Understanding your blood sugar may not be something you have given much thought to, but knowing your baseline is a helpful marker for monitoring wellness. That's because regulated blood sugar levels are a vital component of good health, and having imbalances with extreme highs and lows can be signs of health ailments.
Understanding your blood sugar can give you a lot of insight into how you feel and look, as well as help you keep your health on track.
Blood sugar is the amount of glucose found in your blood at any given time. It is your body's main energy source derived from the foods you eat, primarily from carbohydrates.
Your body needs stable blood sugar levels to function properly and maintain good health. Research shows that many negative health conditions can occur from imbalanced blood sugar levels, including abnormal kidney, nerve, and heart function and changes to your vision. It can also negatively impact your mood, energy levels, weight, and appetite.
Knowing your blood sugar levels is important. You can easily check your levels at home using a finger prick test device called a glucometer, or you can have your levels checked at a medical facility. The best times to check your blood sugar are first thing in the morning - fasted, before you eat or drink anything and also about two to three hours after eating.
Normal blood sugar levels are typically within these ranges:
Upon waking (fasted): 70–100 mg/dL (optimal 75 - 95)
Within two (max three) hours after eating: 140 mg/dL or lower
It is normal for your numbers to vary. The goal is to keep levels as stable as possible within these normal ranges and avoid major spikes and falls, which can be signs of imbalance. Staying within 70–95 mg/dL for most of the day is optimal for overall health.
Both high and low blood sugar can cause changes and undue stress in your body. Symptoms of imbalance aren't always easily noticeable, so it's a good idea to pay close attention if you experience the following signs of low blood sugar:
Irritability, especially between meals
Feeling weak, shaky, lightheaded, or dizzy
Unexplained frequent headaches
Anxiousness or nervousness
Sweating or experiencing chills, unrelated to weather
Intense hunger and cravings, specifically for high carbohydrate foods like sweets and breads
A rapid or irregular heartbeat
Changes in vision
You should also pay close attention if you experience any of the following signs of high blood sugar:
A frequent need to urinate
Increased thirst or hunger
Tingling in your limbs
Altered mental status
It's important to note that many of these symptoms can be signs of other health issues, so it's important to test your blood sugar to know if there's any possible connection.
Many factors affect your blood sugar. These include:
Diet.Carbohydrates are the primary nutrients that raise your blood sugar. The more carbs you eat, the higher your blood sugar rises. Simple carbs, such as refined grains and sugar, raise the blood sugar more, while complex whole food carbs that contain fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, lead to a slower rise. Eating carbs alongside protein and healthy fats can also keep blood sugar more stable compared to eating carbs by themselves.
Activity. Exercise and any other form of movement can increase your cells efficiency to use up energy and help lower / normalize blood sugar.
Hormones. Hormones, including insulin, glucagon, and cortisol, all impact how well your blood sugar is regulated. An imbalance in any of these can affect blood sugar control.
Understanding your blood sugar is important, and there are many things you can do to help control your levels and optimize your health. You can become your own health detective by creating your own home health office. This may involve keeping tools like a thermometer, glucometer and blood pressure kit available to stay informed about how your body is working. A health coach can also explain how your blood sugar works and tailor specific recommendations to your unique needs.