One of the most frequent questions I get is “What is blood sugar”, and “What are the signs and symptoms of high or low blood sugar levels”. In this post, I will try and answer these questions as much as possible so that you can be armed with the right knowledge.
Blood sugar also called glucose is the type of sugar found in our blood. It’s supplied or gotten from the food we eat, and it is our body cells’ primary source of energy.
The cells in the human body need glucose to function effectively. So the primary source of this glucose is the food we eat, for example, carbohydrates.
When the body cells are not supplied with an adequate amount of glucose they start to react and the individual will start feeling weak, and hungry, and this can lead to more severe consequences to the body’s organs.
How Sugar (Glucose) gets into cells in a healthy person
In a healthy person, the hormones insulin and sugar glucose stay outside the cells. The insulin hormone then attaches to a specific insulin receptor of the cells.
When insulin attaches to the insulin receptor on the cell surface, this triggers a signal that’s sent to glucose transporters (chemicals).
In response to signals sent to the glucose transporters, the glucose transporters move to the surface of the cell, where glucose molecules are waiting to enter the cell to be used as energy.
The glucose transporters then carry the glucose into the cells and are used for energy. This is how the process is repeated in a healthy person.
A person with type 1 Diabetes
However, in a person with type 1 diabetes mellitus, glucose builds up in the blood. This is because the pancreas makes little or no insulin.
Therefore, no insulin is attached to the insulin receptor which should send signals to the glucose transporters. This makes it impossible to get enough glucose to the cells. Thus glucose builds up in the blood.
A person with type 2 Diabetes
In a person with type 2 diabetes, the pancreas produces insulin which the insulin receptors send as signals to the glucose transporters. However, the signals sent to the glucose transporters are blocked. Thus glucose transporters do not get to the surface of the cells to bring in glucose. As a result, glucose builds up in the blood.
So, in the case of type 1 and type 2 conditions, blood sugar levels become too high in the blood system and this can have a lot of consequences on the health of the individual. This is also called hyperglycemia.
Blood sugar levels can also be too low. This is also called hypoglycemia and it’s less common; it’s a condition where the glucose needed by the body is in short supply. This can be very dangerous and can lead to sudden death if urgent medical attention is not available. In this case, the blood sugar levels drop too low to fuel the body’s cells’ activity.
So hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia are both abnormal blood sugar conditions that can have dangerous consequences if not promptly treated.
What is the Normal Blood Sugar Range?
The normal glucose level for the body is between 65 and 120 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), even if the body is without food during the night or sudden increase in sugar intake during mealtime.
A reading above 200 mg/dL (11.1 mmol/L) after two hours indicates diabetes. While reading between 140 and 199 mg/dL (7.8 mmol/L and 11.0 mmol/L) is a sign of prediabetes
Symptoms of high blood sugar condition (Hyperglycemia)
Hyperglycemia should be taken seriously so that it won’t linger for a long time because it can result in other serious health conditions that can require emergency attention – diabetes coma.
The eyes, kidneys, nerves, and heart, can be affected in the long term if hyperglycemia is left untreated.
Early signs and symptoms of hyperglycemia should be taken seriously and treated promptly so that it won’t develop into diabetes. Those signs are:
- Blurred vision
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
Later signs and symptoms
If hyperglycemia is left to linger, it can cause (ketoacidosis) which is the buildup of ketones (toxic acids) in your blood and urine.
Signs and symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- Shortness of breath
- Dry mouth
- Fruity-smelling breath
- Nausea and vomiting
How do you lower your blood sugar immediately?
- When it’s confirmed that you have a high blood sugar condition or hyperglycemia, the quickest way to reduce it is to take fast-acting insulin.
- Exercise: Exercising has some helpful effects. It helps your body keep excess weight in check and increases the efficiency of insulin action on the cells of your body. In addition, the glucose level in the bloodstream is naturally lowered, because exercised muscles use glucose to make energy. Also when you exercise your body, it helps your heart, and blood vessels and increases blood circulation.
- Eat healthily: Eating up to 20 to 25 grams of dietary fiber from different food sources daily will help reduce blood sugar levels hence, your chance of developing type 2 diabetes. For example, soluble fiber found in beans, oats, and some fruits and vegetables reduces cholesterol in some people, by forming a gel that binds to cholesterol and carries it out of the body.
Keep fat to a minimum by eating more healthy fats. There are various types of dietary fats. Some are better for your health than others. Polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat are better for your health than cholesterol, saturated, and trans-saturated fats.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Obesity is a common risk factor for people over 40 years. Its recommended that you should begin a sensible weight loss program if you weigh 10% or more than what is recommended for your build.
Low blood sugar level (hypoglycemia)
The common reason for low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) is complications from the treatment of diabetes. Your intake of insulin may be too much or you may have delayed or skipped a meal causing your blood glucose level to drop.
The symptoms of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) include: fatigue, hunger, weakness, trembling, sweating, headache, double vision, uncontrollable sleeplessness, confusion, fainting (develops suddenly)
What you can do
Check your blood sugar if it’s low. Or if you cannot check it immediately, take a glass of a sugary drink or some cubes of sugar dissolved in water to restore your glucose levels to normal. Then call 911 or your doctor.
Blood sugar (glucose) is a very important part of the body’s function and requires the proper balance for cells to function properly. In case of abnormal blood glucose levels, some steps can also be taken to ensure balance.