Acceptable Range of Blood Sugar for a Diabetic

It's one of the first things to pop into the mind of someone diagnosed with diabetes: What is the acceptable range of blood sugar for a diabetic?

The answer is not as clear cut as you'd think. So let's start with looking at what's considered a normal blood sugar count.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a normal random blood sugar level hasn't been clearly defined. However, even if you've recently eaten and your blood sugar level is at its peak, your random blood sugar level should not be higher than 200 mg/dL (11.1 mmol/L).

Dr. Edward S. Horton, who performs Clinical Research at the prestigious Joslin Diabetes Center, notes that blood sugar is often measured under different circumstances.

"What we call fasting blood sugar or blood glucose levels is usually done six to eight hours after the last meal," he says. "So it's most commonly done before breakfast in the morning; and the normal range there is 70 to 100 milligrams per deciliter.

"But when you eat a meal, blood sugar generally rises and in a normal individual it usually does not get above 135 to 140 milligrams per deciliter. So there is a fairly narrow range of blood sugar throughout the entire day. "

The range changes for diabetic patients.

"If the blood sugar drops below about 60 or 65 milligrams per deciliter, people will generally get symptoms, which are some shakiness, feeling of hunger, maybe a little racing of the heart and they will usually be trenchant or if they eat something, it goes away right away." Dr. Horton says.

"But if blood sugar drops below 50 - and can get down as low as 40 or 30 or even 20 - then there is a progressive loss of mental function and eventually unconsciousness and seizures."

Dr. Horton says if blood sugar gets up above 180 to 200 it exceeds the capacity of the kidneys to reabsorb the glucose. If the levels rise way up into the 400s or even 500s it can be associated with altered mental functions.

Rather than expecting your blood glucose values to solve your problem, you may want to consider the numbers to be more like pieces to a puzzle. The more pieces of the puzzle you have the clearer the big picture.

According to the Mayo Clinic:

--Although no clear criteria have been established, a blood glucose level higher than 140 mg/dL (7.8 mmol/L) but lower than 200 mg/dL (11.1 mmol/L), may indicate prediabetes. If you fall into this range, be sure to ask your doctor for additional testing or recommendations.

--A level higher than 200 mg/dL (11.1 mmol/L) suggests either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Remember: your blood sugar level alone isn't enough to differentiate between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Ask your doctor for more testing to determine which type of diabetes you have.

The bottom line: Everyone with diabetes should test their blood glucose levels regularly. Knowing your acceptable range of blood sugar lets you alter your diabetes management strategy to stay near your target level. Regular testing of your blood sugar can also help reduce your risk of having long-term complications from diabetes.

So what is this stuff called glucose?

Glucose is simply a type of sugar that travels through the bloodstream. More importantly, it's the primary energy source for our cells. Glucose enters the body whenever you eat carbohydrate foods. Glucose levels are regulated by insulin and glucagon. Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreas and released into the bloodstream when glucose levels rise.

Normal glucose levels fall between 70 and 150 mg. Levels typically are lower in the morning, and rise after meals. Blood sugar levels falling consistently above 150 are indicative of hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar.

Chronic low levels, falling below 70, characterize hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Hypoglycemia is a potentially fatal condition. Symptoms include lethargy, impaired mental functioning, irritability and loss of consciousness.

There are several different types of glucose tests.

The "fasting blood sugar test" checks glucose levels after an eight-hour fast and is often the first test performed when checking for diabetes. For this test, levels should fall between 70 and 99 in order to be considered normal. The "two-hour postprandial blood sugar test" measures glucose levels two hours after eating a meal.

"Random blood sugar testing" checks glucose levels randomly throughout the day, regardless of meal times. If levels vary widely, there could be a problem. Blood sugar levels should be between 70 and 125 in order to be considered normal for random testing.

The "oral glucose tolerance test" measures blood levels after the patient drinks a high-glucose concoction.

There are many conditions that can cause a change in your blood glucose levels. Normal results may vary depending on the lab.

There are many conditions that can cause a change in your blood glucose levels. Normal results may vary depending on the lab.