Fasting Blood Sugar Levels in Canada: Managing Your Metabolic Health

Fasting blood sugar is the level of glucose in your blood after not eating or drinking anything (except water) for at least 8 hours. This test is crucial for diagnosing diabetes and prediabetes. Knowing your fasting blood sugar helps you and your healthcare provider understand how well your body manages blood sugar without the influence of food.

In Canada, blood sugar levels are measured in millimoles per liter (mmol/L). To measure fasting blood sugar, you usually need to visit a lab where a blood sample is taken. Some people use home glucose meters, but lab tests are more accurate. For instance, a normal fasting blood sugar level for non-diabetic individuals ranges from 3.5 to 7.8 mmol/L.

Fasting blood sugar differs from non-fasting blood sugar, which is measured after eating. Non-fasting levels can fluctuate based on what and when you eat. Fasting blood sugar provides a clearer picture of your baseline blood sugar levels. For example, if you eat a meal high in carbohydrates, your non-fasting blood sugar will naturally rise. Fasting levels, however, show how your body regulates sugar without any food influence.

Keeping your blood sugar within target ranges is vital. High blood sugar over time can lead to complications like heart disease, neuropathy, and kidney damage. Regular monitoring helps in catching high blood sugar early, allowing you to take steps to control it. For example, keeping your fasting blood sugar between 4.0 to 7.0 mmol/L if you have diabetes can help prevent these complications.

Maintaining proper blood sugar levels is essential for everyone, not just those with diabetes. Regularly checking your fasting blood sugar can help you stay within the healthy range and avoid future health issues.

What is a Normal Fasting Blood Sugar Level in Canada?

Normal fasting blood sugar levels are crucial for understanding your health. For non-diabetic individuals, the range should be between 3.5 to 7.8 mmol/L. Staying within this range means your body is effectively managing blood sugar levels without any food influence.

Key Points:

  • Normal Range: 3.5 to 7.8 mmol/L for non-diabetic individuals.
  • Diabetes Threshold: A fasting blood sugar level greater than 11 mmol/L indicates diabetes.

When your fasting blood sugar level consistently exceeds 7.8 mmol/L but stays below 11 mmol/L, you might have prediabetes. This condition increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and other health problems. If your fasting blood sugar level is above 11 mmol/L, it confirms a diabetes diagnosis. This high level means your body is not managing blood sugar well, which can lead to serious complications.

Why High Blood Sugar Matters:

  • Heart Disease: High blood sugar damages blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
  • Neuropathy: Nerve damage can occur, leading to pain, tingling, or loss of feeling in extremities.
  • Kidney Damage: Excess sugar can harm kidneys, leading to chronic kidney disease.

Regular monitoring is essential to catch high blood sugar early. Early detection allows for timely lifestyle changes and medical interventions, which can prevent complications.

Benefits of Regular Monitoring:

  1. Early Detection: Identifies issues before they become severe.
  2. Better Management: Helps adjust diet, exercise, and medications.
  3. Prevention: Reduces risk of complications by keeping blood sugar in check.

Monitoring your fasting blood sugar levels should become a routine part of your healthcare. Whether you use a home glucose meter or visit a lab, knowing your levels can guide you and your healthcare provider in making informed decisions to maintain your health.

Why is Monitoring Fasting Blood Sugar Important?

Role in Diabetes Management

Fasting blood sugar levels offer insight into your body's glucose control. They help you and your healthcare team understand how well your current treatment plan is working. Consistently high levels may indicate the need for changes in your treatment strategy, while stable levels within the target range suggest that your management plan is effective.

Predisposition to Diabetes

Certain populations are more predisposed to diabetes due to a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. Here are some key populations at higher risk:

Ethnic Groups:

  • African Americans: Have a higher prevalence of type 2 diabetes and complications such as kidney disease.
  • Hispanic/Latino Americans: Particularly Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Cuban Americans, have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Native Americans: Certain tribes, like the Pima Indians, have some of the highest rates of diabetes in the world.
  • Asian Americans: Particularly those of South Asian descent, are at higher risk, often developing diabetes at a lower BMI.
  • Pacific Islanders: Have a higher prevalence of type 2 diabetes compared to the general population.


Individuals over 45 years old are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes.

