As of 2007, 7.8 percent of the U.S. population has diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. Although this condition can lead to life-threatening complications if not controlled, monitoring your blood sugar with a blood glucose meter can help you maintain healthy glucose levels and avoid complications. If you have diabetes, consult a health care provider about the glucose meter readings that are ideal for you.
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If you don't have diabetes, your blood glucose meter readings should be between 70 to 100 mg/dL at all times. Your fasting blood glucose, measured after 8 hours without food, should be less than 100 mg/dL. A glucose level below 70 indicates hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. If your fasting blood glucose level is between 100 to 125 mg/dL, you may have impaired fasting glucose, also called prediabetes. Levels above 126 mg/dL indicate diabetes. Those with diabetes should aim for a fasting blood glucose level of between 70 to 130 mg/dL and less than 180 mg/dL after a meal, advise experts from the American Diabetes Association. The above ranges refer to readings on plasma calibrated meters.
Infants and Children
Normal, non-diabetic fasting blood glucose ranges are the same as for adults. In children with diabetes, fasting blood glucose levels may be somewhat higher. For children younger than 5 years old, 80 to 200 mg/dL is an acceptable range, note child health experts from Boys Town Pediatrics. From ages 5 to 11, these levels should be 70 to 180 mg/dL and for children ages 12 and older, levels should be 70 to 150 mg/dL.
Glucose is the source of energy for all systems in the body; without sufficient glucose, the body and brain can't function normally. Hypoglycemia can cause rapid heartbeat, trembling and dizziness, and severe cases may cause seizures and unconsciousness. Too much glucose, as in the case of uncontrolled diabetes, can eventually cause kidney damage, nerve damage, blindness or stroke. Keeping your glucose levels within a healthy range can help you avoid these health problems.
Controlling Your Glucose Levels
Getting satisfactory readings on your blood glucose meter requires controlling your diet. If you have hypoglycemia not related to diabetes, eat frequent meals and snacks with a balanced amount of complex carbohydrates, protein and fat. If you have diabetes, base your diet on grains, vegetables and fruits and aim to get 10 to 20 percent of your calories from protein, recommend University of Maryland experts. Limit high carbohydrate foods including starchy vegetables and sweets. Insulin injections may also be necessary.
Newer blood glucose meters are calibrated for blood plasma, but some older models are calibrated for whole blood. Readings for plasma calibrated meters are 10 to 12 percent higher than readings for whole blood meters, advise Joslin Diabetes Center experts. So if your blood sugar goal is less than 130 mg/dL on a plasma meter, it would be less than 120 mg/dL on a whole blood meter. Medical lab tests are required to diagnose diabetes, because home glucose meters aren't accurate enough. If you haven't been tested for diabetes, consult a health care professional for guidance if your fasting blood sugar is above 100 mg/dL. Also consult your health care provider if you have diabetes and have difficulty keeping your glucose levels in range. If your blood sugar falls below 50 mg/dL, contact your health care provider immediately even if you don't have symptoms.
- Diabetes.org: Understanding Blood Glucose
- University of Michigan: Hypoglycemia--Low Blood Sugar--in People Without Diabetes
- University of Cincinnati: Normal Blood Sugar?
- Boys Town Pediatrics: Diabetes: Self Blood Glucose Monitoring (SBGM)
- University of Maryland: Diabetes
- Joslin Diabetes Center: Plasma Glucose Meters and Whole Blood Meters
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.