Blood Sugar 101
Now, this is one of those serious health concerns that need no sugarcoating-- well, that’s because some of us could probably be diabetic! But kidding aside, let’s all talk about sugar and how this affects our health. Well, the term “sugar” is quite vague because it encompasses a very broad subject -- from candy to honey to fruit. But then again, sugar has been quite the popular topic in most health-related articles and sites. Because of this, one may conceive that sugar is generally bad for our health. If blood sugar is not properly regulated, it can cause catastrophic consequences in our everyday way of life. That is why it is important to get to know what sugar is and how our body works physiologically.
The truth is, sugar isn’t a villain in itself. Just like in anything that we take, everything must be done in moderation. Unfortunately, it is in the lifestyle that allows us to be more vulnerable to overconsumption of sugar. It is about time that we address the common issues we have with sugar and debunks popular myths that most people believe about sugar.
However, for something that is popularly considered as detrimental to our health, sugar is considered vital and essential for our body’s normal functioning. So, let’s start to learn more about sugar with an unbiased outlook, eh? To know more about its function and role in our health will allow us to learn more on how to truly take care of our health especially now that we are about to reach the prime of our lives.
What is blood glucose?
Blood glucose is simply sugar that is found in our blood. But let’s not confuse this kind of sugar from the usual table sugars that we see in our kitchen. Technically speaking, blood sugar is a simple carbohydrate that is easily broken down by our bodies so it will be transformed into energy. They are also found in foods like fruits, milk, and even processed sugars. So I guess you could say that, yes, blood glucose may also come from your household sugars because they contain carbohydrates.
Based on a study, carbohydrates form part of the 3 main nutrition groups: proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. But carbohydrates can be so tricky. Depending on the food that it is sourced from, it can have an entirely different effect on your health. Good carbohydrates can be found from fruits, whole grains, vegetables, and the like while bad carbohydrates come from beverages, refined sugars, or sweet desserts
Carbohydrates are divided into 2 main groups: the simple carbohydrate and the complex carbohydrate. The simple carbohydrates are composed of monosaccharides and disaccharides. Monosaccharides are composed of a single unit of sugar. This means that it cannot be further broken down into simpler units. Fructose, galactose, and glucose (which is sugar, in layman’s terms) are forms of monosaccharides. When fructose, galactose, and glucose are combined in several ways, they turn to complex carbohydrates. On the other hand, disaccharides are composed of 2 monosaccharides that are bonded together.
The moment we eat foods with carbohydrates, our bodies take those carbohydrates and break them down into simple sugars (remember “glucose”?) so it can be absorbed easily into our bloodstream. So, when you have high blood glucose in your body doesn’t mean that you over-ate a lot of sugar and that sugar has now entered your bloodstream. What it simply means is that you consumed foods that are high in carbohydrates (whether it’s a good or a bad carbohydrate) and that when it breaks down, it turns to sugar where it is absorbed by the bloodstream. Depending on the type of carbohydrate-rich food you take, such can increase the sugars in your body and could even spike it especially if you are eating unhealthy foods.
How blood glucose works:
This kind of sugar comes from the food that we eat, especially those that are rich in carbohydrates, like fruits, potatoes, or bread. Blood glucose is also known as blood sugar. Our body naturally produces sugar the moment we digest foods with carbohydrates and turns them into sugar which will be circulated in our blood. Once such foods travel down our stomach, enzymes and acids are already waiting there to break those foods into tiny bits. This is the process where glucose is released. This “sugar” will be used as energy fuel for our body. Whenever our bodies undergo intense physical activity, our body uses sugar as its main source of energy. So it’s a good thing, right?
But here’s another opposite side to sugar-- too much of it can be harmful to our body. The most common disease that can be attributed to high sugar is diabetes. If one cannot manage this disease properly, it can lead to more serious complications such as health problems related to the kidneys, heart, eyes, and blood vessels.
The role of insulin in blood glucose
By definition, insulin is a hormone that is produced in our pancreas which helps in regulating the amount of glucose that is found in our blood. It is that reliable disciplinarian in our bodies every time our blood sugar levels get naughty and rowdy. It regulates the level of blood glucose in our bodies. The lack of insulin or any irregularities in its function will cause diabetes. The cells in our body rely on insulin so they may be able to get glucose found in our bloodstream to be used as their energy source.
The main job of insulin is to control the level of blood glucose. It does so by telling our fat cells, muscles, and liver to get glucose from our blood and use them as their source of energy. In a sense, it disciplines the level of blood glucose so they won’t spike which could ultimately cause various health complications.
Thus, in normal conditions, every time we ingest food and have sufficiently stored enough energy after breaking down food to glucose, it is the job of the insulin to signal the liver to get so extra glucose left and keep it as energy storage. That stored energy is called glycogen. The liver may gladly take that extra glucose for itself; however, it can only accommodate glycogen based on 5% of its mass. And since the liver can only store glycogen that much, some cells in our bodies also store that extra glucose as reserved energy. Most of these cells often require insulin to be able to do so.
What are normal blood glucose levels?
