Helping You Understand 'Normal' Blood Sugar Levels (2023)

Your blood sugar goal can vary depending on whether you have diabetes, the type of diabetes you have, and whether you are pregnant.

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Keeping track of your blood sugar is a key part of diabetes management. Whether those glucose levels are checked with a fingerstick meter or a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), it’s an important part of daily life with this condition, along with the future possibility of diabetes-related complications.

But just what is considered “normal” when it comes to blood sugar levels?

Diabetes is different for everyone, meaning that target goals will vary for each person and those goals will depend on many different factors. While this is an area to consult with your diabetes care team about, the medical community has guidance on what certain people should strive for in blood glucose levels.

There’s no magic number for your blood sugar. However, many people with diabetes strive to keep their glucose levels under 140 mg/dL on average.

Many authorities — including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) — explain glucose levels and what people with diabetes should work toward achieving, at a high level. The 2022 standards from the American Diabetes Association (ADA) are a set of guidelines followed by many professionals in the diabetes field. This chart details goals for specific groups of people with diabetes.

Before meals (fasting)After meals (post-prandial)Other
Adults with type 1 diabetes (see guidance)80–130 mg/dL< 180 mg/dL (1 or 2 hours after)
Adults with type 2 diabetes (see guidance)80–130mg/dL< 180 mg/dL and (1 or 2 hours after)
Children with type 1 diabetes (see guidance)90-130 mg/dL90–150 mg/dL at bedtime/overnight
Pregnant people (T1D, gestational diabetes) (see guidance)< 95 mg/dL140 mg/dL (1 hour after)120 mg/dL (2 hours after)
65 or older (see guidance)80–180 mg/dL80–200 mg/dL for those in poorer health, assisted living, end of life
Without diabetes99 mg/dL or below140 mg/dL or below
(Video) Blood Sugar Levels Chart | Includes fasting and after eating

Importantly, the ADA changed its glucose level guidance in 2015 to reflect a change in thinking about overtreating and hypoglycemia concerns. The lowest target had been 70 mg/dL. Still, a study at the time determined that adults, children, and those who are older might be more prone to overtreating — especially if they use varying doses of insulin or glucose-lowering medications.

As with all aspects of diabetes management, these guidelines are used as a starting point by the medical community. One’s individual goals may vary, based on your personal needs. Make sure to consult with your doctor and diabetes care team to determine what may be best for you.

A key part of managing diabetes involves checking blood sugars, or glucose levels.

In type 1 diabetes (T1D), a person’s pancreas does not produce the insulin they need. In type 2 diabetes (T2D), the body may not make or use insulin correctly anymore.

For either T1D or T2D, ensuring glucose levels stay as level as possible is the goal. Sometimes insulin or diabetes medications are used based on the type of diabetes and personal needs. Many factors affect glucose levels, including food, exercise, insulin, medications, stress, etc.

Glucose level targets may vary for everyone based on their unique needs.

What is a normal blood sugar level?

(Video) What Is a Normal Blood Sugar Level? – Dr.Berg

Achieving a “normal” blood sugar or glucose level is a bit of a misnomer. Often, the word “normal” is used to reference what someone’s blood sugars might be if they didn’t have diabetes.

However, this terminology is flawed because even people without diabetes do see blood sugar spikes, especially after eating and when consuming something with high amounts of sugar, or a complex carbohydrate like pizza or pasta.

Even though that person’s body will immediately start working to counterbalance that rising glucose level by producing more insulin, their blood sugars may still spike for a brief time even beyond those “normal” ranges. The same can happen with intense exercise or in high-stress situations if the person’s natural glucose metabolizing cannot quickly balance everything out.

For those with diabetes, the fact that our bodies don’t make or use insulin correctly means we must manually keep tabs on blood sugar levels and take enough insulin — or glucose-lowering medication — to balance everything out.

Language matters in diabetes

Words make a difference when you’re talking about diabetes. That’s especially true in the context of blood sugar levels and how someone manages their health.

