Everyone has sugar (or glucose) in the blood, from the food we eat, especially carbohydrates.
Glucose provides body cells with energy, which allows the body to do its business: blood glucose powers the heart so it can beat, the brain to think and produce chemicals and signals to support breathing, regulate internal temperature and digest and absorb food) and so much more. Without energy (sugar in the blood), you can’t even walk and talk.
However, too much is not a good thing. The hormone insulin produced by the pancreas, ensures that blood glucose levels are just enough.
Blood glucose levels vary depending on the time of the day (higher in the morning), activity levels (higher after exercise) and diet (some foods, especially simple carbohydrates – raise blood glucose).
Usually, insulin will take care of this, keeping blood glucose levels stable. However, if levels of blood glucose are persistently high, the ability of pancreatic cells to make insulin is eroded, meaning that blood sugar levels remain high.
While trying to deal with this, the pancreas tries to make even more insulin and working on overdrive eventually damages the pancreatic cells that produce insulin. When that happens, blood sugar levels remain elevated leading to type 2 diabetes (when the body no longer produces adequate insulin).
Elevated blood glucose can also lead to hardening of blood vessels (atherosclerosis) and other heart disease from damaged blood vessels.
Damaged vessels in turn can kidney disease or failure (with need for dialysis and transplant), stroke, heart attack, vision loss or blindness, weaker immunity (and susceptibility to infection), nerve damage and poor circulation in the feet and hands.
You can tell your blood sugar levels by getting a finger prick test, usually done by a health worker.
Normal blood sugar levels are less than 100mg/dL (miligrammes per decilitre) after fasting (not eating) for at least eight hours and less than 140mg/dL two hours after eating.
If your blood glucose levels are elevated, healthier diets and physical activity (exercise) can help you keep them in check. If you have already developed type 2 diabetes, insulin and other medication may also be prescribed to manage the condition.
But you don’t have to wait for it to get to that. Find out your number (blood sugar level) today and adopt a healthier diet and adequate physical activity to protect your health.