Blood sugar levels that become too high or too low can cause a variety of health problems and can even be life-threatening. Mild, moderate and severe blood sugar fluctuations can also affect your mood and behavior. If your blood sugar levels tend to spike and drop and you notice changes, you need to speak with your physician to learn how to keep your blood sugar levels in check.
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Blood Sugar Levels
After a meal, the food you eat is broken down into glucose and either used right away for energy or stored for use later on. Glucose is also made by the liver and pancreas. In order for the cells to use glucose, the hormone insulin must be present. If you have diabetes your body either does not produce insulin or cannot use it properly. Without enough insulin your blood sugar levels can get too high. Non-diabetics can also experience fluctuations in blood sugar levels when skipping meals as a side effect of medications or from various other illnesses. Blood sugar levels are considered high if they climb to greater than 100mg/dL, and diabetes is diagnosed when the level reaches 126 mg/dL or more, according to MedlinePlus. A blood sugar level below 70 mg/dL is considered low. Both high and low blood glucose levels can cause a variety of symptoms, including mood swings.
Your brain, like all areas of the body, relies on a steady supply of glucose to function properly. If you take too much insulin, skip meals, take certain medications, are extremely physically active or drink too much alcohol, your blood sugar levels can drop too low. A low blood sugar level is called hypoglycemia. Mild cases of low blood sugar can cause you to feel nervous or anxious, while more severe cases can lead to feeling irritable or tired, notes the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. Along with mood swings, low blood sugar levels can cause sleepiness, confusion, weakness, sweating, hunger and other symptoms. If caught early on, eating a small amount of glucose-rich food can help to bring your level back up to normal.
Hyperglycemia is the term for a blood sugar level that is too high. If you have diabetes, hyperglycemia can occur because you did not take enough medication, you ate too much food, you are too sedentary or as a side effect from medications. In non-diabetics hyperglycemia can be triggered by stress, illness, infections, certain medications or after undergoing surgery. In most cases hyperglycemia does not cause symptoms until your glucose values are significantly elevated or above 200 mg/dL. Symptoms tend to come on slowly, reports MayoClinic.com. Mood swings and behavioral changes are not common warning signs of hyperglycemia, however, you may feel fatigued and confused. Excessive thirst, frequent urination, vision changes and headaches are other common symptoms. If these symptoms occur, it is important to seek medical attention to determine the best treatment approach.
If you have or are at risk for diabetes, you and your doctor will need to develop an exercise and food plan to help keep your blood sugar levels in check. However, for both diabetics and non-diabetics there are some general tips that may help avoid fluctuations and mood swings. The Harvard University Health Services website recommends eating regularly scheduled meals--especially breakfast--drinking water throughout the day to stay hydrated, combining healthy carbohydrates such as whole grains with some protein to help stabilize blood sugar levels, eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and getting adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.