Last week I wrote about low blood sugars also known as hypoglycemia. Today I am going to discuss the other extreme- high blood sugar levels. This is also known as hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia can be as equally a challenging to treat.
‘But doctor I feel perfectly fine even though I have high blood sugars. In fact I feel really lousy when my blood sugar levels are normal. So this must be normal for my body’
I cannot tell you how many times I have heard that statement or something similar. One of the things I emphasize to all my patients is the importance of achieving normal blood sugars.
The American Diabetes Association recommends the fasting normal blood sugar should be between 70–130 mg/dL for fasting blood (3.9-7.2 mmol/L). Two hours after eating the blood sugar level should be less than 180 mg/dL (10 mmol/L).
Some people with type 2 diabetes begin to feel like they have low blood sugar levels even though they may be in the normal range. In other words their body tricks them into feeling this way. Next they eat to counteract the feelings and their blood sugars rise.
High blood sugar levels can lead to complications of type 2 diabetes.
So why do some people with diabetes feel ‘bad’ when their sugars are in normal blood sugar range?
Here is a simple explanation as to why this happens:
Every human body has a set ‘thermostat’. This thermostat is set to a range for each person. Everyone has a set level that his or her body systems function at.
For instance, the normal fasting blood sugar level is a range, between 70 to 99 mg/dL. This normal range spans about 20 points. Which means it is going to be different numbers in that range for different people. But so as long as the blood sugar levels are in that range they are considered normal.
In type 2 diabetes, one of the things that happens is that the body reset it’s thermostat to a higher blood sugar level. So instead of functioning with blood sugars between 70 and 99 mg/dL, the body makes an attempt to function at a higher blood sugar level.
By the time diabetes symptoms set in, the blood sugars are usually well over 180 mg/dL.
This is why it is important to screen for diabetes early.
So now the body has reset it’s thermostat. Think about it like an air-conditioning system. If the thermostat is set at 73 degrees then the system does not come on until the temperature rises above 73 degrees and then it cools the room down till it is below 73 degrees and then turns off.
In the case of a person living with type 2 diabetes, the ‘blood sugar thermostat’ has been reset to a higher level.
Now here comes an ambitious healthcare provider such as myself. ☺ Our goal is to achieve normal blood sugars. Because we know from research that with normal blood sugars, the complications of type 2 diabetes are reduced.
However, as the blood sugar levels begin to come down with treatment, the body sends out alarm signals. These alarm signals feel just like low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). As I explained in my recent article, hypoglycemia is a very scary feeling for someone living with type 2 diabetes. Once they experience it once, most diabetics will usually do everything they can to avoid experiencing again.
So how can you bring your blood sugars down to target range without feeling lousy?
- Keep a log of your blood sugar levels. You may need to check your blood sugars several times a day to see if there is a pattern.
- Discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider. Remember open communication produces better outcomes.
- Your healthcare provider may decide to bring the sugars to normal range slowly. This way the body ‘thermostat’ resets itself slowly without sending out those alarm signals.
- If you feel that your blood sugars are dropping low, check the levels first before deciding to eat something. This serves a purpose of reassuring you what the level is. Most times the blood levels are still outside of range.
- Do not to skip a meal. Try to eat smaller more frequent meals.
Remember that your goal is to achieve normal blood sugar levels. This requires that you are committed to your health and wellbeing.
As always I welcome any questions or comments that you have. If you have found this information useful, please share it with someone else.
Until next week,
To your health and wellbeing,