The word “glucose” means sugar in Spanish. Glucose is a simple carbohydrate found in all living organisms. It’s used to produce energy and it plays an essential role in maintaining life processes. When glucose enters cells, it causes them to work better or at least operate more efficiently.
But what does this mean? How do you measure how much glucose your body uses?
You don’t! There are no tests that can tell you how much glucose your body burns when you exercise or sleep. And there is no way to measure how much glucose your body produces.
Glucose is a very common substance in our bodies, but it doesn’t have any special properties that make it different from other substances. All substances have the same chemical formula: C6H12O6. However, some substances behave differently than others. Some substances are metabolized faster or slower than others. Some materials break down into simpler compounds while other materials remain unchanged.
A few things change their physical form, like water turning into ice and blood clotting into clots (and then back again).
So why don’t we measure glucose levels in our bodies?
It’s because the body deals with glucose in a very special way. Glucose is a common food found in many foods, so the body has to process it quickly to be used as energy. The body also needs to keep a stable amount of glucose in your blood at all times. As soon as glucose enters your bloodstream, it is removed from the blood and used for energy. When blood glucose falls too low, hormones are released that cause the release of stored glycogen into the blood.
The liver is the main organ that processes and stores glucose. The liver releases excess glucose into the blood when any part of the body requires it for energy. When glycogen is broken down to glucose, water is released into the blood increasing blood volume.
Normal Glucose Levels
As mentioned above, there are no specific tests that can tell you how much glucose your body burns at rest or during exercise. What we can measure, however, are levels of blood glucose. If your blood sugar level is too low, you may experience a lapse in your attention span and feel weak. You might also experience hunger or cravings for sweet foods. Normally, blood glucose levels are between 65-99 mg/dL before eating and 100-125 mg/dL after meals (or when you’ve been active).
If the level is under 65, you’re likely to feel hungry all the time. If the level is over 125, you might feel sluggish or tired.
Glucose and Diabetes
You may suspect that a high blood sugar level is bad for you. That’s correct. If your blood sugar level is too high, it can cause a number of health problems, including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and blindness. It can also damage blood vessels in your eyes, giving you vision problems down the road.
A1C is a test that shows your average blood glucose level over the past two to three months. Ideally, your A1C should be below 7 percent (7%). The higher your A1C level, the higher your risk for developing serious health problems.
An A1C of 5.7% to 6.4% means you have a high risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.
A A1C of 6.5% to 7% means you have existing heart disease.
A1C of 7.1% to 7.9% means you have diabetes.
Anything over 8% means you have severe diabetes and you’ll need to address it immediately.
As you can see, keeping your blood sugar within a safe range is important for your overall health. The safest range you can aim for is 70-130 mg/dL before meals and 80-180 mg/dL one to two hours after meals. If your levels are higher than that, you may need to make some adjustments in your diet or maybe even start taking medication.
What Affects It?
There are many factors that can affect your blood glucose levels. The most common ones are diet, physical activity, and medications. Other factors such as illness, stress, and other health problems can also affect it.
Our bodies require energy to function properly and glucose provides that energy. Glucose is obtained through the foods you eat, and the more active you are, the more glucose your body needs. Some medications can also cause an increase in blood glucose levels. Illness can also affect blood sugar levels because many illnesses cause you to lose your appetite or to become less active. If not treated, this can lead to a shortage of glucose in the body and hypoglycemia.
How Is It Measured?
Blood glucose can be measured in several different ways. Most of the measurements above are percentages. The most common measurement is milligrams (mg) of glucose in one deciliter (dL) of blood. Other types of measurement include millimoles per liter, which is used in the United States, and mmol/L, which is used in the rest of the world.
A1C: This measures your average blood glucose level for the past two to three months. It is the best way to monitor blood glucose levels for people without diabetes because it shows what your levels usually are.
Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG): This measures the amount of glucose in your blood after fasting (not eating) for at least 8 hours. Most people with diabetes have their blood tested in the morning, usually after they’ve fasted for at least 8 hours.
Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT): For this test, you’ll be required to fast for at least 8 hours and sometimes for as many as 3 days. A baseline blood sample will be taken and then you’ll be given a sweet liquid to drink. Another blood sample is taken 2 hours later. The results are shown as a ratio of the two samples. A normal result is between 1 and 1.49.
A reading of more than 2 means you are likely to develop diabetes.
Hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C): This measures the percentage of glycated hemoglobin in red blood cells. This test can give you a picture of your average blood glucose level for the previous 2 to 3 months, which is especially helpful for people who are not diabetic but are at risk of developing diabetes.
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