If you have diabetes, you are likely aware of how the importance of blood sugar levels. But what are normal blood sugar levels? And how does this vary between people with and without diabetes? If you want to know how to determine what your individual blood sugar goals should be, read on…
Normal blood sugar ranges
Your blood sugar levels change throughout the day and are also impacted by meals, so there is no single ideal number that you should be striving for. For people without diabetes, normal blood sugar levels range from 70 to 130 mg/dL.
According to the American Diabetes Association, the normal blood sugar ranges for people without diabetes are:
- Fasting morning blood sugar: less than 100 mg/dL
- 1 hour after a meal: 90-130 mg/dL
- 2 hours after a meal: 90-110 mg/dL
- 5+ hours after a meal: 70-90 mg/dL
- A1C (average blood sugar over the past 3 months): less than 5.7%
Blood sugar ranges for prediabetes and diabetes diagnosis
Once blood sugar levels are outside of this normal range, a prediabetes or diabetes diagnosis may be designated by your healthcare provider.
Blood sugar ranges for prediabetes:
- Fasting blood sugar: 100-125 mg/dL
- 2 hours after a meal: 140-199 mg/dL
- A1C (average blood sugar over the past 3 months): 5.7% to 6.4%
Blood sugar ranges for type 1 or 2 diabetes:
- Fasting blood sugar: 126 mg/dL or higher
- 2 hours after a meal: 200 mg/dL or higher
- A1C (average blood sugar over the past 3 months): 6.5% or higher
Balancing your blood sugar is the most critical component of diabetes management. This is because chronic high blood sugar can lead to issues such as organ damage, heart disease, and problems with your nerves, eyes, feet, kidneys, and gums.
Understanding these ranges and the risks of high blood sugar is just the beginning. Once you know where you stand with your blood sugar, you will be able to make educated changes to get as close to the normal range as is safe for you to do.
What is A1C?
Your A1C is a measure of your average blood sugar levels over the past 3 months. A1C levels can thus indicate prediabetes or diabetes, and can also help your diabetes care team determine if your current treatment plan is effective or not.
A normal A1C level is below 5.7% for people without diabetes, but for people with diabetes, generally, levels less than 7% are desired in order to prevent health complications. Since everyone is different, your specific A1C target will be personalized to your individual needs.
You can also use your A1C score to calculate your 3-month average blood sugar levels (aka estimated average glucose, or eAG), which might be a format you are more comfortable looking at.
Knowing your A1C or eAG can help you when trying to lower your blood sugar levels closer to normal values. Watching the trends in your A1C or eAG can show you if the changes you are making are working or whether more lifestyle changes should be made.
Why your A1C matters
Knowing your average blood sugar levels over the past 3 months is extremely useful because it reveals more than just a snapshot in time. This is important because the longer your blood glucose soars, the more time it has to do damage to your body.
Higher A1C levels suggest a higher risk of developing neuropathy (nerve damage in hands and feet), retinopathy (nerve damage in eyes that can lead to blindness), kidney damage, and difficulty healing infections or wounds.
This is why the general target for people with diabetes is to get their A1C down to 7% or below: the risk of developing diabetes complications drops significantly at these levels.
How to determine your A1C goal
You may assume that the goal would be to get your blood sugar back in the normal range of 70-130 mg/dL… but that may not be the case for you and your individual needs.
In fact, if you aim to get your blood sugar to this range and have type 1 diabetes or are taking insulin for type 2 diabetes, you could actually be at risk of developing too low blood sugar, called hypoglycemia. There is even something called hypoglycemia unawareness, where you no longer feel the symptoms of low blood sugar, putting you at risk of seizures or even death.
As you can see, both too high and too low blood sugar levels are dangerous and can lead to extreme health issues, so finding your A1C goal is all about striking a balance that is right for you at this specific moment in time.
Again, your specific A1C and blood sugar range targets should be determined by your diabetes care team and your progress should be monitored to ensure your treatment plan is effective. Your goals may also evolve over time as you become more familiar with tracking what impacts your blood sugar levels and as you hit milestones in your blood sugar management journey.
What impacts your blood sugar levels?
Your blood sugar is not just impacted by the foods you eat and the exercise you do. In fact, there are many things that influence your blood sugar levels. For example, being stressed, sick, injured, overly stimulated/excited, and even menses, are all states which increase your body’s needs for blood sugar and insulin.
Knowing the things that can impact your blood sugar allows you to make the necessary changes (i.e., insulin or medication adjustments) with the guidance of your care team that will allow you to stay on track to hitting your A1C goals.
Getting into balance: the bottom line
Knowing what normal blood sugar levels are and then knowing what should be normal for you when you have diabetes will help you to manage the disease and keep you in good health.
Having diabetes means learning to be in tune with your blood sugar balance and making the appropriate changes when needed. Over time, your current and target A1C and blood sugar ranges will change, along with your insulin and medication needs.
This is exactly why working with your diabetes care team is the number one most important and beneficial aspect of your diabetes journey.
And that’s the good news… you don’t have to figure it out all by yourself! You are not alone – your care team takes the complexity out of your individualized diabetes management and gives you the actionable steps that help you reach your blood sugar goals.