Why You MUST Know Your Blood Sugar Level - A Beginner’s Guide
Do you know your blood sugar (or blood glucose) level? It is extremely important that you regularly monitor your blood sugar level, before it adversely affects your health or leads to diabetes and serious damage to many of the body’s systems, especially the nerves and blood vessels. The World Heath Organization (WHO) projects that diabetes will be the 7th leading cause of death in 2030. Over 300 million people worldwide have high blood sugar level (or hyperglycemia), out of which over 3 million people died each year, and the numbers are increasing. Some of my relatives had diabetes, and we have learnt a lot about taking care of the disease. This is a beginner’s guide for you to take charge of your blood sugar level management, based on actual personal experiences.
World Diabetes Day
The World Diabetes Day is celebrated each year on 14 November to mark the birthday of Frederick Banting who, along with Charles Best, was instrumental in the discovery of insulin in 1922, a life-saving treatment for diabetes patients.
What Causes High Blood Sugar Level?
The causes of high blood sugar level are complex, but in a large part are due to obesity and physical inactivity. Stress can also contribute to this condition.
High blood sugar level happens when your body (the pancreas) produces too little insulin or when the body cannot effectively use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar. High blood sugar is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes.
Do you or any of your close relatives have diabetes?
What is normal (optimum) blood sugar level?
Normal blood glucose levels can be as follows, subject to actual targets set by your doctor:
- Fasting at least eight hours — between 90 and 130 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl), or between 5 and 7 millimoles per liter (mmol/l)
- One to two hours after meals — lower than 180 mg/dl (or 10 mmol/l)
The readings above can be measured from the portable glucose meter described below.
If you have diabetes, your doctor will set target blood sugar levels based on several factors, including:
- Type and severity of diabetes
- Disease duration
- Overall health condition, and others
Symptoms of High Blood Sugar Level
The symptoms of high blood sugar level may include:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Increased hunger
Main Types of Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes (previously known as insulin-dependent or childhood-onset diabetes) is characterized by deficient insulin production and requires daily administration of insulin.
Type 2 diabetes (formerly called non-insulin-dependent or adult-onset diabetes) results from the body’s ineffective use of insulin. It often results from excess body weight and physical inactivity. Type 2 diabetes comprises 90% of people with diabetes around the world.
Health impact of high blood sugar level
High blood sugar level can lead to serious health complications for both diabetics and non-diabetics, for example, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, and other chronic diseases.
Diabetes tends to be progressive, sometimes taking up to 5-10 years to develop, and can damage the heart, kidneys, blood vessels, eyes, and nerves. The most common health impacts are as follows:
- About 50% of people with diabetes die of cardiovascular diseases (primarily heart attack and stroke).
- Combined with reduced blood flow, nerve damage (neuropathy) in the feet can cause foot ulcers and eventual limb amputation.
- Diabetic retinopathy is an important cause of blindness, and occurs due to long-term damage to the blood vessels in the retina. One percent of global blindness can be due to diabetes.
- Diabetes is among the leading causes of kidney failure.
The overall risk of dying among people with diabetes is at least double the risk of those without diabetes. Currently no cure exists for diabetes.
Watch this Video on Why You Must Regularly Monitor Your Blood Sugar Level
Measures to Control Blood Sugar Level
Simple lifestyle measures have been shown to be effective in controlling blood sugar level, and these include:
- Achieve and maintain healthy body weight;
- Be physically active;
- Eat a regular, healthy, well-balanced and nutritious diet with a high fiber content (e.g. by including oats), including fruits and vegetables, and reduce sugar and saturated fats intake;
- Avoid smoking, which increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Diet - Oatmeal is One of the Best Diets for Stabilizing Blood Sugar Level
Oats is a good source of complex carbohydrates which helps to stabilize your blood sugar levels throughout the day, bringing about small fluctuations in levels of blood glucose and insulin. Oatmeal also helps to decrease the risk of developing diabetes. The American Diabetes Association, for example, recommends diabetic people to include oatmeal in their diet. CLICK HERE to learn more on the health benefits of oats for the family.
Proper Diet is Critical in Controlling Blood Sugar Level
Learn to eat a proper regular diet to enable effective control of your blood sugar level throughout the day.
How to self-test your blood sugar level at home (the Portable Glucose Meter)
Blood sugar tests are performed with a portable electronic glucose meter (or glucometer). The device is not expensive, and is easy to use. It slightly pricks a very small drop of blood, usually from your finger, that you place on a disposable test strip, to allow the meter to display the blood sugar level.
In general, the simple steps for self-testing are as follows:
1 Wash your hands with soap, and dry thoroughly.
2 Remove a test strip from its container, and replace the cap.
3 Put the test strip into the glucose meter.
4 Pock your finger slightly with the needle (lancet) provided with your meter. You may prefer to prick the less sensitive side of your finger, rather than the tip.
5 Allow a very small drop of blood to form.
6 Touch the small drop of blood to the specific site on the test strip to accept the blood.
7 The meter will instantly display your blood glucose level.
Frequency for home-testing your blood sugar level
At least do a fasting blood glucose testing once or twice a week. If you are diabetic, your doctor will advise you on how often you should check your blood sugar level. In general, the frequency of testing depends on the type of diabetes you have and your treatment plan.
Why self-testing your blood sugar level at home is important
Blood sugar level changes throughout the day and night. Your levels change depending upon when, what and how much you have eaten, and whether or not you have exercised. Checking and treating high blood sugar early will help you avoid associated health problems. Self-testing of blood sugar at home helps you:
- Keep blood sugar levels in the normal range, and identify levels that are dangerously high or low. When blood sugar level is abnormally low (instead of high), usually less than 70 mg/dl (or 4 mmol/l), this condition is referred to as hypoglycemia, and must also be given immediate attention.
- Judge how well you're controlling your blood sugar level, to keep yourself from getting worse;
- Understand how diet and exercise affect blood sugar levels;
- Understand how other factors, such as illness or stress, affect blood sugar levels.
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Recording your self-testing results
Each time you perform a blood test, record the date, time, and test results in a notebook. For tracking your readings, the American Diabetes Association provides a printable form on their web site, and there are also (including the one shown on the right). In addition to your own monitoring, bring this record with you to appointments with your doctor. mobile-device applications
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