Diabetes is a disease where the body does not properly metabolize glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream. Elevated blood sugar levels could indicate that not enough insulin is being produced to counter the amount of glucose in the blood or that cells are glucose intolerant, thus not absorbing the sugars and allowing them to build in the bloodstream.
When glucose levels get higher than normal, they start to cause inflammation in blood vessels and nerves. This is where all the complications of diabetes come from. So knowing your glucose levels is important to stay healthy and prevent diabetes or complications from the disease.
“Normal” glucose levels vary throughout the day. For someone without diabetes, a fasting blood sugar on awakening is expected to be under 100 mg/dl; before meals, 70–99 mg/dl. “Postprandial” sugars taken two hours after meals should be less than 140 mg/dl.
For someone with diabetes, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends working to keep blood sugar levels before meals from 80–130 mg/dl and 1–2 hours after meals under 180. Many doctors recommend aiming for lower levels than that, closer to those of people without diabetes. That’s because they reduce the risk for complications. Maintaining lower levels across the board requires more careful diet and more frequent monitoring, but it is a readily-achievable goal.
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