By Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD
If you don’t have diabetes, blood sugar might not be something you think about often. But, you probably should.
Maintaining a balanced blood sugar may be a key to not only lowering your risk of diabetes, but also has tons of other health benefits. These include maintaining a healthy weight, improving your energy, boosting your mood, aging well, getting amazing sleep, and even reducing your risk of other chronic diseases, like dementia.
Let’s learn a bit more about why blood sugar is important for many and how it impacts the different aspects of your health.
What is blood sugar?
Blood sugar, also sometimes called blood glucose, is the main source of sugar in your body. It comes from the carbohydrate-rich foods you eat, which the body breaks down into single sugar molecules. The body can also make small amounts of blood sugar on it’s own.
Under normal circumstances, your body primarily uses this sugar for energy to fuel your day-to-day activities. When we eat the right number of carbohydrates to match our needs and activity level, blood sugar is not a problem.
Many of us tend to overeat carbohydrates, choose the wrong types (i.e. highly processed carbs), and lead sedentary lives, so we don’t burn off what we consume. Our modern lifestyle can lead to chronic fluctuations in blood glucose.
When blood sugar is chronically high, this can eventually lead to complications, and possibly being diagnosed with diabetes. Blood sugar that is too high or too low can cause severe consequences, like coma or even death. Your body cannot function when blood sugar is not tightly controlled within a narrow range.
But even if we don’t have diabetes, blood sugar that fluctuates too much (even within what is considered a “normal” range can still cause problems for our health.
Too much sugar in the blood is stored as fat, leading to weight gain and unwanted body fat. Being on the blood sugar roller coaster can cause energy highs and lows throughout the day, leaving us drained and exhausted. This impacts your mood, sleep, and even promotes faster aging.
Finally, too much sugar in the blood is damaging to the body over time. It can trigger inflammation, which may eventually lead to the development of a variety of chronic diseases from heart disease to diabetes.
What is a normal blood sugar reading?
The American Diabetes Association states that a normal fasting blood sugar (first thing in the morning before eating or drinking) is less than 100 mg/dL.
A random blood sugar (taken at any time of the day) should be less than 200 mg/dL. Numbers above that may indicate prediabetes or diabetes.
Why is it important to test blood sugar?
Tracking your blood sugar levels can give you a lot of insight into your overall health. Dr. Mary Kellis, MD, Endocrinologist at the Cleveland Clinic and one of Sugarbreak's scientific advisors says that many with “prediabetes may not even know they have it. Unfortunately, often, many do not seek medical care for evaluation.”
The only way to know what your blood sugar is, is to test it. But many people are afraid of needles or don’t like the invasiveness of testing blood with a glucose meter.
With 1 in 5 people with diabetes and 1 in 3 people with prediabetes not being aware of their condition, an easier way to test could help people better manage their health. Testing your blood sugar empowers you to become proactive with your health, an easy first step to managing your blood sugar day to day. It can also give you information earlier, if your blood sugar is higher than expected. But even if you find you don’t have diabetes, tracking your blood sugar over time can help give you insight into your health and help you identify ways to make improvements to your healthy lifestyle.