Is Your Blood Sugar Too High?
Updated: Oct 28
Blood sugar (also called glucose) is found naturally in everyone's body’s bloodstream and is used as fuel by your body’s cells and organs. Blood sugar levels are always changing, and are typically lowest when you wake up and are higher after you eat.
Our bodies have a system for maintaining a blood sugar that is within a fairly narrow range. High blood sugars happen when something is not working normally. The sugar (blood glucose) in your blood is unable to move out of the bloodstream and into the cells where they are used for energy. This inability to move sugar out of the blood and into the cells results in sugars (glucose) accumulating in the blood and becoming “high blood sugar.”
What is high blood sugar?
For someone with diabetes blood glucose is considered high when blood sugar (glucose) levels are above 130 mg/dL before eating, higher than 180 mg/dL two hours after the start of a meal or at any other time.
Blood glucose levels above 300 mg/dL can be dangerous and it is recommended people with diabetes call a doctor or have a plan of action from your doctor when blood glucose levels are too high.
What causes high blood sugar?
Having diabetes causes blood sugar to be high. But even if someone with diabetes's blood sugar is normally in the target ranges above, many factors can cause it to rise higher. These include:
Eating a large meal
Skipping or forgetting to take your diabetes medication
Exercising less than usual
Illness or infection
Taking certain medications such as steroids.
How will you know if your blood sugar is high?
You may have symptoms. Everybody experiences high blood sugars differently! You may:
Feel different - You may not feel like yourself, something feels "off." You may feel unusually tired, hungry, thirsty, be urinating more, have blurry vision, rapid heart beat, stomach ache, nausea and vomiting or trouble concentrating
Thirst and increased urination - When blood sugar is high, blood glucose travels into the kidneys and attract more water, which makes you urinate more. This can make you dehydrated which makes you thirstier. You may develop a dry mouth.
Lose weight - When the food you eat can’t be used as fuel for your body because your blood sugar is high, you literally lose calories in your urine. Years ago, diabetes was diagnosed by “sugar in the urine.” Thank goodness today we have better, more precise ways of knowing how high your blood glucose is. Your body starts breaking down muscle and fat for energy because it needs fuel and it is not getting it from glucose. You are in sense, eating up your own bodies reserves, but in this case, it is not a good thing since the byproducts of only using muscle and fat for calories can be very dangerous.
Tiredness - Your blood sugar is high, some glucose is coming out in your urine and your body feels starved. Of course, you feel tired.
Trouble concentrating - Poor blood circulation can occur over time from high blood sugars causing blood vessel damage.
Or you might even feel nothing at all…
How Can You Be Sure Your Blood Sugar is High
You can see that your sugar has been high from a blood test. A1c is a blood test that measures your average blood glucose over the last 2-3 months. A simple calculation can help you convert your A1c to eAg or average blood glucose. Both of these numbers can be compared to recommended targets and can give you an idea of your blood glucose control over the last 10-12 weeks.
Unfortunately A1c it doesn't tell you if your blood sugar is high right now, at this moment. The only way to find out what you blood sugar is at any given moment inclue:
do a blood test yourself
use other technology such as a continuous glucose monitor
have a blood test done in a laboratory.
Fasting blood sugar measures your blood glucose when you have not eaten in 8-10 hours. Unlike the A1c, it is your blood glucose at one moment in time and does not tell you what you blood glucose is the rest of the day, week or month.
These blood tests above are often done by a laboratory but can also be done by a home testing kit. A blood glucose meter also known as a glucometer measures the amount of sugar in a drop of blood, most often from your finger. Blood glucose meters are available in big box stores, meter companies, pharmacies and by mail order with and without a physician prescription.
Although blood sugars tend to be higher after meals, there are other times when you may want to check your sugars:
Before eating a snack/meal
1-2 hours after a meal
If you wake up in the middle of the night
Before and after exercise
If you think you are feeling any symptoms of high/low blood sugar
Tips for lowering high blood sugar now
If you find that your blood sugar is not in the target range:
Drink 1-2 glasses of water – drinking water can help flush sugar out when you urinate
Do a brisk walk on the spot (if you do not regularly exercise, even 10 to 15 minutes is good) or lift some weights (a heavy book or full water bottle can work) – exercise helps lower blood sugars
Try deep breathing, doing some stretches, or even look at photos of your children and pets to relieve stress – stress can increase your blood sugars
If you missed a dose of your diabetes medication, remember to avoid taking an “extra” dose. Simply take your next normal dose as scheduled by your healthcare provider.
Do call your doctor for advice if you get two blood sugar readings of 300 mg/dL or higher in a row, or your blood sugars remain high despite your attempts to lower it.
When to get help
Very high blood sugars (above 400 mg/dL) can lead to life-threatening complications such as hyperglycemic hyperosmolar syndrome (HHS) or diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). DKA is rarely seen in type 2 diabetes, but it can still happen. Both conditions need immediate emergency treatment at a hospital.
You should have somebody take you to the nearest ER if you have:
Nausea and vomiting
Intense stomach pain
Trouble keeping food or fluids down
A feeling you are about to pass out
Diabetes is a medical problem that depends on you and supportive medical providers. If your blood glucose is too high:
Take immediate actions to lower it
Get immediate help from medical providers
Get long term support from medical providers, and others in your life to do the things that help keep your blood glucose under control. These include reminders to take your medication, stay active, sort through problems, eat well and monitoring your blood glucose.
The effect of high blood sugar over a long time
High blood sugars can affect you both physically and mentally if left unchecked or untreated. This can lead to long-term medical complications that involve damage to your eyes, nerves, heart and kidneys. Over time, high blood sugars can increase the risk of problems that can prevent you from doing many activities you enjoy, such as traveling with family or driving or moving around on your own. We don’t like to talk about these because they are scary but managing your blood glucose early in your disease, when you are first diagnosed can lower the risk for these complications and help you live the life you want. A recent study states that people with diabetes often do not take their high blood sugar seriously until after they get a complication like:
Loss of vision
Poor wound healing, infections and amputations
Tingling and numbness
If you want blood glucose control that makes you proud and your doctor happy, now is the time to get started!
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