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Diabetes 101: why your blood sugar is a big deal

Diabetes is a disease that affects how your body uses sugar.  If you have diabetes, no matter what type, it means you have too much sugar in your blood and this can lead to serious health problems.

There are 3 types of diabetes. Prediabetes is when your blood sugar is high but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes.  Type 1 diabetes, your body does not produce insulin at all and you need to give yourself insulin every day in order to live.  Type 2 diabetes your body makes insulin but not enough to keep your blood sugar within normal limits.

There are 3 tests used to diagnose diabetes and anyone over the age of 45 or with a body mass index greater than 25 should request one of these tests from their doctor.

The 1st test is a fasting glucose which is exactly what it says, after having nothing to eat or drink for 8 hours; you get your blood sugar drawn. A normal fasting blood sugar level is less than 100. If it is between 100 and 125 then you are considered to have prediabetes. If it’s greater than 126, you’ll be diagnosed with diabetes.

The 2nd test is a hemoglobin A1C. This blood test reflects the average of your blood sugar over 3 months. You do not have to be fasting for this test and it can be done at any time. A normal hemoglobin A1C level is less than 5.7 percent. Prediabetes is diagnosed if your hemoglobin A1C is 5.7 – 6.4 percent.  If it is greater than 6.5 percent, then you have diabetes.

The 3rd test is an oral glucose tolerance test. In this one, you have a fasting blood sugar drawn, then you drink a sugary drink and repeat your blood sugar in 2 hours. If your 2-hour blood sugar level is between 140 and 199 you have prediabetes.  If your level is greater than 200 then you have diabetes.

I know I threw a lot of numbers at you but do not worry. Here’s a simple chart to help you remember these tests and numbers:

Test Normal Pre-Diabetes Diabetes
Fasting Blood Sugar Less than 100 mg/dl 100 -125 mg/dl Greater than 126 mg/dl
HemoglobinA1c Less than 5.7% 5.8% -6.5% Greater than 6.5%
2 hr. Oral Glucose Test Less than 140 mg/dl 140 – 200 mg/dl Greater than 200 mg/dl

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