Even before you notice symptoms, high blood sugar can damage parts of your body. That's why certain diabetes tests to check blood sugar control and to catch problems early are so crucial.
But many patients aren't getting key diabetes tests at least annually, such as the hemoglobin A1c test, a dilated eye exam, and a foot exam.
"If you look at the nationwide data, it's sobering," says Enrico Cagliero, MD, a diabetes researcher and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "A lot...
A normal sugar level is less than 100 mg/dL after not eating (fasting) for at least 8 hours. And it's less than 140 mg/dL 2 hours after eating.
During the day, levels tend to be at their lowest just before meals. For most people without diabetes, blood sugar levels before meals hover around 70 to 80 mg/dL. For some people, 60 is normal; for others, 90.
What's a low sugar level? It varies widely, too. Many people's sugar levels won't ever fall below 60, even with prolonged fasting. When you diet or fast, the liver keeps sugar levels normal by turning fat and muscle into sugar. A few people's levels may fall somewhat lower.
Doctors use these tests to find out if you have diabetes:
Fasting plasma glucose test. The doctor tests your blood sugar level after fasting for 8 hours and it’s higher than 126 mg/dL.
Oral glucose tolerance test. After fasting for 8 hours, you get a special sugary drink. Two hours later your sugar level is higher than 200.
Random check. The doctor tests your blood sugar and it’s higher than 200, plus you’re peeing more, always thirsty, and you’ve gained or lost a significant amount of weight. He’ll then do a fasting sugar level test or an oral glucose tolerance test to confirm the diagnosis.
Any sugar levels higher than normal are unhealthy. A level that's higher than normal, but not reaching the point of full-blown diabetes, is called prediabetes.
According to the American Diabetes Association, 86 million people in the U.S. have prediabetes. These people are five to six times more likely to get diabetes over time. Prediabetes also raises the risk for cardiovascular disease, although not as much as diabetes does. It's possible to prevent the progression of prediabetes to diabetes with diet and exercise.