Blood Sugar

Sugar (glucose) in the blood provides energy to the body. Blood sugar naturally increases after we eat and then decreases again. Sometimes, blood sugar stays high for too long. Long-term blood sugar elevation can develop into diabetes, which increases your risk for stroke. In this module, we will review: why blood sugar matters, recommended blood sugar numbers, and things you can do to keep blood sugar healthy.

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Why is blood sugar important?

High blood sugar and diabetes can increase your risk for stroke.  Practicing healthy eating habits, getting regular exercise, and maintaining weight all keep blood sugar in closer to recommended healthy levels. 

Diabetes can lead to more health problems: heart disease and stroke, wounds that won’t heal, and eye, kidney, and nerve damage. 

(American Heart Association, 2021)

Know your numbers

Diabetes develops from high amounts of sugar (glucose) in your blood

Healthy blood sugar is greater than 70 mg/dL and less than 100 mg/dL  
High blood sugar is more than 100 mg/dL

Hemoglobin A1c (or “A1c”) is your average blood sugar for the past 2-3 months. Sometimes, the A1c level is better because it reflects your long-term blood sugar control. Ask your primary care provider which blood sugar test is right for you. 

Healthy hemoglobin A1c is less than 5.7% 

Hint: Not eating or drinking before blood tests (fasting) is necessary for accurate results. Your provider might ask you not to eat or drink for a period of time before your lab visit to make sure your results are accurate.

(American Heart Association, 2021)

Ways to keep blood sugar in a healthy range

Healthy eating habits, regular exercise, healthy weight all keep blood sugar closer to a healthy range 

Healthier Diet: Increase vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy proteins (poultry, fish, and nuts); limit high-fat products and sugary snacks and beverages (candy, desserts, non-diet soda, full sugar fruit juice) 

Regular Exercise: Regular physical activity, such as walking, can help reduce blood sugar.

Healthy Weight: If you are overweight or have obesity, even a small amount of weight loss (5-10%) can improve your blood sugar. 

Quit Smoking: Stopping smoking reduces the risk of diabetes complications. If you don’t smoke, don’t start.

Medications: If you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, take medications exactly as prescribed by your provider 

(American Heart Association, 2022)


Ready to learn more? 

Check out the following evidence-based guidelines and resources: 

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American Heart Association. (2021). Symptoms, diagnosis and monitoring of diabetes. Retrieved from 

American Heart Association. (2021). What is diabetes? Retrieved from 

American Heart Association. (2022). How to reduce blood sugar. [Life's Simple 7]. Retrieved from