We now know how our bodies work with the function of insulin based on normal or healthy conditions. But what if it doesn’t function or work as it should? This is where the levels of our blood glucose get crazy. Of course, we don’t want this to happen. It is important to always monitor to check our blood glucose levels.
So, how do we know if our sugar level is too high or just right? If you have an abnormally high level of sugar, then that means your body’s ability to respond to insulin or produce it, is impaired. You could either have Type 1 Diabetes or Type 2 Diabetes- don’t worry, you’ll know more of this later.
There is exactly no exact or fixed sugar level which you can describe as normal. A normal blood sugar refers to a certain range that is categorized as within normal limits. The level of blood glucose varies depending on the health status and lifestyle of a person. For people who don’t have diabetes, their normal blood glucose level ranges from 72 to 140 milligrams per deciliter. On the other hand, those who have diabetes have blood glucose levels ranging from 80-180 mg/dL.
You can ask your doctor regarding what is a reasonable range of the level of sugar for your body. Since sugar levels vary based on healthy lifestyle and status, it also changes throughout the day. Our blood glucose level normally is at its lowest in the mornings or after we fast. It would gradually increase during or after meals, especially when the body digests foods. Typically, before meals or when one is fasting, the normal blood sugar for a normal person is between 72-99 mg/dL while the normal sugar for a diabetic person would range from 80-130 mg/dL. When it is after meals, ideally 2 hours after such a meal, the normal blood sugar level after eating for a person without diabetes would be less than 140 mg/dL while those with diabetes would be less than 180 mg/dL.
When blood glucose levels are not normal:
The following conditions would occur during abnormal blood sugar levels in our body. This means that we either have too much sugar or too little sugar in our blood.
This condition is characterized by having low sugar. Symptoms include trouble when talking, loss of consciousness, seizures, or confusion. Here, the level of sugar is at 70 mg/dL only or even less.
This condition is characterized by having high sugar. Symptoms include frequent thirst, headache, frequent urination, blurred vision, or fatigue. Here, the level of blood glucose is more than 180 mg/dL.
The importance of blood glucose testing
While it may be true that there are just certain medical conditions that cannot be diagnosed through blood tests, getting routine blood work is vital to check the level of glucose in your blood. Especially if you have diabetes, blood sugar testing is indispensable to prevent complications brought about by diabetes and better manage its symptoms.
Why is blood testing important?
Let’s dive into the real issue here and address the issue as to why blood testing is important. Generally, sugar tests are geared toward better diabetes management. These are the following:
- It helps identify whether the level of your sugar is high or low.
- It allows you to monitor how your diet, lifestyle, or exercise affect the level of sugar in your blood.
- It allows you to monitor how stress or illness affects the level of sugar in your blood.
- It allows you to monitor how prescribed medications for your diabetes affect the level of sugar in your blood.
- It tracks the rate of progress that you have especially in your overall health goal.
How often should you test your blood glucose?
The best way to know this is to consult this matter with your doctor. Usually, the frequency of the sugar test will rely heavily on the type of diabetes you have and your preferred plan of treatment.
For Type 1 diabetes, the frequency of your sugar testing may range from 4 to 10 times daily. If you have Type 2 diabetes, your doctor may recommend that you perform blood testing several times daily - that is depending on the amount and kind of insulin that you are taking. Besides, because of the benefits of medical technology, a device called the Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) may be used as an implant to check the level of blood glucose in your body every after a few minutes or so.
What is Diabetes?
To put it simply, diabetes is a disease that occurs when one has a high level of sugar. Insulin is a hormone that helps regulate blood glucose by allowing the cells to utilize glucose in our body. There are times, however, that our bodies don’t produce or utilize insulin. This leads to blood glucose to remain in the blood, and stay there.
Diabetes has different types depending on how our body reacts to insulin. These are the following:
Type 1 Diabetes
This is a type of diabetes where the body does not produce insulin nor produce insulin at all. Here, the body’s immune system gets confused that it also attacks the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin aside from normally attacking harmful bacteria or viruses. Because of this insulin is produced in small amounts, or insulin is not produced at all in the pancreas. Thus, sugar starts to build up in the bloodstream because insulin is lacking or insufficient to moderate it.
This condition is usually diagnosed among children and even in most young adults as one of its causes include genetics. Those who are diagnosed with this type of diabetes are generally dependent on insulin to survive.
Type 2 Diabetes
While in Type 1 diabetes, the body doesn’t produce little to no insulin at all, Type 2 diabetes is a condition that affects how our body reacts to insulin or the body has trouble in making insulin or using insulin for energy. It affects how our body metabolizes sugar or glucose to provide our body with energy. While insulin may be present here, this condition makes the body resistant to the effects of insulin. This would also lead to the buildup of glucose in the bloodstream.
Type 2 diabetes usually occurs among middle-aged to older people. The main causes of this condition may be not clear but environmental aspects, such as lifestyle and diet, are significant factors that may contribute to this condition. Those who are diagnosed with this type of diabetes may need insulin therapy or certain medications. Among the different types of diabetes, this, by far, is the most common.
