How high is high and how low is low – find out so that next time you know how to handle an emergency.
Your blood sugar levels don’t stay constant throughout the day. They vary, rising and falling before and after you have a meal, exercise, or take your medication. People who do not have diabetes don’t feel the difference very much, as their variations remain within a certain range. But if you have diabetes, you may unexpectedly experience blood glucose levels that are acutely higher or lower than usual, which can be dangerous.
It is important for you to be able to recognise the symptoms of high blood sugar — hyperglycaemia, and low blood sugar — hypoglycaemia, and know how to treat them quickly before they can lead to disastrous complications. The best way to do this is to frequently self-monitor blood glucose levels (SMBG) with a glucometer.
According to Dr Ketan K Mehta, Consulting Physician, CardioPulmonologist & Diabetologist at Health Harmony, Mumbai, “Blood sugar levels are a marker of diabetes complications. Too high or too low levels of blood sugar values are detrimental. An important aspect of managing diabetes is self-monitoring of blood sugar levels. But do more than only monitoring blood sugar levels. Go the extra mile and use smartphone app-based programmes to keep track of your blood sugar levels and learn to get them under control by managing your diet, activity levels and weight.”
What is a dangerous blood sugar reading?
The American Diabetes Association recommends fasting blood glucose between 80-130 mg/dL (4.5-7.2 mmol/L) and postprandial blood sugar of no more than 180 mg/dL (10.0 mmol/L) as healthy targets for people with diabetes.
When you check your blood sugar using a glucometer, a reading of 70 mg/dL (3.9 mmol/L) or below indicates hypoglycaemia, or low blood glucose.
On the other end of the spectrum, hyperglycaemia occurs when the level of glucose in your blood is too high. According to the World Health Organisation, fasting blood sugar greater than 126 mg/dL (7.0 mmol/L), and postprandial blood sugar (after eating a meal) exceeding 200 mg/dL (11.0 mmol/L) indicates hyperglycaemia.
How should you treat Hypoglycaemia?
The symptoms of low blood glucose include: weakness, dizziness or feeling light-headed, nervousness, sweating, pounding heartbeat, hunger and thirst, and confusion.
To tackle hypoglycaemia, follow the 15-15 rule:
● Have 15 grams of carbohydrate or fast-acting sugar, such as half a cup of regular fruit juice or 4 glucose tablets, to raise your blood glucose.
● Check your level after 15 minutes. If it’s still below 70 mg/dL (3.9 mmol/L), repeat the above step until your blood sugar reaches normal levels.
● Once your blood glucose is at least 70 mg/dL (3.9 mmol/L), have a snack or a meal to ensure it doesn’t lower again.
Severely low blood sugar
If your hypoglycaemia is left untreated, or if your blood sugar level remains abnormally low and does not increase, you may pass out. In such cases, you need to be given emergency glucagon and require immediate medical attention.
The people around you, such as your family members, friends, or co-workers, should be taught how to administer glucagon in case of an emergency. They should also remember:
● NOT to give you insulin, as it will lower your blood sugar even more
● NOT to give you anything to eat or drink if you are unconscious, as it could cause you to choke.
What steps can you take if you have Hyperglycaemia?
The three main signs of hyperglycaemia are increased hunger, increased thirst, and an increased need to pass urine. You may also experience blurred vision, weakness or sleepiness.
High blood glucose can be lowered by doing some physical exercise. Increasing intake of water also dilutes excess blood sugar, and ensures you stay hydrated. It is important that you take your medication as directed by doctor, regularly check your blood sugar levels, and follow your meal plan.
If high blood sugar levels persist, consult your doctor.