Author: Synovia Simons, MS, RDN, LDN

10/29/2021

Are you one of the 500,000+ adults living in Florida who have diabetes but do not know it? (1) Do you know your blood sugar levels?

This article will discuss blood sugar, also known as blood glucose.  It includes what blood sugar is,  how it is used to diagnose diabetes, tests used to diagnose, risk factors,  the importance of managing your blood sugar, and three tips to help.  A diabetes diagnosis is based on your blood sugar or glucose level. Blood sugar is the amount of sugar in your blood; a blood test measures this. It is essential to know your blood sugar levels.

What is blood glucose (sugar)?

We often hear the terms blood sugar and blood glucose as we learn about diabetes, but what does all this mean? Well, first, the terms blood sugar and blood glucose are the same. Your body needs some sugar in your blood because sugar is its primary energy source, especially for the brain. However, there is such thing as too much.  So how does sugar get into the blood? Great question! Certain foods break down into sugar, then it is absorbed into the blood through the small intestines.

What are the tests to diagnose diabetes?

Two tests are commonly used to diagnose diabetes: fasting blood sugar and glycated hemoglobin (A1C). The fasting blood sugar test requires you to fast or go for 8 to 12 hours without food or drink, only water. The A1C test calculates your average blood sugar over the past 2 to 3 months and does not require fasting. See the table below for the actual diagnoses’ measurements. (2)

Type of TestNormalPrediabetesDiabetes
Fasting Blood Glucose70 to 100mg/dL101 to 125mg/dLover 126mg/dL
A1C Test5.6% and below5.7% to 6.4%6.5% and higher

Are you at risk?

Are you at risk of getting diabetes? Individuals over age 45 and overweight or obese are at a higher risk of developing diabetes. Additional health conditions such as high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, heart disease, a sedentary lifestyle, or a family history of diabetes increase your risk. Races and ethnicities such as Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, & Asian Americans are at a higher risk of developing diabetes. (2) So, ask yourself, “do I fall into any of these categories?” you may be at risk for developing diabetes.

Why is it important to manage your blood sugar?

Over time, untreated high blood sugar levels can damage your blood vessels leading to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, amputations, blindness, and death. (1) However, managing your blood sugar levels can decrease your risk of serious complications. Also, keeping your blood sugar levels at a normal range can help manage other health conditions such as high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels.

3 Tips For Managing Your Blood Sugar

  • Know your numbers

The more you know, the more powerful you are. So, check and log your blood sugar daily. If you are pre-diabetic or a diabetic that does not take insulin, check your blood sugar when you first wake up. If you use insulin, standard times to check your blood sugar levels are when you wake in the morning, before meals, 2 hours after a meal, and before bed.

  • Change your diet

Eating healthy and knowing what food and beverages will increase your blood sugar levels. Focus on eating a balanced diet with vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and whole grains while decreasing sweets, saturated fats, and refined carbohydrates.

  • Move your body

Avoid being sedentary or sitting for long periods. Try engaging in at least 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week. (2) Walking, dancing, or riding a bike are some great activities.  Being active helps the body to absorb insulin which helps to decrease your blood sugar levels.

Managing your blood sugar levels takes commitment, but a little education and practice can make it work. Understanding your blood sugar is vital in managing it. Being over the age of 45 increases the risk of diabetes, but eating healthy and physically active can help decrease it. It is essential to understand that keeping your blood sugar levels in the normal range can reduce the chance of severe complications. Remember that managing your health conditions can have a positive impact on your quality of life. Challenge yourself to make a positive change for your overall health.

If you need help, Neighborly is here for you. Contact your Neighborly Licensed Dietitian at 727-573-9444 for one-on-one nutrition counseling, a free service for Pinellas County residents over age 60.

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