Glucose is one of the body's principle sources of energy. It's a type of sugar that is created from the food we eat. When you eat the digestive system breaks carbohydrates down into different types of sugars, the primary and most important one for us being glucose.
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After carbohydrates have been broken down by the digestive system, the glucose is delivered straight into the bloodstream. Blood glucose refers to the level of glucose being carried in the blood. The pancreas then releases insulin, which is what enables the glucose to leave the bloodstream and nourish the cells in our body.
Without insulin, glucose would remain in our bloodstream and the cells would be starved of energy. Once cells are full, excess glucose is converted to glycogen that is stored in the liver and the muscles.
Blood sugar levels are most commonly expressed in terms of the number of milimoles of glucose per litre of blood (mmol/l). The other way to measure levels is to look at the weight of glucose within the blood, which is expressed as the milligrams of glucose per decilitre of blood (mg/dl). The normal blood sugar level for humans is 5mmol/l or 90mg/dl.
It's normal for blood sugars to fluctuate within certain healthy limits. Blood sugar levels in the range of 3.6mmol and 5.8mmol are considered normal. After you eat, your blood sugar levels will naturally increase to the higher end of this range, which will prompt the pancreas to release insulin to break it down. As the glucose is then absorbed into cells, or converted for storage, your blood sugar levels will fall back to normal. Usually within an hour of eating.
If you're blood sugar levels fall to the lower end of this range, the pancreas will respond by releasing a hormone called glucagon. This hormone triggers a reaction to breakdown the glycogen and stores it as glucose, which will bring the blood sugar levels back to normal. Normally our blood sugar is at its lowest first thing in the morning, after fasting overnight.
To measure your blood glucose levels, a doctor will take a blood sample from you and perform some of the following tests:
If your blood glucose levels are consistently high, you may be diagnosed as having pre-diabetes depending on how high your glucose levels are.
|Diagnosis||A1c Percent||FPG mg/dL||OGTT mg/dL|
|Diabetes||6.5 or above||126 or higher||200 or higher|
|Pre-diabetes||5.7 to 6.4||100 to 125||140 to 199|
|Normal||5||99 or below||140 to 199|
If you're diagnosed with diabetes you may be required to carry out tests at home to monitor your blood sugar levels. You can do this using a device such as a glucose meter. If your diabetes is advanced, you may need to check your glucose levels several times a day to ensure that you don't have hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar) or hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar).
If high glucose levels, also known as hyperglycaemia, are left untreated they can lead to a lot of serious health conditions, including:
Your plan for lowering your high blood glucose levels will depend on how high they are and whether you're diagnosed as a pre-diabetic, a type 1 diabetic or a type 2 diabetic. These can include: