Maintaining normal glucose levels is essential to managing
diabetes. While glucose is a necessary part of cell function, too much or too
little of it can have an adverse effect on your body.
What is glucose?
Glucose is a type of sugar found in blood. Its primary
function is to provide energy to our cells. We get glucose from eating foods like
breads, fruit, and pasta that contain carbohydrates. During digestion, our
bodies break down these carbohydrates into glucose, which then gets released
into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, the body regulates glucose
levels with two pancreatic hormones, insulin and glucagon. When blood sugar
levels rise, insulin is produced to help transport glucose to our cells. When
blood sugar levels are low, glucagon is produced to stimulate the liver to
break down glycogen into glucose, which gets released into the bloodstream.
Diabetics have problems with insulin production and/or
sensitivity. In people with type 1 diabetes, the pancreas is not producing enough
insulin. In people with type 2 diabetes, the pancreas is usually producing
insulin, but the body’s cells have become resistant to the amount being
produced by the pancreas. That puts diabetics at risk for having excessively
high glucose levels, a condition known as hyperglycemia. Signs of hyperglycemia
include thirst, weakness, blurry vision. If glucose levels continue to rise
without insulin treatment in type I diabetics, more serious consequences may
include coma and even death.
Diabetics can also have troubles with excessively low
glucose levels, which is known as hypoglycemia. This usually results from a
combination of too much insulin, increased physical activity, and low carbohydrate
intake (such as skipping a meal.) Hypoglycemia can occur in both type 1 and
type 2 diabetics, but is more common in those with type 1.
Normal glucose levels for men and women without diabetes are
between 70-110mg/dL after fasting for eight hours (preprandial) and under 200
mg/dL two hours after starting a meal (postprandial). Some experts put the
postprandial levels at 180mg/dL, or even lower at 140mg/dL. The American
Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends non-pregnant adults with diabetes aim for
a glucose level of 70-130mg/dL preprandial and under 180mg/dL postprandial.
The ADA does not specify normal glucose levels for pregnant
women with diabetes. However, they advise these women to keep their blood sugar
close to the same levels as for non-pregnant adults with diabetes throughout
their pregnancy, to decrease the risks of birth defects in their babies.
As with many health care issues, the definition of what is
considered normal can vary from person to person. Speak with your health care
provider to determine what glucose levels are normal for you.