Here are some suggestions on language choices when talking with someone about their blood sugars and glucose levels.

(Video) What is a Normal Blood Glucose Level?

  • Try to avoid using terms like “good” or “bad” for higher or lower blood sugars.
    • Instead, try to not tie value judgments to these numbers. Think about them as just numbers, “in range” or not, and pieces of data to help make a decision in diabetes care. Sometimes glucose numbers are too low or too high, and it’s helpful for the person with diabetes to understand why those glucose fluctuations are happening.
  • Try to avoid judgment and blame with phrases like “What did you do?” when asking about higher or lower blood sugars.
    • Instead, use phrases: “Tell me about…” or “Do you know why that happened?”
  • Try to avoid asking a child or adult about their blood sugars as soon as you see them. This can make it seem like diabetes defines them and all you see is their numbers.
    • Instead, try talking with them about their day and any highlights before moving into the diabetes discussion.

Often, children and adults with diabetes can feel disappointed, frustrated, and angry about their blood sugars and diabetes management overall. This can lead to feelings of shame and guilt, if they can’t achieve what they view as “perfect” results. As a result, that can lead to diabetes burnout for the child or adult and cause them to lose interest in managing their diabetes as needed.

A1C measures your average blood sugar over the past 3 months.

You can have your A1C measured with a blood draw in your doctor’s office or lab. Some doctors can also perform a fingerstick blood test to check your A1C level.

When sugar enters your bloodstream, it binds to a protein called hemoglobin. People with high blood sugar have a higher percentage of the hemoglobin protein coated with sugar. Your A1C result will give you an indication of what percentage of your hemoglobin is bound to sugar.

  • Standard (no diabetes): Less than 5.7%
  • Prediabetes: 5.7% to 6.5%
  • Diabetes: 6.5% or higher

In general, the ADA and other clinical guidelines for people with diabetes is that you should work closely with your diabetes care team to determine what’s best for your A1C goal. Generally, clinicians advise for an A1C of being safely 7.0%, though that can vary depending on one’s individual care plan.

It’s important to keep in mind that A1C levels do not reflect all of the nuances of one’s diabetes management, meaning it doesn’t always reflect your glucose variability, meaning that A1C doesn’t offer insight into high or low blood sugars, and it can be manipulated if your blood sugars fluctuate regularly.

The A1C is not the same as your blood sugar average, which might be displayed on a fingerstick meter or your continuous glucose monitor (CGM). That’s because the A1C is limited in its scope and does not reflect your high and low blood sugars, nor does it reflect any glucose variability if you have dramatic spikes or drops in glucose levels.

As a result, many diabetes professionals have moved away from considering the A1C the sole “gold standard” for someone’s diabetes management. Instead, they use that A1C in addition to time in range (TIR) figures, showing how often your glucose levels are in your individualized target range.

(Video) What is a normal blood sugar level

Should I use a continuous glucose monitor?

While a fingerstick blood sugar test gives you a static glimpse of your glucose level at that precise moment in time, a CGM is a more constant flow of information that provides a more complete picture and pattern of how you’re doing.

This device monitors glucose levels under the skin, providing real-time results every 1 to 5 minutes. You insert a CGM on your body and wear it for 7 to 14 days, with the diabetes data being streamed to a separate handheld receiver or your smartphone app.

Importantly, you can see in real-time the effects of food and exercise on your glucose levels, and catch cases of hyperglycemia (too high) and hypoglycemia (too low) as they happen, avoiding the potentially dangerous consequences. It’s also a potentially life-saving tool for people with diabetes who experience hypoglycemia unawareness, alerting them to impending low blood sugars when their own bodies fail to recognize the warning signs.

Research has shown, time and time again, the benefits of CGM in helping people improve their diabetes outcomes. This 2019 study shows CGM to be among the best outpatient glucose level management option for lowering A1C. Meanwhile, this study is just one of the many that have shown in recent years how CGM use helps increase your time-in-range.

Learn more about CGM technology here

Bottom line

(Video) What is a normal blood sugar level?

