Your blood sugar levels are a critical part of your overall health and your body’s ability to function properly on a daily basis.
For those of us with diabetes, striving to achieve “normal” blood sugar levels is a constant, hour-by-hour pursuit. And it isn’t easy.
In this article, we’ll look at “normal” blood sugar levels and goal ranges for a non-diabetic’s body, and realistic blood sugar goals for people with prediabetes, type 1, and type 2 diabetes.
Normal blood sugar ranges in healthy non-diabetics
For a person without any type of diabetes, blood sugar levels are generally between 70 to 130 mg/dL depending on the time of day and the last time they ate a meal.
Newer theories about non-diabetic blood sugar levels have included post-meal blood sugar levels as high as 140 mg/dL.
(If you live outside the US and are used to measures in mmol/L, just divide all numbers by 18)
Here are the normal blood sugar ranges for a person without diabetes according to the American Diabetes Association:
- Fasting blood sugar (in the morning, before eating): Less than 100 mg/dL
- 1-2 hours after a meal: Less than 140 mg/dL
- 2-3 hours after eating: Less than 100 mg/dL
Diagnosing prediabetes, type 2, and type 1 diabetes
Depending on which country or medical organization you ask, the qualifying numbers for “normal” versus “prediabetes” versus diagnosed type 1 or type 2 diabetes can vary slightly.
The following blood sugar and A1c results are used to diagnose prediabetes and diabetes according to sources including the American Diabetes Association and Diabetes UK:
- HbA1c: 5.7 to 6.4 percent
- Fasting: 100 to 125 mg/dL
- 2 hours after a meal: 140 mg/dL to 199 mg/dL
Type 1 or 2 diabetes
- HbA1c: 6.5 percent or higher
- Fasting: 126 mg/dL or higher
- 2 hours after a meal: 200 mg/dL or higher
Please note: Type 1 diabetes tends to develop very quickly which means that by the time symptoms are felt, blood sugar levels are generally well above 200 mg/dL all the time. For many, symptoms come on so quickly that they are dismissed as the lingering flu or another seemingly ordinary virus.
By the time blood sugar levels are tested, many newly diagnosed type 1 patients will see levels above 400 mg/dL or higher. If you do suspect that you or a loved one has type 1 diabetes, visit your primary care or urgent care immediately and ask for a urine test to measure ketones in addition to testing blood sugar levels and A1c.
Read more about ketones at diagnosis in our Diabetic Ketoacidosis Guide.
Your A1c and blood sugar goals
Managing any type of diabetes is far more complicated than giving a patient some insulin and telling them to keep their blood sugars within X and X. If you’ve lived with diabetes for more than a few days, you probably already know this.
What is A1c?
“A1c, hemoglobin A1c, HbA1c or glycohemoglobin test (all different names for the same thing) is a blood test that measures your average blood sugar over the last 2-3 months,” explains Christel Oerum in DiabetesStrong’s guide to lowering your A1c.
The prior two weeks of blood sugar levels before your blood is tested for your A1c have the largest impact on your results, but the amount of glucose attached to hemoglobin (the protein in your red blood cells) in your body from the prior 3 months. The more glucose there is in your bloodstream from high blood sugar levels, the more glucose there is to attach to hemoglobin.
Translating your A1c to a blood sugar level
Using this easy calculator from the ADA, you can translate your most recent A1C result to an “eAG” or “estimate average glucose level.”
You can also use this translation when working to improve your A1c and achieve closer to normal blood sugar levels.
If you know an A1c of 6.5 is an average blood sugar level of 126 mg/dL or a range of 100 to 152 mg/dL, then you can look at your current blood sugar results on your CGM and meter and pinpoint which time of day you’re frequently higher than this range.
12% = 298 mg/dL or range of 240 – 347
11% = 269 mg/dL or range of 217 – 314
10% = 240 mg/dL or range of 193 – 282
9% = 212 mg/dL or range of 170 –249
8% = 183 mg/dL or range of 147 – 217
7% = 154 mg/dL or range of 123 – 185
6% = 126 mg/dL or range of 100 – 152
5% = 97 mg/dL or range of 76 – 120
“Normal blood sugar levels” in a person without diabetes can result in an A1c as low as 4.6 or 4.7 percent and as high as 5.6 percent.
Just a decade or two ago, it was rare for a person with type 1 diabetes to achieve an A1c result below 6 percent. Thanks to new and improved insulin and better technology like continuous glucose monitors and smarter insulin pumps, more people with diabetes are able to safely achieve A1c levels in the higher 5 percent range.
Why your A1c matters
In a nutshell: your A1c is one of the clearest indicators of your risk for developing diabetes complications like neuropathy (nerve damage in your hands and feet), retinopathy (nerve damage in your eyes, risking blindness), nephropathy (nerve damage in your kidneys), and severe infection in any part of your body that requires healing.
For instance, a small cut on your toe could become infected due to high blood sugars, struggle to heal, and become severe enough that the infection could lead to an amputation.
The general guidelines from the American Diabetes Association recommend an A1c at or below 7.0 percent for the best prevention of diabetes complications. Your risk of developing a diabetes complication continues to drop as your A1c drops closer to 6 percent.
