Keeping your body fueled requires sugar in the bloodstream and insulin, which is created in the pancreas. Insulin regulates your blood sugar, or glucose. Blood sugar levels that are higher than normal can have serious long-term effects on your health, but low blood sugar levels can quickly become a medical emergency.
Normal Blood Sugar Levels
Carbohydrates supply the body with blood glucose. This sugar in the bloodstream works in conjunction with insulin to supply the brain with food and the body’s cells with energy. In a healthy adult, normal blood sugar levels range from 70 mg/dl to 130 mg/dl, and up to 180 mg/dl after eating a meal.
At the metabolic level, hypoglycemia results from too little glucose in the blood or too much insulin. People who suffer from diabetes, kidney disease or hyperinsulinism, as well as anyone taking diabetes medications to stabilize blood sugar levels, are susceptible to hypoglycemia. Otherwise healthy people can also occasionally suffer bouts of hypoglycemia, but these are usually mild and transient. Drinking an excessive amount of alcohol, stress, certain medications or insufficient food intake can all cause the condition.
At what point someone begins to feel the effects of hypoglycemia may depend on their normal blood sugar level. A person whose blood sugar runs on the high end of normal may begin to feel symptoms when their blood sugar level dips to even 75 or 80 mg/dl, while someone with normal blood sugar levels on the low end might not start to feel symptoms until their level is already dangerously low. The first symptoms usually include dizziness, shakiness and hunger. Because blood sugar is necessary for the brain to function properly, confusion and a change in demeanor are also common. If left untreated, hypoglycemia can eventually cause unconsciousness, seizures or coma.
You can treat blood sugar levels below 70 mg/dl by eating or drinking foods that raise your blood sugar. The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse suggests 4 oz. of fruit juice or regular soda, 8 oz. of milk, 1 tbsp. of sugar or honey, or 5 to 6 pieces of hard candy. Many diabetics carry glucose tablets in case hypoglycemia sets in -- 3 to 4 glucose tablets should treat it fairly quickly. If the person becomes unconscious or is unable to eat or drink, immediately call for medical assistance and then swab some glucose gel or cake icing or frosting on the inside of his cheek.