Blood sugar (glucose) is one of the most important variables in your metabolism. It’s the main source of your energy. What levels of blood sugar before meal and 1-2 hours after eating are considered normal and abnormal? The answer may vary, depending on whether or not you are diabetic and non-diabetic.
Why is your blood sugar level important?
As the name suggests, blood sugar is sugar (glucose) that circulates in the bloodstream. Glucose is required by the body to make energy to support your activity throughout the day. If you have diabetes, it is easier to rise.
Actually diabetes is harmless, as long as you can control your blood glucose as well! But the problem occurs when your blood glucose level is out of control, causing some serious complications!
Both too high and too low blood sugar is bad for your body. Therefore, it’s important to keep it normal!
For non-diabetics, abnormal level of blood glucose may signal pre-diabetes stage. And for those with diabetes – prolonged, poorly controlled blood glucose can cause serious complications such as: cardiovascular diseases, stroke, nerve damage, kidney failure, retinal problems, and more!
Either lab test or home test for checking blood glucose is blood test. It requires a small amount of your blood, typically taken from a finger. This sample blood is then analyzed, and soon you’ll be informed of the test result.
About A1C test
Alternative names; HbA1c, glycosylated hemoglobin, glycated hemoglobin, and hemoglobin A1C! This blood test is often used to diagnose type-2 and type-1 diabetes. It is also commonly used to help gauge how well diabetics are managing their diabetes.
It can reveal the average blood sugar level in the last 2-3 months. It can specifically measure the percentage of hemoglobin, a substance in your red blood cells that bonds and carries O2 (oxygen), that is coated with glycated (sugar).
The higher level of AIC test result means the higher amount of glucose in the blood, the poorer blood glucose control, and the higher the risk of diabetes complications in diabetics!
For non-diabetics, the A1C level is usually around 4.5 to 6 %. And AIC level of 6.5 % may signal a warning sign of diabetes, it is considered for ‘pre-diabetes’.
The treatment target for people with diabetes is usually 7 % or lower. Diabetics with poorly-controlled blood glucose for a long time might show the A1C test result up to 8 % or even higher.
Differences between mg/dL and mmol/L
Blood glucose level is commonly given in mg/dL or mmol/L. Both describes a measurement of glucose concentration in the bloodstream, but albeit in different ways.
- What is mg/dL? It gives measurement in the ratio of weight to volume. And in this case, it is milligrams per deciliter –or– milligrams per 100 milliliters.
- How about mmol/L? It points to molarity, in which the number of molecules of a substance is measured in a specified volume. In this case, volume is 1 liter. And the substance is glucose!
The use of mg/dL is common in the US and some Europe countries. And for mmol/L, it is commonly used in the UK.
As well we know that measuring blood glucose is now practical. You don’t have to go to the lab, there are many blood sugar test kits you can buy and use at home.
Can you change the units given by your blood test kit? This is dependent on the device. Some devices are designed to display the test result in both sites of units (you can change the units from mmol/L to mg/dL and vice versa) – while others are made to show one set of units! Or you can change it manually, 1 mmol/L is about 18 mg/dL.
Normal blood sugar before eating (fasting)
When you have not eaten for many hours, your blood glucose can drop to its lowest level since there are no dietary sugar you eat and enters into your bloodstream. For such case, it is called fasting blood glucose level.
What happen in your blood glucose when fasting!
In healthy individuals (non-diabetics), the release of insulin and glucagon is naturally designed to maintain blood glucose levels within normal range. While insulin is responsible to naturally decrease high blood glucose level, glucagon is the natural mechanism of the body to help increase low blood glucose level.
So glucagon works in the opposite way of insulin. It is released when your body lacks of glucose in the bloodstream (such as when fasting or when you need additional glucose such as during vigorous exercise). And it is produced in the liver, too – by cells called alpha cells.
Glucagon is important hormone to help keep your blood glucose level high enough for your body to keep functioning well. When it is released, it can:
- Stimulate the production of glucose in the liver. The stored glycogen is turned back to become glucose and released into the bloodstream to help restore the balance your blood glucose!
- Break down another source for energy, such as stored fats (triglycerides).
- Activate gluconeogenesis to use amino acids for energy.
This suggests that glucagon can help provide the energy from several different sources, not only glycogen.
What fasting blood sugar test is used for?
It can be used for one of procedures to help diagnose diabetes. In diabetics, it is also used to help test the effectiveness of dietary changes or different medications in controlling blood glucose level.
What does the test result mean?
Normal fasting blood glucose is about 72 to 108 mg/dL (4.0 to 6.0 mmol/L). Higher than this range may point to pre-diabetes or even diabetes!
What you need to prepare before the test? You need to forbear from eating or drinking anything other than water for about 8 hours. Typically, you take the test in the morning after fasting, before your breakfast!
Normal blood sugar level right after eating
When you take the test right after meal, it will be probably vey high (greater than 180 mg/dL) – even though if you don’t have diabetes. The kind of food you eat (such as after eating low or high sugar food – complex or simple carbohydrate) can have a significant effect to this test result.
For instance, it can be very different when you check it right after eating sweets (such as ice cream) or low-GI foods (such as whole grain). GI stands for glycemic index, a variable used to measure how fast different foods in affecting blood glucose level! For comprehensive guide about diet for diabetes, see this section!
Blood glucose right after a meal is commonly not used to diagnose diabetes or to monitor blood glucose levels in people who already diagnosed as diabetics. Because it is not accurate enough to describe the health of your glucose metabolism!
If you want to see how your meal affected your blood glucose, take the test about 1-2 hours after meal!
Normal blood sugar 1 – 2 hours after eating
Insulin, hormone produced in the pancreas, is responsible to regulate your normal blood glucose. After eating (when there is high amount of glucose in the bloodstream), pancreas releases more insulin to help glucose to enter the body’s cells. As a result, the level of glucose in the blood backs to normal.
The high insulin in the blood is also a signal when the liver converts excess glucose to become glycogen. When the body is lack of glucose in the blood (such as when you have not taken a meal in a while), glycogen is converted back to glucose and released into bloodstream.
Blood sugar levels table
For summary, here is table for your guidance about the normal and abnormal of blood sugar levels when fasting, before and after meal!