Some people with diabetes aim for A1c levels in the 5s and lower — especially those who follow strict low-carb diets like the ketogenic diet and the Bernstein diet. However, this hasn’t been proven in research as especially necessary, nor is it reasonably achievable for the larger population of people with diabetes.
It’s also important to remember that your blood sugar levels and your A1c are just information that tells you whether your body needs more or less of factors like insulin, other diabetes medications like Metformin, changes in your nutrition, and changes in your exercise.
If you don’t like the number you’re seeing on your glucose meter or your A1c results, use that number as motivation to make changes (with the support of your diabetes healthcare team) in how you safely manage your diabetes in order to get different results.
Determining the right A1c goal for you
Just because a normal blood sugar range of 70 to 130 mg/dL is considered the healthiest doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the appropriate goal range for you — especially if you have type 1 diabetes, or take insulin as a person with type 2 diabetes.
The reason this may not be the right goal for you is that extremely tight blood sugar management in people taking insulin can potentially lead to frequent low blood sugars — which can be dangerous.
Achieving extremely tight blood sugar management, like a range of 70 to 130 mg/dL, also often requires a strict nutrition plan, more frequent than usual blood sugar monitoring, precise medication management, and most importantly, years of experience studying your blood sugar levels.
A1c goals should be individualized
“A1c goals should be individualized based on the individual capabilities, risks, and prior experiences,” explains Gary Scheiner, MS, CDE, founder of Integrated Diabetes, and author of Think Like a Pancreas.
“For example, we generally aim for very tight A1c levels during pregnancy and more conservative targets in young children and the elderly.”
However, Scheiner highlights important factors that could justify aiming for a higher A1c, like “hypoglycemia unawareness,” which is described as when a person with diabetes no longer feels the oncoming warning signs of low blood sugar. This can put you at significant risk for severe low blood sugars resulting in seizures or death. To reduce that risk, you would aim for higher target blood sugar ranges.
“Someone with significant hypoglycemia unawareness and a history of severe lows should target higher blood glucose levels than someone who can detect and manage their lows more effectively,” adds Scheiner. “And certainly, someone who has been running A1c’s in double digits [like 10 percent or higher] for quite some time should not be targeting an A1c of 6%… better to set modest, realistic, achievable goals.”
Your blood sugar isn’t just because of what you eat
Mainstream media would have you believe that your blood sugar levels are impacted only by what you eat and how much you exercise, but people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes who test their blood sugars frequently could tell you otherwise.
It’s especially important to keep this in mind when looking at your own blood sugars and your goals because there are certain variables and challenges that impact blood sugar levels that you can’t always control.
- Menstrual cycles: raises blood sugar and insulin needs
- Adrenaline rushes from competitive sports, heated arguments, or rollercoaster rides: raises blood sugar and insulin needs
- The common cold and other illnesses: usually raise blood sugar and insulin needs
- Hormonal changes due to puberty and healthy growth in young adults: raises blood sugar and insulin needs
- An injury that raises overall inflammation levels: raises blood sugar and insulin needs
- Glucogenesis during anaerobic exercise: raises blood sugar
While you can’t necessarily prevent these factors that affect your blood sugar from occurring, you can work with your diabetes healthcare team to adjust your insulin, other diabetes medications, nutrition and activity levels to help compensate for them when they do occur.
For example, when engaging in anaerobic exercise — like weightlifting — many people with type 1 diabetes find it necessary to take a small bolus of insulin prior to or during their workout because anaerobic exercise can actually raise blood sugar.
Still frustrated with your blood sugar and A1c results?
Your blood sugars and your insulin or medication needs never stay in one place. If you gain weight or lose weight, your insulin and medication needs will change. If you become more active or less active, your needs will change. If you make drastic or even small changes to your nutrition, your needs will change!
Working with your diabetes healthcare team, and diabetes coaches who can teach you how to make changes in your overall diabetes management plan are essential. Diabetes is a lifelong learning process.
Take a deep breath and be patient. If you don’t like what you’re seeing on your glucose meter, don’t get mad…get studying! Take good notes and work with your team to make changes to reach your goals.
Read more about improving your A1c in DiabetesStrong’s guide, How to Lower Your A1c.
I have been on a low carb diet for years with out being diabetic. Recently I find that even eating a bit of carbs makes me symptomatic. I was out to dinner one night and had lasagna and got a really bad headache with my nasal passages becoming super congested almost to the point where my eyes tear up. Thought it was a reaction or allergy. The next time this happened I was home and had a pasta meal that I treated myself to with relatives at a Sunday dinner. Exactly the same symptoms and so I tested my sugar because the host had a meter and she was diabetic. My reading was 250. I immediately went out and bought one. My sugar levels in the am are anywhere from 90-110 fasting if I eat my usual very very little carb all day. If fact I will eat no carbs at dinner and test it and it will actually be lower than it was prior to testing. Today I had a bowl of cereal for lunch high fiber and I began to feel a bit dizzy and congested but waited two hours and my sugar was 140. My A1C is always 5.2-5.4 My question is why am I having these wild swings followed by sweats after eating. The congestion I don’t understand. BTW if I never eat carbs like I used to my levels are normal. Could it be that for years my body is just used to not eating carbs and when introduced to them it goes ape shih-tzu or am I diabetic of some sort.
