Blood sugar levels fluctuate throughout the day mainly due to food intake, emotional upheavals, and sleep disturbances.
Checking blood sugar levels regularly is crucial for diabetics
A recent study has reported that nearly 101 million Indians have diabetes, which is expected to rise exponentially. Unfortunately, not many patients know their condition, and not all seek medical intervention. Although most people are aware of diabetes, they do not understand the severity of the disease when left untreated. Thus, it becomes imperative for healthcare practitioners to raise awareness, provide assistance and encourage adherence in their health journey.
Understanding blood sugar
The blood carries glucose from consumed food and drinks to body cells, which utilize it for energy. Insulin, produced by the pancreas, helps to maintain healthy sugar levels in the body. Blood sugar levels fluctuate throughout the day mainly due to food intake, emotional upheavals, and sleep disturbances. While fluctuations are expected, a consistent unusual blood sugar range must be identified, and corrective actions must be taken to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Measuring blood sugar levels
Blood sugar levels provide valuable insights into health. Measuring blood sugar to get a sense of your numbers and make decisions about your well-being is vital. There are two simple ways to get a blood sugar reading, namely:
- Capillary Blood Glucose Test is done with a glucometer, using the fingertip prick method. A drop of blood is collected from the prick and tested on a strip and glucose meter to instantly show your blood sugar level.
- Venous Blood Glucose Test is done with a blood sample using the venipuncture method. A healthcare professional collects blood from a vein and sends it for laboratory testing that gives an analyzed report for the sample.
Reading blood sugar
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research, the standard blood sugar range for adults when testing fasting plasma glucose (fasting for at least 8 hours) should be lower than 110 mg/dl and that for postprandial glucose (2 hours from the last meal) should be lower than 140 mg/dl. The blood sugar levels for pregnant women and children below the age of 18 years are different. However, as an adult, if your blood sugar reads outside the normal range, you have either low or high blood sugar, which can lead to severe conditions.
Complications from unhealthy blood sugar levels
Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is when your blood sugar level is lower than the standard range. As glucose is utilized for energy that enables the smooth functioning of the body, low blood sugar can lead to dizziness and weakness. Low blood sugar leads to fainting spells, seizures, coma and even death when left untreated. It is also a significant risk factor for developing dementia in older adults.
Hyperglycemia or high blood sugar is when your blood sugar level exceeds the standard range. The major complication of high blood sugar levels is diabetes; if left untreated, it can lead to multiple long-term complications. Heart and kidney diseases, nerve and retina damage, oral infections, and amputation are some of the complications that high blood sugar levels can cause. Unchecked high blood sugar levels can also cause a Hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state, in which high blood sugar leads to severe dehydration and highly concentrated blood (high osmolality), which are life-threatening.
Continuous high blood sugar can also lead to another emergency complication called diabetic ketoacidosis. It happens when the body does not have enough insulin to use sugar for energy. Instead, the body breaks down fat for energy, thereby releasing ketones. Increased level of ketones causes the blood to turn acidic. If left untreated, this could lead to coma and even death.
It is crucial to note that standard blood sugar levels may vary depending on age, health conditions, and individual circumstances. Consulting a healthcare practitioner is critical to accurately interpreting the levels and formulating an appropriate plan for managing underlying health concerns.
(Dr Tejas Shah, Diabetologist at Iva Speciality Clinic)
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