The Meaning of Your Blood Sugar Numbers
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Measuring your blood sugar is now a super simple test you can do at home on your own. It is the single most important test to know when you have diabetes, when you don’t (because you have reversed it, or didn’t have it in the first place), and when you are at risk. As well as what food suits you and what doesn’t. But understanding the meaning of your blood sugar numbers is really important. You see, most people get it completely upside down. Let me explain what I mean.
Blood Sugar – The Basics
So I’m sure you understand by now that diabetes is a collection of different diseases that all result in high blood sugar. There are the two main types of diabetes – conveniently called Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 occurs when you have damage to your pancreas making it unable to produce enough insulin to keep your blood sugar down. Type 2 occurs when your pancreas is fine but you just eat too much carbohydrate for your body to keep the sugar down even with lots of insulin circulating around. Of course, in reality there is a lot of overlap between these two but still, the distinction is useful.
The normal levels and those diagnostic of diabetes vary somewhat depending on whom you ask and what year you ask them, but the numbers I’ll give here are a pretty standard sort of guide. Take a look at this chart:
US (mg/dl) / Metric (mmol/l)
70 / 3.9
75 / 4.2
80 / 4.4
85 / 4.7
90 / 5.0
95 / 5.3
100 / 5.6
105 / 5.8
110 / 6.1
115 / 6.4
120 / 6.7
125 / 6.9
130 / 7.2
135 / 7.5
140 / 7.8
Fasting Blood Glucose
If you get up in the morning and measure your blood glucose that’s called your ‘fasting blood glucose’. This is the most important measure of your blood glucose to indicate if you have diabetes or not. It’s really simple, just take the measurement and compare it to the chart above.
If a healthy person measures their fasting blood glucose they’ll get a reading of between 70 and 90 mg/dl (US measurements) or between 3.9 and 5.0 mmol/l (the standard everywhere else). That’s called ‘normal’.
At some arbitrary point, there is a threshold above which you are diagnosed as having diabetes. It’s typically either 130 or 140 mg/dl (7.2 or 7.8 mm/l). If you have a reading above this, it’s called ‘diabetes’. And then anything between ‘normal’ and ‘diabetes’ can be called ‘pre-diabetes’ – in other words, you haven’t crossed the threshold to be diagnosed as diabetic yet, but if you keep doing what you’ve been doing, it’s only a matter of time.
Really, you can see that anything higher than normal is a problem. ‘Pre-diabetes’ and ‘Diabetes’ are just labels on a continuum. People diagnosed with ‘Pre-diabetes’ are predisposed to the exact same complications as those diagnosed with ‘Diabetes’ – loss of vision, loss of limb, heart disease. The only difference is that those complications are somewhat less likely. The higher your blood sugar, the more dangerous.
It’s a bit like driving recklessly. If you drive recklessly you are more likely to have an accident. The more reckless your driving is the more likely you’ll be in an accident, but the consequences are just the same… bad!
If you take responsibility for your blood glucose and take the right steps, you will steadily see those readings come down. I have never yet seen a case of Type 2 diabetes that can’t be reversed with correct diet, the right supplements and the right exercise.
Post-Prandial Blood Glucose
After you eat (what’s called ‘post-prandial’), it’s normal that your blood glucose will go up. It’ll go up more the more carbs you eat and a bit with protein too. Eating fat has virtually no effect. The important thing is that it doesn’t go too high or stay high for too long.
Most diabetes specialists will say it shouldn’t be over 140 (7.8) two hours after you have eaten. Ideally, it’ll be fully back into the normal range of under 90 at that time. How much your blood sugar goes up and how long it stays up depends on what you eat and how bad your diabetes is. Said another way, it depends on what you eat and how strong your sugar regulation system is.
With diabetes, your sugar regulation system is exhausted so its ability to normalize your blood glucose after a meal is weak.
So there are two reasons you don’t want your post-prandial sugar readings to be too high. One is because high glucose is one of the causes of the complications of diabetes. The other is that every time you do it, it makes your sugar regulation system weaker, which of course makes your diabetes worse.
You can easily improve your post-prandial blood glucose by simply avoiding the foods that make it bad and eating the foods that don’t push your blood sugar up.
What’s the problem with measuring my blood sugar?
