Best Blood Sugar Levels for Diabetics

Searching for the best blood sugar levels for diabetics? When it comes to blood sugar levels, one size does not fit all. While the American Diabetes Association (ADA) offers research and insight for diagnosing and treating diabetes, it does not provide a specific number for blood sugar levels, but instead a wide target range that applies to most people living with diabetes. 

The ADA takes the stance that there is no exact "best" blood sugar level for diabetics; rather, the recommended blood sugar range goal for a diabetic should be set by the patient's doctor and individualized, based on the individual's profile.

Do you need to check your blood sugar level? 

The ADA explains that you can benefit from testing your blood sugar levels if any of the following factors exists: 

  • you take insulin;
  • you are pregnant;
  • your blood sugar, or glucose, levels are difficult to control;
  • you have had low blood glucose levels; or
  • you have ketones from high blood glucose levels. 

Using a meter to check glucose levels can provide key insights that can help improve your health. Blood sugar readings can show how food, exercise and medication affect your condition. 

What are considered normal blood glucose levels? 

While the ADA doesn't give specific numbers, it has set forth some parameters regarding blood sugar levels. The amount of sugar in your blood is measured in milligrams per deciliter, or mg/dL. What's considered normal depends on when you have eaten. The Virginia Mason Medical Center explains that a normal blood glucose reading for a non-diabetic is as follows: 

  • ·Fasting – after fasting for eight hours, non-diabetics' blood sugar levels will fall between 70 and 99 mg/dL.
  • ·After meals – two hours after eating, blood sugar levels less than 140 mg/dL is considered normal. 

Upon waking, most individuals' blood sugar levels should fall between 80 and 120 and between 100 and 140 at bedtime, William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR tells MedicineNet. 

Pre-Diabetes and Diabetes Blood Sugar Levels 

Blood sugar levels guide doctors in diagnosing and treating pre-diabetes and diabetes. Both conditions are categorized by blood sugar levels. 

The presence of pre-diabetes, also referred to as impaired fasting glucose (IFG), means that you are at high risk for developing diabetes. A doctor will diagnose a patient with pre-diabetes if: 

  • the fasting blood glucose is between 100-125 mg/dL;
  • the A1c (a test that measures the blood glucose levels over the a two-to-three-month period) is between 5.7 and 6.4 percent; or
  • the blood glucose level falls between 140 mg/dL and 199 mg/dL during a two-hour 75g oral glucose tolerance test. 

Diabetes is characterized by a glucose buildup in the blood. Those with diabetes either don't produce enough insulin, or their bodies cannot utilize the insulin it makes correctly, resulting in a high-blood sugar level, or hyperglycemia. Doctors will diagnose a patient with diabetes if: 

  • the fasting blood glucose level is 126mg/dL or more (the doctor will confirm the results with two consecutive tests);
  • any blood glucose level result, including a two-hour oral glucose tolerance test, is 200 mg/dL or more; or
  • the A1c test result is 6.5 percent or more. 

Blood Glucose Targets are Individualized 

In April 2012, the ADA published its stance on blood sugar target levels for diabetes. The general recommendation is to obtain an A1c reading of less than 7 percent to reduce the incidence of microvascular disease. 

But don't expect any hard numbers from the ADA. One of the key stances taken in the ADA's position statement, Management of Hyperglycemia in Type 2

Diabetes: A Patient-Centered Approach, explains: "All treatment decisions, where possible, should be made in conjunction with the patient, focusing on his/her preferences, needs, and values." 

The ADA takes a patient-centered approach in its advice, urging physicians to calculate blood sugar ranges for individual patients based on the following factors: 

  • how long the patient has had diabetes;
  • the patient's age/life expectancy;
  • any existing comorbid conditions;
  • any known cardiovascular disease (CVD) or advanced microvascular complications;
  • existing hypoglycemia unawareness; and
  • individual patient considerations. 

The ADA advises doctors to create more stringent blood sugar targets in the 6 to 6.5 percent range for patients who haven't had diabetes very long, who have a long life expectancy and have no presence of CVD. 

On the other end of the spectrum, if the patient has a limited life expectancy, health complications and a long history of hypoglycemia, a more relaxed blood sugar target goal in the 7.5 to 8 percent range could be recommended. 

Using a Blood Glucose Meter to Check Your Levels 

After your doctor has provided individual blood sugar guidelines, you can keep tabs on your levels by using a blood glucose meter at home. You'll want to check your user's manual for specific instructions to ensure you get accurate results. 

Generally, when taking a reading, you'll want to: 

  • wash your hands;
  • insert a test strip in your device;
  • use the lancing tool to prick the side of your finger;
  • hold the strip to a drop of blood; and
  • await the reading on the device's display. 

You can keep track of your results by visiting the ADA's website and using its online Diabetes 24/7 tool or by downloading its printable blood glucose log. If you're unsure of what kind of blood glucose meter to purchase, ask your physician for recommendations or peruse the ADA's 180 Tools for Living Well: The Diabetes Forecast Consumer Guide 2014. 

Tips When Reviewing Your Blood Sugar Levels 

Getting a poor blood sugar reading tends to spark anxiety, confusion and frustration in many people. Instead of letting the results emotionally affect you, try to use the results as key parts of the puzzle for improving your condition. 

Here are few other tips to keep in mind: 

  • Keep a log and pay attention to how foods, habits and stress affect your blood sugar.
  • If you notice a repeated pattern, speak to your doctor about changing your treatment plan accordingly.
  • Getting back your health takes time. Try to work WITH your body, rather than against it.
  • "Remind yourself that your blood glucose level is a way to track how well your diabetes care plan is working. It is not a judgment of you as a person," the ADA encourages.