Glucose management is an important part of diabetes management. No magic number exists for “normal” glucose or blood sugar levels. While there are clinical guidelines on target goals for blood sugar levels and A1C tests, it’s important to remember that “Your Diabetes May Vary.”

You should consult your endocrinologist and diabetes care team to best determine your glucose goals, based on your personal care plan. A more advanced diabetes technology like a CGM may also be a discussion point with your doctor in achieving ideal glucose levels and a healthy time in range.

FAQs

What is normal blood sugar level for normal person? ›

A fasting blood sugar level of 99 mg/dL or lower is normal, 100 to 125 mg/dL indicates you have prediabetes, and 126 mg/dL or higher indicates you have diabetes.

How do you explain what blood sugar is? ›

The blood glucose level is the amount of glucose in the blood. Glucose is a sugar that comes from the foods we eat, and it's also formed and stored inside the body. It's the main source of energy for the cells of our body, and it's carried to each cell through the bloodstream.

What is the most effective way to normalize blood sugar levels? ›

8 Ways to Lower Your Blood Sugar
  1. Exercise regularly. ...
  2. Manage your carbs. ...
  3. Eat more fiber. ...
  4. Drink plenty of water. ...
  5. Eat moderate portions. ...
  6. Manage your stress. ...
  7. Get enough sleep. ...
  8. Eat foods that are rich in chromium and magnesium.
Aug 2, 2022

What is normal blood sugar by age? ›

From 90 to 150 mg/dL (5.0 to 8.3 mmol/L) for adults. From 90 to 150 mg/dL (5.0 to 8.3 mmol/L) for children, 13 to 19 years old. From 100 to 180 mg/dL (5.5 to 10.0 mmol/L) for children, 6 to 12 years old. From 110 to 200 mg/dL (6.1 to 11.1 mmol/L) for children under 6 years old.

Does drinking water lower blood sugar? ›

Drinking water regularly may rehydrate the blood, lower blood sugar levels, and reduce diabetes risk ( 20 , 21 ). Keep in mind that water and other zero-calorie drinks are best. Avoid sugar-sweetened options, as these can raise blood glucose, drive weight gain, and increase diabetes risk ( 22 , 23 ).

What reduces blood sugar quickly? ›

The quickest way to lower your blood sugar is to take fast-acting insulin. Exercising is another fast, effective way. In some cases, you should go to the hospital. High blood sugar levels are known as hyperglycemia or high blood glucose.

What should my blood sugar be when I wake up? ›

What should your blood sugar be when you wake up? Whenever possible, aim to keep your glucose levels in range between 70 and 130 mg/dL in the morning before you eat breakfast, and between 70 and 180 mg/dL at other times.

What is a normal blood sugar for a 70 year old? ›

Normal ranges of blood sugar levels are between 70 and 130 mg/dL before eating meals. The American Diabetes Association recommends seniors have blood glucose levels of less than 180 mg/dL two hours after eating. Not every senior has the same care needs, which means they don't all need the same type of at-home care.

What is normal A1C for seniors? ›

For functionally independent older adults, the IDF recommends an A1C goal of 7–7.5%, whereas for functionally dependent, frail patients or patients with dementia, an A1C goal of 7–8% is recommended.

Does normal blood sugar increase with age? ›

Aging has been associated with elevated levels of both glucose and insulin after oral glucose challenge testing (8). The 2-hour plasma glucose during an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) rises much more steeply than fasting glucose levels with aging (8-10).

What food washes out sugar from blood? ›

Increase Your Protein & Fat Intake

Eggs, peanut butter, beans, legumes, protein smoothies, fatty fish, and nuts are all high in protein. An increase in healthy fat intake also helps in sugar detox.

