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What To Know About High And Low Blood Sugar Levels

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If your blood sugar stays over 240, it is too high. Usually, high blood sugar occurs slowly, when an individual does not have enough insulin in the body. It can also happen if you miss taking your diabetes medicine or eat too much without enough physical exercise.

Sometimes, medications taken for other health problems may cause high blood sugar. So, it is advisable you tell your doctor about other medications you are taking.

When blood sugar drops rapidly, or the reading is 70 and below, the patient has low blood sugar. At this point, the patient might experience such symptoms as trembling, sweating, rapid heartbeat, headache, hunger, weakness, fatigue, impaired vision, anxiety, irritability and dizziness.

Dr. Sotubo Tomiwa of Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) Ikeja, Lagos, said low blood sugar is also called hypoglycemia. In such a case, the blood sugar is less than 40mg and dl or 2.2mmol or l. He explained that the body needs glucose to function, but when its level in the blood is too low to meet the body’s demands, body cells starts to malfunction.

One of the cells affected early are brain cells, which is why someone with hypoglycemia becomes irritable initially, confused, diaphoresis, lapses into coma and if not quickly reversed, can lead to death.

“High blood sugar does not kill or cause damage, as quickly as low blood sugar,” he explained. “Most people with consequences of high blood sugar would have had a persistently elevated blood sugar level for a long time before complications arise. For instance, affectation of the eyes retinopathy, kidney, nephropathy and nerves neuropathy,” he said.

He explained that low blood sugar is more dangerous than high blood sugar, simply because it can lead to loss of life faster.

He said: “Most people that come down with dangerously low blood sugar levels are those who take insulin injection or on oral antidiabetic drugs, as well as people with tumours that secret insulin.

“For those who do not have diabetes, they should eat healthy. Nature has designed it in such a way that when glucose level is down, hunger pangs set it. Hence, most non-diabetics do not usually have dangerously low blood sugar level, when they eat at such times. Even when we don’t eat on time, the body breaks down its energy stores to supply glucose.”

He counselled diabetes patients to always ensure food is ready before taking their medications. They should also visit the hospital regularly and follow up with their doctor.

On whether there is any specific diet for non-diabetic patients, he said no.

“The cause of the hypoglycemia should be investigated, otherwise they should just eat healthy,” he said. “For diabetic patients, the adjustment they need is more of drugs rather than food. Generally, however, they should avoid foods with refined sugar and high glycemic index. There is need for dietary adjustments, lifestyle modification and adherence to medication prescriptions.”

Dr. Chukwuma Ogunbor, a Consultant family physician and Chief Operations Officer with Cedar Group Hospital, Festac Town, said low blood sugar occurs, when blood sugar is not enough to sustain human life, and is a life- threatening health condition.

“The body makes use of blood sugar for fuel to carry out our daily activities, which include our mental and physical activities,” he said. “Glucose breaks down the foods we consume, after which they are transported into organs for fuel.”

He said the body’s blood sugar is caused to be at a certain level by some chemicals in the body called hormones. There are two major categories of hormones: The insulin, which helps reduce blood sugar and others such as glucagon, cortisol and others, which help increase blood sugar.

He said: “The blood sugar obtained from food are stored in the muscles and liver for use in between meals or when fasting. It becomes a problem, when these hormones are deranged. Naturally, when we eat, our blood sugar increases. But this is maintained at normal levels by insulin.

“An individual has diabetes mellitus, when there is absence or inadequate insulin in the blood. This hinders the glucose obtained from digestion of food from getting to the organs and cannot also be stored. These leads to high blood sugar called hyperglycemia.

“People should know that low blood sugar is a medical emergency and has to be identified and treated urgently to avoid mortality. Early recognition and prompt management will reduce serious low blood complications that often result.

“Low blood sugar can also be caused by excessive insulin doses for those on treatment for diabetes mellitus or insulin therapy, missed meals and starvation, especially from excessive fasting, inappropriate or vigorous physical exercises, as well as excessive alcohol consumption on empty stomach. Others include, people with liver and kidney diseases.”

Ogunbor explained that patients with hypoglycemia might start noticing faster heartbeats or palpitations, decreased mental activity, lack of concentration and confusion. Some may start displaying abnormal behaviour and convulsions, and if not treated immediately, they may go into coma, which may lead to loss of life.

He said: “It is a vicious cycle, if nothing is done on time. “The treatment is to give glucose sugar either by mouth, if not in a coma and glucose drips, if the patient is unconscious. If the individual is conscious and can swallow, give a cube of sugar, or any such sugar drink as juice or ‘fizzy’ drink and taken to the hospital for proper medical check ups and evaluations.


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