Christel Oerum says
I don’t know the answer to that but it’s something that I’d suggest you bring up with your doctor during your next visit. All of your numbers are non-diabetic but you might still have type 2 diabetes, just managed through your diet
My daughter is 12 and has been having almost all symptoms of hyperglycemia she isn’t overweight and I think she might be a type one diabetic. Her blood sugar in the morning was 138 with only hot chocolate. Should I ask for tests? If so what kind?
Christel Oerum says
Hot chocolate could drive up blood sugars even for people who do not live with diabetes. But if you are concerned ask for an A1c and an anti-body test. Those are easy blood tests, and it’s better to know, that being in the unknown worrying
Maggie Serrano says
My sugar is 76 and I don’t feel well what do I do
Christel Oerum says
If it’s due to too much injected insulin you’ll need fast-acting carbohydrates. You can read more here: https://diabetesstrong.com/how-to-bring-high-blood-sugar-down-fast/
I’m worried that Diabetes 2 is in my future as I am approaching the age my mother was when she was diagnosed. Also have 2 brothers and one sister with type 2.
My A1c has creeped up a bit from 5.2 to 5.4. I know that’s not in the range but if it keeps heading in that direction I’ll be in trouble. I’m 63 and about 15lbs overweight.
Gave up soda a few years ago. Is it inevitable that I get Diabetes 2? Thanks you for this great information.
Steve Ford says
Over the past 6 months I have watched my mg/dl numbers rise steadily, and there doesn’t seem much I can do about it. I am starving myself to keep the numbers from rising. It was at 380 this morning, and had zero food from 2 pm yesterday afternoon until 12 noon today 10/13/22. I am at my wits end, and at 77 years old I am headed towards just giving up on this. I refuse to take Metformin, and there seems not much of an alternative to keep this under control.
Christel Oerum says
If your body isn’t producing enough insulin (which what you’re saying here could indicate) the only way to lower your blood sugars is with medication. Medication isn’t failure. Sounds like you’ve tried to lower your blood sugars without medication, so it’s not as if you haven’t tried. But your body might need some help and that is a conversation you need to quickly have with your doctor
Marianna Ryan says
Does anyone know what clock face can be used for Versa 4? Glance doesn’t work.
Marie Weydert says
I had to go to the ER back in May for a kidney stone. Lab work was done, and I only just found out that my blood glucose level that morning was 160mg/dl. I hadn’t eaten anything that morning, only drank some Powerade because I had been vomiting the night before due to the kidney stone. I know Powerade has a lot of sugar in it, so that had to do with raising my blood sugar level.
Well I bought a glucose test kit and have been checking my blood glucose the past few days, and this morning from fasting, it read 113mg/dl, the readings from the last 3 days have been between 112mg/dl-150md/dl, and that was after eating a few hours. I have never been tested for diabetes, and I don’t have family who have been diabetic,but I know that doesn’t really factor into anything.
So my question is, with these numbers, am I at risk for being pre-diabetic or is it likely I might already be diabetic?
Christel Oerum says
You’d need more testing done by a doctor to determine that. I would ask for an A1C test, and also as a minimum a C-Peptide test
Jessica Sue Lorenz says
I am not a Diabetic person. I had Gastric Bypass Surgery on 10/4/22 & I been getting Low Blood Sugar Symptoms my doctor is having me check my blood sugar on a meter at home to keep a eye on it. Until they figure it out what cases it and working things into diet Doctor did labs for A1C today came back 4.3 how low is too low for an non diabetic after gastric bypass surgery
Christel Oerum says
I don’t know the answer to that but an A1c of 4.3% means that your blood sugars on average are around 77 mg/dL which is on the low side, so I understand why your doctor wants you to keep an eye on it. You’ll have to ask your doctor for specific guidance but my guess is they want to figure out if you’re often below 70 mg/dL and if it’s at specific times
Penny Casebeer says
I am so confused about my reading on my Dexcom6. Ok I want to know the numbers mean? Example: If my reading on my Dexcom 6 is 120 them what is my A1C number?
Christel Oerum says
A1C is an average based on your blood sugars for the last ~3 months. So if your blood sugars on average are 120 mg/dl your A1C would be around 5.8%. If you open Clarity (the Dexcom reporting software) it will show you your GMI (Glucose Management Indicator) which is the metric that shows the expected A1C based on the Dexcom readings
I have a real good guestion
I almost want to say I have type 3. It seems like ppl with medicine induced type 2 due to transplant meds gets lost. Is a continuous issue. My a average would be considered ok but, my highs and lows not good. Is there anyone one with real good knowledge with this? If so. Contact me please.
I don’t know the answer to your question. I just wanted to make sure you knew about sticking to a low carb diet and using protein and healthy fat to keep blood sugars from going up and down too fast. Smaller meals more frequently might also be helpful. Sorry if I told you what you already know! I’m sorry about the problem— it is frustrating not to know what is going on.