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Why You MUST Know Your Blood Sugar Level - A Beginner’s Guide

Updated on May 8, 2015
High blood sugar level can lead to serious health complications.
High blood sugar level can lead to serious health complications. | Source

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.

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What is normal (optimum) blood sugar level?

Normal blood glucose levels can be as follows, subject to actual targets set by your doctor:

  1. Fasting at least eight hours — between 90 and 130 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl), or between 5 and 7 millimoles per liter (mmol/l)
  2. 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
  • Age
  • Overall health condition, and others

Symptoms of High Blood Sugar Level

The symptoms of high blood sugar level may include:

  1. Increased thirst
  2. Frequent urination
  3. Weight loss
  4. Blurred vision
  5. Increased hunger
  6. Fatigue
  7. Headache

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:

  1. About 50% of people with diabetes die of cardiovascular diseases (primarily heart attack and stroke).
  2. Combined with reduced blood flow, nerve damage (neuropathy) in the feet can cause foot ulcers and eventual limb amputation.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

  1. Achieve and maintain healthy body weight;
  2. Be physically active;
  3. 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;
  4. Avoid smoking, which increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Oatmeal helps to stabilize your blood sugar levels
Oatmeal helps to stabilize your blood sugar levels | Source

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.

Every home should have a portable glucose meter
Every home should have a portable glucose meter | Source

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Judge how well you're controlling your blood sugar level, to keep yourself from getting worse;
  3. Understand how diet and exercise affect blood sugar levels;
  4. Understand how other factors, such as illness or stress, affect blood sugar levels.

Get this Blood Sugar Monitoring App below NOW!

iDiabetes™ App is the ultimate app to help you track and control your blood glucose levels. Ranked Top 15 in Android AppStore (Health & Fitness). Easy interface for recording your blood sugar readings, insulin dosing, medications, carbohydrates consumed, meal plan, and physical activities; view charts and analyze trends.

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 mobile-device applications (including the one shown on the right). In addition to your own monitoring, bring this record with you to appointments with your doctor.

© 2014 mySuccess8

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    • mySuccess8 profile image
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      mySuccess8 2 years ago

      @FlourishAnyway: I am sorry to hear about the condition of your uncle in hospital, and wish him well. Foot ulcers due to nerve damage in the feet is one of the most common health impacts of prolonged high blood sugar level or diabetes. It is important that everyone monitors blood sugar level regularly, irrespective of one’s present health condition. Thanks for leaving comments, voting, and sharing.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      If people really understood that the long-term effects of diabetes could indeed happen to them, they'd follow your advice more closely. My uncle is in the hospital right now and the doctors are deciding whether to amputate his foot. This is after decades of diabetes. He lives on pain pills because the neuropathy is excruciating. Your hub was so well put-together and nicely written. I hope it helps spread the word. Voted up+++ and sharing.

    • mySuccess8 profile image
      Author

      mySuccess8 2 years ago

      Today, 14th November, the world celebrates World Diabetes Day with some famous buildings being lit up in blue, the signature color of the World Diabetes Day logo. This helps to raise awareness on making sensible food choices and being physically active to control blood sugar level and lower the risk of developing diabetes. According to the 6th edition of the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) Diabetes Atlas, an estimated 382 million people have diabetes, with an increasing and worrisome trend towards younger people developing this condition. This total is estimated to increase to around 592 million within a generation, which works out to be about 1-in-10 of the global population suffering with this condition unless we do something now. The good news is there are steps we can take to help reduce our risks, as also highlighted in this article.

    • mySuccess8 profile image
      Author

      mySuccess8 2 years ago

      @othellos: Glad you like it, and thanks for dropping by.

    • othellos profile image

      Mario Psomas 2 years ago from Europe

      Very thorough and concise. It is great to have all of this info in one spot.