Medically Reviewed By: Tom Iarocci, MD

More and more Americans are discovering that they have type 2 diabetes. Millions have it, millions more are in the pre-diabetic stage, and many are completely unaware of their condition. It is very important, therefore, that you know what your blood sugar levels are.

If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes, you are probably aware of what is considered a normal blood sugar range, and you may have been asked to perform daily tests to make sure that you levels fall in a good range. Those with pre-diabetes might not be testing their blood sugar levels yet, but like people with diabetes, they need to monitor their sugar and carbohydrate consumption at each meal, which usually requires re-thinking the approach to food choices and go-to menu items. Physical activity and loss of excess body weight are also advised. These intensive lifestyle changes have been proven effective in many cases at stalling, warding off or even reversing the progression to type 2 diabetes.

Understanding Normal Blood Sugar Levels and the Value of Testing:

1. If you have a fasting blood sugar between 70 mg/dl and 100 mg/dl, this is typical of a non-diabetic and considered normal. Fasting levels are usually taken first thing in the morning, before eating or drinking anything. Another level may be taken 2 hours after eating a meal, and this should be less than 140 mg/dl if you do not have diabetes.

2. If you ever do a random blood sugar test and you register 200 mg/dl or above, it is likely that you have diabetes. Have it checked straight away.

3. If you do a fasting blood test (no food or fluids other than water since 10 pm the previous evening), your reading should be between 70 mg/dl and 99 mg/dl. Fasting levels between 100 and 125 mg/dl are considered pre-diabetic, while levels 126 mg/dl or higher are indicative of diabetes. A diagnosis usually requires more than a single test, but these levels are good general thresholds to let you know where you stand.

4. When you do blood sugar checks daily and as often as is recommended, you can detect your own personal patterns with respect to certain foods or activities and their effect on your blood glucose levels.

All people with diabetes have one thing in common: they are all trying to get their blood sugar levels as close to normal possible without creating any undue risks in the process of getting there. Many people with diabetes cannot or should not get back to completely normal glucose levels. Achieving tight enough control to get the A1C below 7% is often recommended, however, since this reduces the long-term risks of many complications of diabetes.

What Can Be Done About the Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic condition for which there is currently no cure. If you and your doctor detect type 2 diabetes early enough, however, you may be able to reverse its course with intensive lifestyle changes, alone. If you can stick to a strict diet with low amounts of carbohydrates, shed excess body weight, and stay physically active on more days than not, you may be able to control it to a point that you go back to being pre-diabetic, for instance. Not everybody is able to do this, however—especially people who have had diabetes for a long time. In those cases, the need for medicine does not mean you are giving up. Rather, it means you are getting control over your condition.

Some of the risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:

– Genetics

– The "western" lifestyle: typically high in saturated fats and simple carbs, low in fiber

– Being overweight

There is a clear correlation between obesity and type 2 diabetes, with incidence of both rising at alarming levels in recent decades. Very simply put, our caloric intake is too great for or physical activity levels, and consumption of unhealthy processed foods adds fuel to the fire. Too many of do not get enough physical activity and eat highly processed foods with added sugars. But knowledge is power. If this sounds like you, take the next step to have your blood glucose checked.