Now you understand that your fasting blood sugar is a great and easy measure of how you are going with reversing your diabetes. And you know your post-prandial blood sugar is a great and easy way to learn what are the right and wrong foods to fix your diabetes. Fantastic. What’s the problem?
The problem is that many people fall into the mentality that good food choices are a penalty for bad numbers. You know, when your numbers go up you have to ‘punish’ yourself by being more careful with your diet and when your numbers go down, you can ‘cheat’ to reward yourself. It’s easy to fall into the habit of feeling you deserve a treat for having good number. Don’t fall for it!
Instead, use blood sugar measurement as a positive reinforcement of success. “Eating the right way and doing some exercise really is reversing my diabetes!” You are going to keep eating healthy to get healthy and stay that way for life anyway.
There is no reading you’ll reach where you can stop living right and go back to the ways you lived that caused the diabetes. Sure, you’ll have to be quite strict for the first few weeks or months and you can relax more as your sugar-regulation systems get strong again. But you can never go back to the total neglect that caused your diabetes in the first place. It’ll just come back again. But don’t worry, changing your habits takes some work but once they are changed, you have a new set of habits only this time they are ones keeping you well!
You can be sure I enjoy my food!
There is a second problem with measuring blood sugar and that has to do with medications taken to lower it. Many people, including doctors, believe that diabetes is the consequence of high blood sugar and that all the complications of diabetes are from the high blood sugar too. This isn’t really true. In fact, the high blood sugar is a result of excess carbs in your diet and insufficient exercise -let’s call it ‘wrong living’. Wrong living doesn’t only cause high blood sugar, it has a whole slew of bad health consequences of its own. So if you lower your blood sugar using medication of any kind, and make your readings ‘good’, you can be fooled into thinking that your ‘wrong living’ is just fine. After all, you readings are now ‘normal’ aren’t they?
The truth is that the only way to get a ‘normal’ reading is to have it in the normal range without any medication. And the only way to get truly healthy is to live right. When the medication is in your system, you can’t really get a true reading at all and you are lulled into the false belief that your wrong living is OK.
Measuring Your Blood Sugar
If you are gonna conquer this disease, you need to get serious about measuring your blood sugar. You need to measure it when you rise in the morning and plot it in a chart. You need to measure it after each meal so you can see what effect each kind of food has so you can learn what is right for you, what is OK sometimes, and what is always wrong.
To do this, you need a good blood glucose meter. Accurate, compact, fast and easy. For those of you in the US, I have secured you a special deal to get you started. Click through to a special deal on a glucose meter. The deal will change from time to time but essentially you’ll get a free glucose meter for the price of a set of strips – it’s a very good deal. I’m sorry this isn’t available outside of the US. You’ll just have to go to local retailer and pay normal retail prices.
You can record your daily fasting sugar readings in the Easy Diabetes Exercise Record Sheet at the Optimal Health Works web site. There is also a US version (with US units). If you don’t have Excel and can’t read the Record Sheet, you can upload it and use it with your Microsoft Live account. It’s free if you don’t have one already.
What if you are on medication? How can you get a true reading? Of course you can’t. However, you can certainly get your readings into a good range while on the medication, then reduce your medication as you find you are able. You do need to be careful because if you are living right, the medication is likely to cause you to have hypos. That just means you need less medication. I highly recommend working with your health professional on this. Just remember that they may not know you can actually reverse Type 2 diabetes. You can show them how it is done!
Look out for your family
Now diabetes runs in families. Some of it is a genetic predisposition – that is, it takes less of the wrong lifestyle to cause diabetes in you than in someone without the genetic predisposition. It’s important to realize though that just about anyone can get Type 2 diabetes if they just eat enough carbs and do no exercise. It’s just that it’ll happen sooner for some than for others.
But then the most of the rest of the risk comes from lifestyle and who do you learn your lifestyle from? More from your family than from anywhere else. This is the main reason diabetes runs in families.
So one of the best things you can do is to test the fasting blood glucose of your family members. Of course, the first ones to test are those that you live with. But don’t forget the rest of your family either. It might sound like a funny thing to do – go visit your parents or your sister or brother or your son or daughter first thing in the morning, pull out your glucose meter and test everyone in their home – but this is one of the kindest acts you can do.
If you do find a high fasting reading of 100 (5.6) or more, send them to the Optimal Health Works web site and I’ll show them how to reverse it.