Medically Reviewed By: Tom Iarocci, MD
For people with diabetes, the aim of treatment is generally to bring the blood sugar or glucose level down as close to the “normal” levels as possible. However, in order to make sure that your treatment is working for you, you will need to begin by learning about normal blood sugar levels for adults with diabetes, and how you can achieve them.
What Is Blood Sugar?
First of all, it’s important to know the difference between glucose and sugar. Sugar is the general term for a sweet carbohydrate that can dissolve in water. There are many different types of sugar, and the one that the body uses the most is known as glucose. When you hear people talking about things to do with blood sugar they are generally talking about blood glucose.
The normal blood sugar level for adults with diabetes will be measured differently depending on where you are. For example, in the United States, blood sugar is typically measured in mg of glucose per deciliter of blood. However, in the United Kingdom and Canada, blood sugar can be measured in millimoles.
What Are Normal Blood Sugar Levels for Adults with Diabetes?
Determining normal blood sugar levels can be a complex experience, as normal numbers can vary throughout the day. For someone who doesn’t have diabetes, a fasting blood sugar level on awakening should usually be under 100 mg/dl, whereas before-meal levels would be 70-99 mg/dl, and levels two hours after meals should be under 140 mg/dl.
Of course, normal blood sugar levels for adults with diabetes are expected to be quite different to the levels for people without diabetes. If you do have diabetes, then the American Diabetes Association generally suggests that you should work to keep your blood sugar levels before meals between 80-130 mg/dl, and your levels after meals under 180 mg/dl. However, many people with diabetes and doctors will attempt to shoot for levels that are as close as possible to the levels required for those without diabetes.
Although lower numbers in your blood sugar levels are difficult to achieve, and can require more frequent monitoring and careful diet considerations, they are better at protecting you against complications
The Problem with High Blood Sugar Levels
There are various ways in which professionals can test blood glucose levels. For example, there is a long-term glucose test available that is called A1C. This particular test helps to give you an average reading for your levels across the last two or three months. The amount is expressed as a percentage, and a person without diabetes generally achieves normal levels at below 5.7%. However, the targets for a person with diabetes are usually 7.0% or lower.
It should be noted that when glucose levels are too high, they can cause inflammation in the nerves and blood vessels, which is when diabetes-based complications begin. In people without diabetes, normal insulin function helps to keep sugars within a normal range, but people with diabetes have a damaged insulin function, which means that the body needs conscious help to process sugars. However, low levels of blood sugar can also be a problem. For instance, it can cause fainting, confusion or dizziness.