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Preventive Health

Why Should You Track Your Blood Sugar Level?

5 Mins read

If you don’t track your blood sugar, or ever know where it’s at, it may be time to start tracking it. Do you often find yourself craving something sweet? Our bodies are wired to love sugar, and there is some science behind it. We break down different foods such as proteins and fats to produce energy, however, sugar tends to be the body’s preferred source of energy if it’s available in the body, because sugar is the quickest to convert into energy.

Your blood sugar level refers to the amount of sugar in your blood. The body breaks down complex carbohydrates into simple sugars such as glucose. The body can either use the glucose immediately, or store it as glycogen to be used later with the help of insulin. 

How Does the Food You Eat Affect Your Blood Sugar Levels? 

Different foods affect blood sugar levels differently. The glycemic index of food can gauge how quickly carbohydrates break down and affect blood sugar levels. The glycemic index is a scale from 1-100, with 100 having the biggest effect. Below are some examples of glycemic food ranges: 

Low glycemic index foods ranging from 1-55:

  • Beans 
  • Fruits 
  • Legumes
  • Non starchy vegetables

Medium glycemic index foods ranging from 56-69:

  • Brown rice
  • Whole wheat bread

High glycemic Index foods ranging from 70-100:

  • Cereal
  • Melons
  • Potatoes
  • White bread

The glycemic index itself does not take into account how many carbohydrates you actually eat, hence, a glycemic load is used to factor in the number of carbohydrates. This crucial as a watermelon may have a high glycemic index on its own, however, it has a low glycemic load as the number of carbohydrates ingested is low. The equation of glycemic load is (Glycemic Index X Grams of Carbohydrates)/ 100. Low glycemic load foods range from 0-10, medium glycemic load ranges from 11-19, while high glycemic load is anything more than 20. 

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What are Normal Blood Sugar Levels? 

Blood sugar levels that are too high or too low can lead to several different health issues. That’s why most people seek to maintain a normal blood sugar level. 

It’s natural for blood sugar to rise after a meal, however, after the sugar is used and the excess sugar is stored in the form of glycogen, the blood sugar levels should come back down to normal. Blood sugar levels are classified as fasting blood sugar levels (when you haven’t consumed anything for at least eight hours, such as after sleeping) or non-fasting blood sugar levels. 

The normal range of blood sugars are:

  • Normal fasting blood sugar levels are 70-99mg/dL
  • Normal blood sugar levels two hours after eating are <140mg/dL

How to Test Your Blood Sugar Levels 

Blood glucose monitoring has been a crucial part of managing diabetes for the past half century. However, glucose monitoring has recently become popular among people who do not have diabetes. 

Anyone can track their blood sugar level, and they should. More and more people are proactively trying to understand how food and lifestyle choices impact their health, and understanding their blood sugar is a big part of that. 

Glucometer

A glucometer comes with lancets (tiny needles), test strips, and a logbook to record results and it can determine your blood sugar levels in a matter of seconds. Prick the end of your finger with the lancet and drop your blood onto the glucometer. 

CGM

A CGM is a tiny sensor that is inserted into your skin, usually on your belly or arm. The sensor measures the amount of glucose in the interstitial fluid and shows how your body reacts to different foods and lifestyle choices in real time. The sensor tests for glucose every few minutes and transfers the data to a monitor. You can access that information on your smart devices such as a smartphone or tablet. 

A1C Test 

Your healthcare provider may recommend a A1C test, or hemoglobin A1C or HbA1c test if you have risks for prediabetes. This test can screen for diabetes by gauging your average blood sugar levels over the past three months. This can help your healthcare provider understand the trends and fluctuations in your blood sugar levels. 

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Why Should You Track Your Blood Sugar Levels? 

It is a common misconception to think that only people with diabetes have to worry about monitoring their blood sugar levels. More and more people without diabetes are seeking out ways to monitor their blood sugar levels to help understand how their food and lifestyle choices impact their health. 

Help Diagnose Diabetes or Prediabetes 

Noticing blood sugar levels that are outside of the normal range can be used to diagnose diabetes or prediabetes. More than a third of US adults are living with prediabetes. More than 80% of people with prediabetes are unaware that they have it, leading this metabolic dysfunction to go on for years without diagnosis. This condition leads to an increased risk of getting chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. 

Glucose Impacts Your Wellness 

Tracking glucose can improve your overall quality of life. Many of us have experienced sleepiness after a carb-heavy meal or sugar snack. This is due to the spike and subsequent plunge in blood glucose levels. 

Unstable blood sugar leads to an increase in depression, anxiety, and brain fog. This can lead to impaired cognitive performance, disturbed sleep, chronic pain, and poor workout performance. On the other hand, stable blood sugar can boost our energy levels, mood, and productivity. 

Helps You Realize Excessive Sugar Consumption 

The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends no more than 10% of a person’s energy intake come from added sugars. For a 2000 calorie diet, the number equates to about 50g of sugar per day. However, the average American is reported to consume more than 70g of added sugars every day. 

Most of us are consuming too much sugar, and buying too many products at the grocery store that contain added sugars. Besides the obvious culprits such as non-diet cans of soda, desserts, candy, and cookies – you may unknowingly consume more sugar than you think. Added sugar is often present in ‘healthy’ foods such as salad dressings, yogurt, and cereal. Tracking glucose levels can help us realize how much sugar we’re actually consuming and allow us to make healthier decisions about our diet. 

Understanding Individual Responses to Food Helps Tailor Food Choices 

The ways our bodies react to food is influenced by our genome, epigenome, microbiome and even transient factors such as how stressed we are or how much sleep we have. The glycemic load is merely a gauge. In reality, everyone has an individual response to food. For example, eating an apple may cause a spike in blood sugar levels. However, one’s blood sugar levels may remain relatively stable after eating a banana. Everyone is different. Monitoring your blood sugar levels can help you understand how different foods affect your blood sugar levels. Since it’s easy to get a device that tracks your blood sugar, you may as well do it to better understand your health. 
In general, if you’d like to better understand your health, you can do so by understanding what’s in your DNA. Your DNA insights help you realize what your genetic makeup can predict about your health. Gain DNA insights and over 500 genetic health reports with an at-home DNA test from CircleDNA.

Heather Ng
29 posts

About author
Heather is a freelance writer with an interest in health tech. When not writing, you can find her wandering around Hong Kong trying to uncover the cities best kept hidden gems.
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