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Blood Sugar Levels, What You Should Know

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Blood sugar chart

Blood sugar charts act as a reference guide for blood sugar test results. As such, blood sugar charts are important tools for diabetes management.

Most diabetes treatment plans involve keeping blood sugar levels as close to normal or target goals as possible. This requires frequent at-home and doctor-ordered testing, along with an understanding of how results compare with target levels.

Doctors often provide A1C blood sugar recommendations in blood sugar charts. They tend to give A1C results as both a percentage and an average blood sugar level in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl).

To help interpret and assess blood sugar results, the following charts outline normal and abnormal blood sugar levels for those with and without diabetes.

Time of check Target blood sugar levels for people without diabetes Target blood sugar levels for people with diabetes
Before meals less than 100 mg/dl 80–130 mg/dl
1–2 hours after the start of a meal less than 140 mg/dl less than 180 mg/dl
Over a 3-month period, which an A1C test can measure less than 5.7% less than 7%
less than 180 mg/dl

Guidelines

Appropriate blood sugar levels vary throughout the day and from person to person.

Blood sugars are often lowest before breakfast and in the lead up to meals. Blood sugars are often highest in the hours following meals.

People with diabetes will often have higher blood sugar targets or acceptable ranges than those without the condition.

These targets vary according to a range of factors, some of which include:

  • age and life expectancy
  • the presence of other health conditions
  • how long a person has had diabetes
  • diagnosed cardiovascular disease
  • problems with the smallest arteries in the body
  • any known damage to the eyes, kidneys, blood vessels, brain, or heart
  • personal habits and lifestyle factors
  • not being aware of low blood sugar levels
  • stress
  • other illnesses

Interpreting the results

Interpreting blood sugar meter readings depends mostly on individual patterns and targets. A medical professional will set these at the beginning of diabetes treatment.

Certain forms of temporary diabetes, such as gestational diabetes, also have separate blood sugar recommendations.

Time of check Blood sugar level
Fasting or before breakfast 60–90 mg/dl
Before meals 60–90 mg/dl
1 hour after meal 100–120 mg/dl

A person with very high or low fasting blood sugar levels should take the following actions:

Fasting blood sugar level Risk level and suggested action
50 mg/dl or under Dangerously low: Seek medical attention
70–90 mg/dl Possibly too low: Consume sugar upon experiencing symptoms of low blood sugar, or seek medical attention
90–120 mg/dl Normal range
120–160 mg/dl Medium: Seek medical attention
160–240 mg/dl Too high: Work to bring down blood sugar levels
240–300 mg/dl Much too high: This could be a sign of ineffective glucose management, so see a doctor
300 mg/dl or above Very high: Seek immediate medical attention

As long as blood sugar levels do not become critically dangerous, there are ways to return them to within a normal range when readings become too high.

Some ways to lower blood sugar levels include:

  • limiting carbohydrate intake but not fasting
  • increasing water intake to maintain hydration and dilute excess blood sugar
  • engaging in physical activity, such as a post-meal walk, to burn excess blood sugar
  • eating more fiber

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