg/dl
5.7% (Prediabetes)
117 mg/dl
6%
126 mg/dl
6.4% (Diabetes)
137 mg/dl
7% (Goal in diabetes)
154 mg/dl
8%
183 mg/dl
9%
212 mg/dl
10%
240 mg/dl

Printable Blood Sugar Chart


A blood sugar chart showing goal values can help you quickly gauge how you are doing with your monitoring. This chart shows what to aim for throughout the day if you have diabetes or not. [9]

Time and Situation Goal for Non-Diabetics Goal for Diabetics
First thing in the morning (fasting
before breakfast)
< 100 mg/dl
70 – 130 mg/dl
Before lunch, dinner, and snacks
< 110 mg/dl
70 – 130 mg/dl
Two hours after starting to eat a meal or snack
< 140 mg/dl
< 180 mg/dl
Before going to bed
< 120 mg/dl
90- 150 mg/dl

You can also click here for a printable blood sugar chart showing target values at different times of the day for diabetics and non-diabetics.

Blood Sugar Level Chart by Age


Blood sugar levels tend to rise with age due to an increase in insulin resistance and decrease in insulin sensitivity. In one study, each extra decade of age was linked to a 2.7 mg/dl increase in fasting glucose, and a 4.5 mg/dl increase in 2-hour post-prandial (post-meal) glucose levels. [10]

How to Reduce Blood Sugar 


You can take steps to reduce blood sugar as soon as you find out that it is high. This is how to reduce blood sugar if you have a single high reading that may be dangerous:

  • Ask your doctor what to do if you missed a dose of insulin or another diabetes medication.
  • Ask your doctor if your medication type(s) and dose(s) are still appropriate for you.
  • Drink water to dilute the sugar.
  • Exercise (if safe) for 15 minutes.
  • Eat a small protein snack, such as a hard-boiled egg, ½ ounce of peanuts or pistachios or other nuts, ½ cup of beans, or ½ cup of plain yogurt or cottage cheese.

If you have chronically high blood sugar in prediabetes or diabetes:

  • Exercise regularly, assuming your doctor approves it.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight or obese.
  • Eat a higher proportion of vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, and fruit.
  • Limit sugary foods and beverages, fried foods, refined starches, and processed and fatty red meats.
  • Beware of starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, which can spike your blood sugar. Check out our guide of which veggies to avoid!

Blood Sugar Level Calculator


If you have your blood sugar levels tested, then what? A blood sugar level calculator can help you put the results into terms you can understand. For example, it can convert mg/dl into mmol, or mmol into mg/dl, depending on which value your test results state for glucose levels. A calculator can also change A1C into EAG, or estimated average glucose.

Fasting Blood Glucose Level Test Preparation


What should you do if your doctor orders a fasting blood sugar test? The preparation is the same as when you take a fasting test for cholesterol. First, be sure to find out if you need to schedule an appointment for your test (some people need to; others have providers that do not require an appointment for blood tests). Ask your doctor what time is best to take it.

Then: [11]

  • Schedule your test if necessary.
  • Ask your doctor if you need to change any of the medications you take on the morning of the test.
  • If you normally drink coffee or have caffeine, ask your doctor if that is okay. It may not be, since it affects blood sugar levels.
  • Fast for at least 8 hours before your test. Usually, an overnight fast is most convenient. 
  • You can drink water.

How to Check Blood Sugar Levels of Urine at Home


A home urine test can show if you are excreting glucose in your urine. That only happens when blood sugar levels are high, and not if your values are within a healthy range. The urine test uses a test strip and is simple to do, but is not very precise. 

Blood Glucose Tests


Blood tests are more common urine tests for measuring blood sugar. They are precise, quick, and not overly painful. A blood sugar testing machine is also called a glucometer. It is not being overly dramatic to say that a good home glucometer can be life-saving if you have diabetes, since monitoring with a blood sugar chart is one of the top strategies for controlling it.

A good home glucometer:

  • Is simple, fast, and accurate.
  • Is easy to set up and use.
  • Pairs with a diabetes smartphone app so you can see your values instantly, track them over time, and get coaching and feedback.

Lark Diabetes Coach comes with a complete home glucometer kit that is shipped to you and is easy to set up. The Lark app walks you through setup and reminds you when to take your blood sugar.


Last updated: December 30th, 2019

References

  1. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/preventing-problems/low-blood-glucose-hypoglycemia
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hyperglycemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20373631
  3. https://www.joslin.org/info/Goals-for-Blood-Glucose-Control.html
  4. https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/morning-high-blood-sugar-levels
  5. https://www.joslin.org/info/Goals-for-Blood-Glucose-Control.html
  6. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes/gestational/definition-facts
  7. https://diabetesed.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/2018-ADA-Standards-of-Care.pdf
  8. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes/gestational/management-treatment
  9. https://www.joslin.org/info/Goals-for-Blood-Glucose-Control.html
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2080461/
  11. https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose-test-blood
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Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Assistant Professor of Public Health

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