For people with diabetes, blood sugars are one of the most important measures of health.
Our blood sugars tell us exactly what our bodies are doing.
Whether a low blood sugar is signaling that there’s too much insulin or too few carbs in the body, or a high is signaling that there is too little insulin and too many carbs in the body, measuring our blood sugars tell us a lot of information about how our treatments are working.
But what is normal anyway? And what’s the baseline for understanding blood sugar readings?
Table of contents
- Why do people with diabetes need to measure blood sugar?
- Normal blood sugar ranges in non-diabetics
- Blood sugar levels at diagnosis for prediabetes, type 1, type 2 and other types of diabetes
- What are the right blood sugar levels for people with diabetes?
- When should I test my blood sugars?
- What should my fasting blood sugars be?
- What should my after-meal blood sugars be?
- What will increase and decrease blood sugar levels?
- What can I do to get better blood sugars?
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Why do people with diabetes need to measure blood sugar?
To understand what blood sugars mean, we also have to understand why it’s important to measure blood sugars.
There are many ways to test blood sugars.
Sometimes it’s through lab work at your doctor’s office, most people prick their fingers at home with a lancet and test with a home glucose meter, and others use continuous glucose monitors to monitor down to the minute.
Blood sugar testing in all of its forms gives people with diabetes and our care teams some useful information:
- We learn how lifestyle changes like diet and exercise are working.
- We learn how medications are having an impact on our blood sugars and if they’re working or not.
- It helps us track our overall progress before that next A1C check
- We start to understand that diet, exercise and medication are not the only things impacting our blood sugars, but illness, stress, menstrual cycles, and other outside factors affect our blood sugar readings.
Bottom line? Blood sugar testing helps us find out more about our bodies.
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Normal blood sugar ranges in non-diabetics
So, what’s actually normal?
For people without diabetes, blood sugar levels generally fall between 70-130 mg/dL (3.8-7.2 mmol/L) depending on whether they have eaten or are fasting.
This happens because people without diabetes make enough insulin and their bodies use it efficiently. That’s not the case for people with diabetes.
The American Diabetes Association shares the following ranges for non-diabetic blood glucose:
- Fasting blood sugar (in the morning, prior to breakfast): under 100 mg/dL
- 1 hour after a meal: 90 to 130 mg/dL
- 2 hours after a meal: 90 to 110 mg/dL
- 5 or more hours after eating: 70 to 90 mg/dL
This varies from person to person, but is the general range.
Blood sugar levels at diagnosis for prediabetes, type 1, type 2 and other types of diabetes
When you’re diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes, your levels are somewhat elevated.
For people with pre-diabetes, levels are elevated just slightly above normal. At this point, doctors will keep monitoring to make sure your A1C drops, or stays level.
According to the ADA, prediabetes levels are typically:
- HbA1c: 5.7 to 6.4 percent
- Fasting: 100 to 125 mg/dL
- 2 hours after a meal: 140 mg/dL to 199 mg/dL
Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes:
People with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes may see the following blood sugar values.
- HbA1c: 6.5 percent or higher
- Fasting: 126 mg/dL or higher
- 2 hours after a meal: 200 mg/dL or higher
What are the right blood sugar levels for people with diabetes?
Based on research, the following values are recommended for people with diabetes:
The American Diabetes Association Recommended target = <7%
ACE Recommended target = <6.5%
Fasting/Before meals = 70-130 mg/dL
2 hours after meal = < 180 mg/dL
Some people with diabetes opt for lower glucose levels at the top of their range.
Discuss this additional information with your healthcare provider to better understand your overall diabetes management and treatment plans.
When should I test my blood sugars?
There are two general times for blood glucose testing, but that does not mean you only need to test twice a day.
Fasting blood glucose readings will give you information about how your blood sugars are doing without any food or beverages in your system.
It’s a baseline number that’s helpful in telling you how your blood sugars are doing without the influence of food.
Postprandial or after-meal glucose is taken 2 hours after your meal, which is when food has been digested and you can see the impact of the food you’ve previously eaten.
This can help you narrow down blood glucose spikes or dips specific to the foods you eat.
What should my fasting blood sugars be?
Fasting glucose for people with diabetes ranges from 70-130 mg/dL.
What should my after-meal blood sugars be?
2 hours after meal = < 180 mg/dL
What will increase and decrease blood sugar levels?
There are around 40 factors that can affect your blood glucose.
It’s not just related to food and exercise.
It’s important to keep in mind that stress, lack of sleep, menstrual cycle, and other medications no related to diabetes can all affect the ups and downs in your blood sugars.
What can I do to get better blood sugars?
While some basics like a lower carbohydrate diet, medications, and more exercise can help to regular your blood sugars, it’s important to have an open conversation with your doctor about the best ways you can keep your blood sugars in range.
Understanding your blood sugar values, and consistently checking is one way to open up the conversation with your doctor about what’s working, and what is not.