What is a “Normal” Blood Sugar for Patients with Diabetes?
By Susan B. Sloane, BS, RPh, CDE
For patients with diabetes, treatment goals are all about blood sugar targets and staying in a range that is set for you by your health care provider. Acceptable blood glucose values will be determined between you and your own healthcare team. You may find that your target range given to you by your healthcare provider is different from perhaps a friend or relative you know with diabetes.
Although this may seem confusing to you, it is important to note that target blood glucose values are individualized for each patient. Monitoring blood sugars at home is the best way to stay in good diabetes control, and Self Monitoring of Blood Glucose is included in the standards of care from the American Diabetes Association.
Your blood sugar targets are based on several factors. These factors may include age, risk of complications, existing complications, and other health conditions you may have. In a recent study, for example, it was found that older patients with diabetes should perhaps have higher blood glucose targets. This is due to the fact that the more aggressive the target goal is, the higher the risk for hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. Diabetes is a delicate balance of food intake, activity levels, and medications. More frequent blood glucose testing is recommended for patients using multiple insulin injections and those on certain oral medications that have more risk for hypoglycemia.
Having raised two sons with Type 1 Diabetes, I understand this concept from a very personal perspective. My oldest son, who is now 32, was just 17 months old when he was diagnosed with diabetes. We had more relaxed target blood sugar goals for him because as a toddler he never ate everything we wanted him to, and he could not easily convey to us when his blood sugar was low.
Interestingly enough, some studies have shown that the risk of complications is higher in the Type 2 patient with diabetes than in the Type 1 patient. This may be due to the fact that Type 2 Diabetes generally takes a long time to manifest symptoms in patients, but with insulin levels increasing, and blood sugars starting to rise over time, blood vessel and nerve damage can happen well before diagnosis in some cases.
The good news is that several pivotal studies in the diabetes world have shown that good diabetes control helps to prevent complications. According to the American Diabetes Association, a good fasting blood sugar is 80-130 mg/dl (4.4-7.2 mmol/L), and a good target 2 hour post-meal target is 180 mg/dl (10.0 mmol/L) or below. This is merely a starting point and will not apply to everyone. For comparison, the Dario™ Blood Glucose Monitoring System app comes preset with 80-120 mg/dl (4.4-6.7 mmol/L) as the in-range value; however, this can and should be changed based on individual needs and consultation with your healthcare provider.
I said earlier that senior citizens, for example, may have less stringent blood sugar goals. This could be based on a number of factors that a health care team will consider, such as, a risk from falling. If an older person falls while dizzy from a low blood sugar, their risk for breaking a hip is probably greater than if a younger person has a fall.
Whatever goals you are given by your healthcare team, make sure you understand the reason behind them. A number is just a number if you don’t understand what it means and how to correct it if the number is not within your own target range. Your Dario meter can store your blood sugar readings and help you and your healthcare team unravel solutions to keep you healthy.
Lastly, it is very important to understand that you should never beat yourself up about a number you don’t like. Remember that diabetes control is not determined by one moment in time. I have never seen a patient with great blood sugars of 100 percent of the time. If a number seems unusually high or low, you can generally account for it with a little detective work. Did I eat an extra helping of food, was I racing around without eating lunch, was the diet soda I ordered actually diet? Diabetes will test you and continue to surprise you, but with the right tools and a positive attitude, nothing will stop us!
Susan B. Sloane, BS, RPh, CDE, has been a registered pharmacist for more than 29 years and a Certified Diabetes Educator for most of her career. Her two sons were diagnosed with diabetes, and since then, she has been dedicated to promoting wellness and optimal outcomes as a patient advocate, information expert, educator, and corporate partner.
Susan has published numerous articles on the topic of diabetes for patients and health care professionals. She has committed her career goals to helping patients with diabetes stay well through education.
The articles provided on this website are for informational purposes only. In addition, it is written for a generic audience and not a specific case; therefore, this information should not be used for diagnostic or medical treatment. This site does not attempt to replace the patient-physician relationship and fully recommends the reader to seek out the best care from his/her physician and/or diabetes educator.
 Whitmer RA, Karter AJ, Yaffe K, Quesenberry CP Jr, Selby JV. Hypoglycemic episodes and risk of dementia in older patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. JAMA 2009;301:1565–1572
 Harris MI, Klein R, Welborn TA, Knuiman MW: Onset of NIDDM occurs at least 4–7 yr before clinical diagnosis. Diabetes Care 15:815–819, 1992
 Albers JW, Herman WH, Pop-Busui R, et al; Diabetes Control and Complications Trial/ Epidemiology of Diabetes Interventions and Complications Research Group. Effect of prior intensive insulin treatment during the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) on peripheral neuropathy in type 1 diabetes during the Epidemiology of Diabetes Interventions and Complications (EDIC) study. Diabetes Care. 2010;33(5):1090-1096.
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