What drinks bring blood sugar down? ›

7 Drinks That Keep Blood Sugar Low
  • Water. You can never go wrong with drinking water — it does make up about 60 percent of the human body. ...
  • Unsweetened tea. ...
  • Coffee. ...
  • Plant-based milk. ...
  • Whole-fruit smoothies. ...
  • Flavored carbonated water. ...
  • Any low-sugar beverages.
Sep 14, 2022

Does lemon water reduce blood sugar? ›

Lemon juice significantly lowered the mean blood glucose concentration peak by 30% (p < 0.01) and delayed it more than 35 min (78 vs. 41 min with water, p < 0.0001).

What fruit should diabetics avoid? ›

Diabetics should avoid fruits with a high GI or eat them in moderation so that their blood sugar levels do not spike abruptly. Pineapple, watermelon, mango, lychee, and banana have a high GI, so these are the worst fruits if you are diabetic.

Does peanut butter lower blood sugar? ›

Research has shown that peanuts can help control blood sugar in both healthy individuals and those with type 2 diabetes. Peanuts and peanut butter have even been shown to help lessen the spike in blood sugar when paired with high-carbohydrate or high-GL foods.

What 10 foods should diabetics avoid? ›

10 foods to avoid if you have diabetes
  • Processed meats. ...
  • Full-fat dairy products. ...
  • Packaged snacks and processed baked goods. ...
  • White carbohydrates. ...
  • Sweetened breakfast cereals. ...
  • Dried fruits. ...
  • French fries. ...
  • Higher-fat cuts of meat.
Nov 5, 2021

What time should diabetics stop eating at night? ›

Try to fast at night

Try to go 10 to 12 hours each night without eating, Sheth advises. For instance, if you eat breakfast at 8:30 a.m. every morning, that means capping your nighttime meals and snacks between 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. each night.

Why is my blood sugar high in the morning when I haven t eaten anything? ›

The dawn phenomenon

In the early hours of the morning, hormones, including cortisol and growth hormone, signal the liver to boost the production of glucose, which provides energy that helps you wake up. This triggers beta cells in the pancreas to release insulin in order to keep blood glucose levels in check.

When is the best time to check your blood sugar? ›

Testing is usually recommended before meals and at bedtime if you're taking multiple daily injections. You may need to test only before breakfast and sometimes before dinner or at bedtime if you use just an intermediate- or a long-acting insulin.

Can Apple cider vinegar lower blood sugar immediately? ›

HbA1c levels reflect a person's blood glucose levels over many weeks or months. On a short-term basis, groups taking apple cider vinegar saw significant improvement in blood glucose levels 30 minutes after consuming the vinegar.

How can I reverse diabetes naturally? ›

Making positive lifestyle changes such as eating a well-balanced diet, exercising regularly and getting down to a healthy weight (and maintaining it) are the key to possibly reversing or managing type 2 diabetes.

How long does it take cinnamon to lower blood sugar? ›

One study showed that consuming 1 gram (g) of cinnamon extract daily for 12 weeks reduced fasting blood sugar levels and improved markers of oxidative stress in people with type 2 diabetes ( 8 ).

Can cinnamon lower blood sugar? ›

Despite numerous studies, it still isn't clear whether cinnamon helps lower blood sugar in people with diabetes. Some studies have shown a benefit from the spice. Others haven't. Previous studies have included different doses and different types of cinnamon, which makes it hard to compare the results.

What lowers blood sugar overnight? ›

Work it out. Exercise can also help you manage your morning highs. If you have waning insulin, an after-dinner walk or other workout can help keep your blood sugar down overnight. But use caution when exercising before bedtime.

Videos

1. The Most Accurate Method To Test Blood Sugar is NOT A1C Test – Dr. Berg
(Dr. Eric Berg DC)
2. How to improve blood sugar control with exercise | Dr Javier Gonzalez and Dr Sarah Berry
(ZOE)
3. How to test your blood glucose (sugar) levels
(Diabetes.co.uk)
4. Blood Glucose Regulation and Diabetes
(Zero To Finals)
5. What's A Normal Fasting Blood Glucose Level?
(BioCoach)
6. What Is High Blood Sugar Levels - Blood Glucose Levels Explained - Normal Sugar Level In Blood
(Whats Up Dude)
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