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What Is Blood Glucose?

By Debra Durkee
Updated: Mar 03, 2024

Blood glucose is carried through the bloodstream, supplying the body with the energy it needs to function. Carbohydrates ingested as part of the daily diet are changed into glucose by another substance called insulin, which also helps in the regulation of glucose. An individual diagnosed as diabetic has difficulty regulating this substance without help from outside medication. It is also referred to as blood sugar.

The amount of blood glucose present in the body is usually monitored by the body's own insulin. After a meal, insulin is released by the pancreas, and the carbohydrates that have been ingested are turned into blood glucose. This substance is in turn taken throughout the body, where it is used as a major source of energy. Once this energy begins to be used, glucose levels in the body begin to drop. These levels generally fluctuate within a narrow margin.

When blood glucose levels get too high, the individual is said to be hyperglycemic. Vigorous exercise can often help to lower glucose levels, which can damage parts of the body if they remain too high for too long. Blood vessels and nerves can be damaged by too much blood glucose, and delicate organs like the eyes and kidneys can also develop problems from prolonged exposure.

The opposite of hyperglycemia is hypoglycemia. When blood glucose levels drop too low, the individual can suffer from headaches, lightheadedness, trembling, and difficulty in performing tasks that require fine motor skills. This can happen in individuals who have diabetes as well as those who do not, and eating foods high in simple carbohydrates is usually the fastest way to treat hypoglycemia.

Diabetes is created by an abundance of blood glucose in the body, and an individual diagnosed with this condition has to taken insulin in order to help his or her body regulate the levels. Several different things can cause a disruption of the way glucose is processed within the body. Normally, insulin acts as a regulator, allowing cells access to the glucose to process it. When the immune system turns on the insulin molecules and destroys them, this forces the cells to stop processing glucose, which in turn collects in the blood.

Other physical conditions can impact and potentially interfere with the way the body processes glucose, eventually increasing the risk of the individual developing diabetes. High blood pressure or cholesterol levels, a lack of exercise, and obesity have all been linked to impacting how blood glucose is formed in the body. An individual with a family history of diabetes may also be at risk for developing problems with insulin and the regulation of glucose.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Ruggercat68 — On Jun 22, 2014

I'm not diabetic myself, but I've always wondered why having high blood glucose levels could lead to all of these health problems. It didn't occur to me that having all that glucose circulating in my veins could overwhelm sensitive tissues, like eyes and kidneys.

By mrwormy — On Jun 21, 2014

I never really thought much about my blood glucose levels for most of my life. I wouldn't say I ate a completely healthy diet, but I also didn't eat whole pizzas and an entire two liter bottle of soda, either. I just assumed I was a typical eater, and I would have normal blood glucose levels if I ever bothered to check them.

A few years ago, I asked my wife to use her blood glucose monitor to check my blood sugar. The machine showed 272, which is extremely high. I had eaten a fairly large meal about two hours earlier, but the reading should have been a lot lower. The next morning, I did a fasting glucose test and the number was still in the mid 100s. I haven't been officially diagnosed as diabetic, but I'm now following a low carb diabetic food plan.

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