Blood sugar basics

What should your blood sugar levels be?

Once you are diagnosed with diabetes, your health care team will review your "target" blood sugar levels with you. You will likely be told to start checking your blood sugars at home using a meter. Normal blood sugar levels (i.e., for people who have not been diagnosed with diabetes) are usually between 72 mg/dL and 144 mg/dL (4.0 mmol/L and 8.0 mmol/L). If your blood sugars are at levels recommended by your doctor, then it is said that your blood sugars are "in control."

For people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, the recommended target blood glucose levels are:

  • 70  mg/dL to 130 mg/dL (3.9 mmol/L to 7.2 mmol/L) when measuring blood glucose fasting or before eating
  • less than 180 mg/dL (10.0 mmol/L) when measuring blood glucose 2 hours after eating

These are general recommendations - your doctor may suggest different targets for you. In addition, pregnant women, seniors, and children may have different targets.

What is urine testing?

Before the advent of home blood glucose monitors, the only way to monitor or check for high sugar levels was by urine testing. When blood sugar levels get high enough, the kidneys excrete the excess glucose into the urine. This is important, because if your blood sugar levels are high enough that the sugar "spills" into the urine, they are very high.

While urine testing is no longer used to monitor blood sugar levels, it is still used to measure ketone levels (high levels are a sign of poor diabetes control) and albumin levels (a protein that, if found to be at high levels in the urine, could be a sign of kidney damage).

What is a hemoglobin A1C test?

The hemoglobin A1C is an accurate way to measure how well your diabetes is being controlled. It provides a measurement of the average glucose level in your blood over the last 3 to 4 months; an average measurement means this test does not show daily fluctuations. When blood sugars are consistently high over time, the hemoglobin A1C will also be high.

When hemoglobin A1C is high, you will need to make changes to your medication or lifestyle (e.g., more exercise or introducing a healthier diet).

The recommended target for most people with diabetes is a hemoglobin A1C of less than 7.0%. A1C levels should be measured approximately twice a year, or more frequently if needed.

The contents of this health site are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition.

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