This type of diabetes develops among most pregnant women and usually goes away after the woman has given birth. However, just because it is merely “temporary”, one should still be careful because this condition may develop into Type 2 diabetes.
Other types of Diabetes
The following are not so common types of diabetes:
- Neonatal diabetes
- Alstrom Syndrome
- Maturity Onset Diabetes of the Young (MODY)
- Steroid-induced diabetes
- Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA)
- Type 3C diabetes
What are the common complications of diabetes?
Diabetes may be one of those common health problems, but it can be pretty chronic and can affect your daily way of living for the rest of your life. It is a condition affecting how your body transforms your food into energy.
Now, as previously mentioned, our bodies break down the food that we eat until it is converted to its basic unit, known as sugar or glucose, which will soon go into our bloodstream. If the level of sugar is too high, insulin shows up and is being released from the pancreas to make sure that the blood glucose is put to good use-- and that is in the form of energy to be stored whenever needed by our liver or cells.
However, when you have diabetes, there is something wrong with your insulin. It’s either your pancreas doesn’t release insulin-like it should or the cells in your body are unable to make use of insulin as it should. And because there is no insulin to discipline sugar, the blood glucose may run amok. Instead, blood glucose is being distributed to our liver or our cells as energy storage, it simply just stays and hangs around in our bloodstream. That is not healthy. Take note that this is only diabetes we are talking about. But this health condition can be a catalyst to a lot more diseases and complications.
Complications attributed to diabetes
Complications may develop gradually until they become long-term especially if diabetes is not managed properly. What is even worse is that the longer you have this condition, the less likely you can control how your sugar behaves. Thus, it may further lead to even worse conditions. These are the following common complications of diabetes:
- Heart disease
- Kidney damage
- Eye damage
- Food damage
- Hearing impairment
- Bacterial or fungal infections
- Alzheimer’s Disease
Why is diabetes more serious among older people?
Aging is one of the risk factors of most common health conditions - especially in Type 2 diabetes. If you are 45 years old or over, your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes is high. Diabetes among older people should be treated distinctly from diabetes among younger people. The reason why is because older people are more prone to serious complications given their frailty and functional dependence.
The moment we get older, the more vulnerable we are to Type 2 diabetes because aging is an inevitable risk factor for insulin resistance. Remember, insulin is sugar’s “kryptonite” and without it, you’re in for a lot of trouble. Also, the more we age, the function of our pancreatic islet diminishes. The pancreatic islet is responsible for producing insulin and as we age, the pancreas undergoes changes that would affect its function. That is why it bears reminding that due care and proper treatment must be administered for older people with diabetes.
Is there a cure for diabetes?
Despite the number of studies done on this health condition, there is still no known and established cure for diabetes. While there is current research made to find that elusive cure, we remain hopeful that the innovations in medicine and technology will help hasten this breakthrough. But for now, this condition can be treated and managed- and that is the best option anyone can have.
Your doctor may provide you a personalized treatment plan that is right for you which will help manage and treat diabetes. The following are the most common treatments available for diabetes but it is best to always consult with your doctor before you plan on taking any of these:
Prescription drugs for diabetes
Some people use an insulin pump that allows them to administer a certain amount of insulin daily. Some pills or drugs will help a certain type of diabetes while there are some that help treat more than one type of diabetes. It is best to discuss with your doctor what kind of diabetes drug works for you.
Having a sedentary lifestyle is one of diabetes’ health risks. Especially for those persons with Type 2 diabetes, the best way to lower their blood glucose level is through exercise.
Eating a well balanced and moderated diet is important for diabetic people. One should maintain the right amount of sugar intake to help tame your blood glucose level. While consistently monitoring your carbohydrates is good, it is also equally important to monitor the kind of food that you eat because some foods can be quite deceiving and could be loaded with sugar. Thus, follow your doctor’s advice to steer clear from foods loaded with trans fat.
Maintaining a healthy diet may also mean coordinating your medications with your meals. It is best to further discuss certain effects of food on the medications that you are currently taking to avoid possible health complications.
Applied Science Nutrition’s Total Blood Support
Maintaining one’s healthy diet also involves taking the right natural supplements. When choosing the right supplements, it is always best to find a product that will go well with the body’s natural ability to function. It is obvious that our bodies don’t like sugar to stay long in their bloodstreams, so what better way to address this health concern than through the help of “blood support”.
Applied Science Nutrition’s Total Blood Support is a natural supplement product that primarily helps in maintaining healthy blood pressure, among others. With diabetes, one of its risk factors, aside from aging, is also having high blood pressure. This supplement also helps in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system - which is a must for every older adult to have a quality life.
Keep your life sweet but diabetic-free!
Some people say that life is a box of chocolates. Let us all apply this mantra, regardless if you are at risk of having blood glucose complications or not. With the help of proper diet, exercise, and an active healthy lifestyle, anyone who’s nearing the golden age can confidently say they don’t have to deal with life’s aging problems. Don’t forget to take your supplements as you go!
Life is sweet, your blood shouldn’t be!