Let’s talk about glucose. It’s one of the sugars you get from the food you consume. It’s pretty important, and we typically hear about the health problems — most notably diabetes — that ensue when blood sugar is too high and our bodies can’t cope anymore. Just as it can be too high, however, sugar can also be too low.
Your blood sugar is usually considered low when it drops below 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), which is typically referred to as hypoglycemia. Maybe you skipped breakfast and lunch before hitting the gym for some intense cardio. Maybe you are diabetic — because diabetics take medication to help regulate their blood sugar and keep it from skewing too high, sometimes hypoglycemia can result. Maybe you are simply hypoglycemic.
Whatever the reason, you should monitor glucose levels at your yearly checkups, and if those levels are too low, you should consider getting a the kind of blood-glucose monitor that diabetics are quite familiar with.
Symptoms of low blood sugar depend, of course, on the severity of the drop. It can be something as mild as a headache or irritability or something as serious as loss of consciousness and coma.
According to WebMD, other symptoms of a mild drop include sweating (check for sweating on the back of your neck at your hairline); nervousness, shakiness and weakness; extreme hunger and slight nausea; dizziness and headache; blurred vision; a racing heartbeat; and anxiety.
Symptoms of moderate low blood sugar include inability to concentrate, confusion and irritability, slurred speech, unsteadiness when standing or walking, muscle twitching and personality changes, such as anger or crying.
Symptoms of severe low blood sugar — which WebMD explains is usually below 20 mg/dL, so don’t panic — include seizure, loss of consciousness (coma), stroke and death.
If your blood sugar drops, the American Diabetes Association recommends that you consume 15 to 20 grams of glucose or simple carbohydrates, recheck your blood glucose after 15 minutes and repeat if your blood sugar levels remain too low. It adds that once your glucose is back to normal, you should have a small snack if you don’t plan on having a regular meal for another hour or two.
What’s 15 grams of simple carbohydrates? There are glucose tablets or gel tubes available that you should take as directed. You can also have 2 tablespoons of raisins; 4 ounces (1/2 cup) of juice or regular soda; 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey; 8 ounces of nonfat or 1% milk; or hard candies, jellybeans or gumdrops (check that nutritional label to confirm how much one serving is — don’t just consume the entire bag).
People with blood sugar issues — both hypo (too low) and hyper (too high) — should not take for granted the importance of consuming a balanced diet and should be sure to pay heed to the glycemic index charts, which explain how foods affect blood sugar and insulin.