Is your blood sugar too low?

Data shows that “people with a fasting blood sugar level of 100-125 mg/dl had an adjusted nearly 300% increased risk of having coronary heart disease than people with a level below 79mg/dl,” according to American Journal of Cardiology (March 2002(1);89(5):596-9).

Diabetics are often told that 80-120 is a healthy range, which they interpret as meaning they're risking death if they drop below 80. I witness stupid behavior (for type-2 diabetics) like carrying candy or some carb rich food, even glucose tablets, which may be the single dumbest product ever sold to type-2 diabetics.

There is a feeling of anxiety that comes with healthy blood glucose levels when a diabetic first drops to those healthier levels. But, I realized a new level of energy and overall comfort as mine have come in line with healthier numbers, after the initial weeks of discomfort (and that is quite a mild term for it). The first time a diabetic with a trending fasting blood glucose over 120 wakes up to a fasting blood glucose of 75, he may think there's something wrong. He may feel like there's something wrong. In fact, he has finally come in line with known healthy blood glucose levels.

If blood glucose levels lower than 80mg/dl indicate decreased risk of heart disease, then why do so many websites and doctors tell people normal is 80-120? For diabetics, that's an improvement over 120-400. It's still not optimal. It's like telling someone with a resting heart rate of 100 that they should have a resting heart rate closer to 70. But, a distance runner may have a resting heart rate of 45. Who's healthier? Who's going to live longer? The runner with the resting heart rate of 45 is likely going to long outlive the guy that did have a resting heart rate of 100 and dropped it to 70. If the runner suddenly had a resting heart rate of 20, he'd be in trouble. But, as your health improves, the acceptable and comfortable lower number dramatically decreases and the long term benefits dramatically improve, both for blood glucose levels and resting heart rate. The numbers you want to know are this: fasting blood sugars less than 79 cut your risk of heart disease by two thirds!

Without refuting that such a disease exists, self-diagnosed and even physician diagnosed hypoglycemics are often uncontrolled diabetics with yoyo symptoms, not victims of persistent low blood glucose. If your blood glucose levels drop to 75 and your body is used to long periods of blood glucose levels over 120, 75 will feel atrocious. This feeling, that you are about to lose consciousness or die, is not an indication of dangerously low blood sugar. It is sugar withdrawal. Your body becomes quite accustomed to blood glucose levels that are both abnormal and unhealthy. Healthy blood sugar levels will cause significant discomfort until your body adapts to healthier levels.

Blood glucose levels are relatively safe as low as 40mg/dl. No qualified medical practitioner is going to ignore medicines that drop blood glucose below 70, as that is presently considered the optimal low end of the acceptable spectrum. However, a blood glucose of 65 in a healthy individual will feel fine. It's the rapid dropping that should alarm someone. However, blood glucose levels that slowly move between levels as low as 60 and as high as 90 are likely not an indication of emergent physical problems. It is, however, likely an indication of over-medication if tests lower than 70 occur commonly in a diabetic on medication.

The 80-120 range, especially fasting blood glucose levels over 90, is not indicative of optimal blood glucose control. Healthy fasting levels are typically nowhere near 100. When diabetics aim for glucose levels over 80, they're missing the positive impact of fasting levels lower than 80 and constantly eating to bring levels up is counterproductive since obesity and carbohydrate consumption create the dangerous yoyo effect most diabetics suffer, whether medicated or not.

Like other numerical medical values, widely accepted optimal blood glucose will likely move quite a bit as more data reveals the health benefits from lower blood glucose levels. It is likely this range will move from the commonly accepted 80-120 range to something closer to 60-90. However, those who study and work in the field have already established a 70-100 "healthy range."

Note: I am not a doctor. I test my own blood glucose, am diagnosed type-2 diabetic and am weening medications under constant monitoring and medical diagnostics with an internal medicine practitioner well groomed in diabetes and heart disease. Lowering cholesterol and blood glucose appear to have overwhelmingly positive effects, and the closer to the lower end of the scale one can move both numbers, the better the odds are that the individual won't develop coronary artery disease, a leading killer in America.

ref: Dr. Lam on the recent data; Livestrong putting out numbers that aren't necessarily optimal or accurate, referencing the American Diabetes Association; PubMed (gov website) relating data from study of optimal glucose levels when controlled by insulin (which may measure insulin impact as much as glucose levels) in rats to minimize size of infarction in focal cerebral ischemia; EndocrinWeb.com and another article; NIH; Wikipedia; eHow