Glucose, is the primary source of energy of our body, and it comes from the food we eat. An elevated sugar level for a sustained period of time is called diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic and metabolic disease that over time may cause serious damage to different organs in our body. WHO estimates that there are about 422 million people worldwide who suffer from diabetes, with 1.6 million deaths each year directly attributable to it, making diabetes one of the most pressing health concern of our world today. Today we shall discuss the effects of low blood sugar versus high blood sugar.
Low Blood Sugar Versus High Blood Sugar
Maintaining blood glucose level within the prescribed range is always a challenge for patients suffering from diabetes. Even if one is careful, there might be instances of high blood sugar, or hyperglycaemia, and low blood sugar, or hypoglycaemia. We must keep in mind that even though consumption of carbohydrates regulates the amount of glucose levels in our blood, it isn’t the only factor determining it. Emotional stress and effects of certain medications may cause hyperglycaemia. Similarly, a sudden increase in physical activity may cause hypoglycaemia. Both situations can turn dire, and can even prove fatal at times. So, it is extremely important to maintain normal sugar levels.
The American Diabetes Association has recommended maintaining the following sugar levels:
- a) 80 and 130 milligrams per decilitre (mg/dL) before meals
- b) Less than 180 mg/dL within two hours after meals
Insulin is a hormone that is responsible for allowing glucose in the blood to enter the cells. High sugar levels occur when insulin production in our body becomes insufficient. It also happens that our body becomes resistant to insulin, and cannot properly utilise the insulin available in our body. Since blood cannot transfer the sugar to muscles, organs and tissues due to a lack of insulin, the amount of sugar in the blood builds up, rising above the specified sugar range, causing hyperglycaemia.
Several factors may cause hyperglycaemia to occur including, excessive eating, forgetting taking pills/insulin, lowering physical activities, stress, illness etc. In fact, medications that aren’t directly related to diabetes like steroids, beta blockers, birth control pills may also contribute in elevating sugar levels.
Hyperglycaemia can be extremely dangerous and in severe cases may lead to coma. If someone gets two readings of more than 300 mg/dL in a row then she should inform her doctor. In case of nausea, dizziness, and confusion, she should go for emergency medical treatment.
Signs of High Blood Sugar
The following signs often point to a hyperglycaemic condition:
- Need for frequent urination
- Extreme hunger and/or thirst
- Blurring of the vision
- Dry or itchy skin
1. Regular medication– Maintaining correct dosage of pills/insulin at proper time intervals is crucial.
2. Carbohydrate– Taking care of the daily carbohydrate count of the diets of diabetes patients is a must and is highly recommended by the American Diabetes Association. Higher intake might cause hyperglycaemia and lower intake may result in hypoglycaemia and hence measuring Carbohydrate count is essential in the management of blood sugar. Eating complex carbohydrates like whole wheat flour, oats, millets and monitoring calorie intake, as well as keeping an exercise log can be useful.
3. Proteins and healthy fats– Eating healthy fats and protein rich foods help keep sugar in control
4. Regular exercise– Doing exercise regularly as per doctor’s advice is important in lowering sugar. Regular exercise also helps in enhancing insulin health.
Hypoglycaemia, or low blood sugar levels, is the inverse of hyperglycaemia. It occurs when glucose level in the blood decreases and necessary glucose supply to organs, tissues and muscles is hindered. Low sugar levels might occur when someone doesn’t eat enough foods, especially foods that are rich in carbohydrates, while taking sugar lowering medications. The fall in sugar levels can be both sudden or gradual.
The consequences of sugar fall might be severe. When the level of sugar falls, the body releases epinephrine, also called adrenaline, that causes an increased heartbeat, along with sweating, anxiety and shaking. Extreme cases may lead to seizures, coma and even death.
The following signs may signal a fall in sugar levels:
- Weakness and tiredness
- Fast heartbeat
- Extreme hunger
Following the ’15-15 Rule’– If the blood sugar levels drop below 70 mg/dL, it is advised to consume 15g of carb and wait for 15 minutes. After that the sugar levels need to be checked again. If the number still remains below 70 mg/dL, the process needs to be repeated again.
15g of carbs can be found in:
- 1 small piece of fresh fruit
- Three to four hard candies
- Glucose tablets
- Glucose gel
ADA has prescribed taking scheduled snack/meal once the sugar levels reach above 70 mg/dL so that it doesn’t drop again. If one has two readings of sugar dropping below 70mg/dL within a week, she should look for immediate medical attention.
Hyperglycaemia and hypoglycaemia can turn out to be extremely dangerous for diabetics and hence we should regularly monitor our sugar levels.