Diabetes: Blood Sugar Levels

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Diabetes: Blood Sugar Levels

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Keeping your blood sugar in a target range reduces your risks of complications. Studies found that improved blood sugar control lowers the risk of diabetic eye disease (retinopathy), kidney disease (nephropathy), and nerve disease (neuropathy).1

The Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) recommends the following blood glucose ranges.1

  • Adults (non-pregnant)
    • A1c: 7.0% or less
    • Before meals: 4.0 to 7.0 mmol/L
    • 2 hours after meals: 5.0 to 10.0 mmol/L (8.0 mmol/L for people with an A1c above the target range).
  • Women who have gestational diabetes
    • Before meals: 3.8 to 5.2 mmol/L
    • 2 hours after meals: 5.0 to 6.6 mmol/L
  • Teens and young adults (13 to 18 years old)
    • A1c: 7.0% or less
    • Before meals: 4.0 to 10.0 mmol/L
    • 2 hours after meals: 5.0 to 10.0 mmol/L
  • School age children (6 to 12 years old)
    • A1c: Less than 8.0%
    • Before meals: 4.0 to 10.0 mmol/L
  • Toddlers and preschoolers (under 6 years old)
    • A1c: Less than 8.5%
    • Before meals: 6.0 to 12.0 mmol/L

Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) episodes are a possible complication in people who tightly control their blood sugar by taking insulin or some oral diabetes medicines. Some people who have tight control of their blood sugar may not be able to sense when they have low blood sugar. Some people need to have a higher target blood sugar level because of the danger of low blood sugar. Work with your doctor to set your own target blood sugar range. This will help you achieve the best control possible without having a high risk of hypoglycemia.

People who may need a higher blood sugar range include:1

  • Children younger than age 7. Low blood sugar levels may harm brain development in young children. The risk of very low blood sugar from tightly controlling blood sugar levels is higher in these children because their food intake and activity level vary from day to day. Also, very young children are not able to describe the symptoms of low blood sugar when they experience them.
  • Children before they have reached puberty. These children seem to be protected from complications from diabetes. As a child grows older and can recognize early symptoms of low blood sugar, his or her blood sugar level can be lowered closer to the target range for adults.
  • People who already have severe diseases, such as kidney failure, from complications of diabetes. They may not benefit from such control of their blood sugar level.
  • Older adults who have atherosclerosis and are at risk for permanent injury (a heart attack or stroke) from low blood sugar levels.

The CDA recommends that when a woman who has diabetes is trying to become pregnant, her target blood sugar range should be a little lower than the target range of other people who have diabetes.1

  • Before meals: 3.8 to 5.2 mmol/L
  • 2 hours after meals: 5.0 to 6.6 mmol/L

Other health organizations may recommend a different target blood sugar range for a woman with diabetes who wants to become pregnant. Talk to your doctor about the best target range for you.



  1. Canadian Diabetes Association (2008). Clinical practice guidelines for the prevention and management of diabetes in Canada. Available online: http://www.diabetes.ca/for-professionals/resources/2008-cpg.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Primary Medical Reviewer Andrew Swan, MD, CCFP, FCFP - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Stephen LaFranchi, MD - Pediatrics, Pediatric Endocrinology
Last Revised September 24, 2010

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.