Family History:

A family history of diabetes significantly increases the risk of developing the condition.


Being overweight or obese is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes:

Women who developed diabetes during pregnancy are at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Physical Inactivity:

Lack of regular physical activity increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS):

Women with PCOS have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Other Medical Conditions:

Conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure) and high cholesterol are associated with a higher risk of diabetes.

Adjusting Lifestyle and Medication

Monitoring your fasting blood sugar levels enables you to make necessary adjustments to your lifestyle and medications. Here’s how:

  • Dietary Changes: If your blood sugar levels are high, you may need to modify your diet to include more low-glycemic foods.
  • Exercise: Regular monitoring can show the impact of physical activity on your blood sugar levels, guiding you to either increase or maintain your exercise routine.
  • Medication Adjustments: Your healthcare provider might change your medication dosage based on your blood sugar readings. This ensures that you are taking the right amount to keep your levels stable.

How to Check Your Fasting Blood Sugar at Home

Blood Glucose Meters: What They Are and Where to Get Them

Blood glucose meters are essential tools for measuring your fasting blood sugar levels at home. These small devices use a tiny drop of blood to provide a quick reading of your blood sugar level. You can find these meters at most pharmacies or through your diabetes educator. Some healthcare providers also offer them as part of your diabetes care plan.

Steps for Using a Blood Glucose Meter

Using a blood glucose meter involves several straightforward steps:

  1. Wash Your Hands: Clean hands ensure that your blood sample isn’t contaminated, which can affect the reading.
  2. Prepare the Meter: Insert a test strip into the meter. Make sure it’s properly placed and the meter is turned on.
  3. Get a Blood Sample: Use a lancet to prick the side of your fingertip. This is less painful and provides a sufficient drop of blood.
  4. Apply Blood to the Test Strip: Touch the drop of blood to the test strip. The meter will then analyze the sample.
  5. Read the Result: Within seconds, the meter will display your blood sugar level on its screen.

Alternatives: Flash Glucose Meters and Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGMs)

For those who prefer fewer finger pricks, there are two advanced options: flash glucose meters and continuous glucose monitors (CGMs).

Flash Glucose Meters:

  • How They Work: These devices use a sensor inserted just under the skin, usually on the upper arm. A hand-held scanner reads the sensor’s data.
  • Benefits: No need for finger pricks; provides readings when you scan the sensor.

Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGMs):

  • How They Work: CGMs also use a sensor under the skin but provide continuous readings throughout the day.
  • Benefits: Real-time monitoring; alerts for high and low blood sugar levels; can be integrated with insulin pumps.

Selecting the Best Device

Choosing the right glucose monitoring system depends on your lifestyle, budget, and medical needs. Here are some factors to consider:

  1. Lifestyle Needs:
    1. Active Lifestyle: If you are frequently on the go, a flash glucose meter or CGM may offer more convenience and less disruption.
    2. Data Management: If you prefer detailed data and trend analysis, CGMs provide extensive information.
  2. Budget:
    1. Cost Sensitivity: Traditional blood glucose meters are generally the most affordable option.
    2. Long-Term Costs: Consider the recurring costs of test strips, sensors, or other supplies.
  3. Medical Requirements:
    1. Frequent Fluctuations: If you experience frequent blood sugar fluctuations, a CGM with real-time alerts can be invaluable.
    2. Accuracy Needs: Traditional meters are highly accurate and may be suitable if you require precise readings.

Recommended Blood Sugar Targets for People with Diabetes

What are the Recommended Targets?

Managing your blood sugar levels is crucial for controlling diabetes. Here are the recommended targets you should aim for:

Fasting Blood Glucose

  • Target Range: 4.0 to 7.0 mmol/L
  • Why It Matters: Keeping your fasting blood glucose within this range helps you avoid complications like kidney disease, nerve damage, and vision problems. Lower fasting blood sugar levels also mean better overall blood sugar control.

A1C Levels

  • Target: Less than 7.0%
  • Importance: The A1C test measures your average blood sugar over the past 2-3 months. Maintaining an A1C level below 7.0% reduces the risk of long-term complications, such as heart disease and stroke. It’s a crucial metric for understanding your overall diabetes management.

Post-Meal Blood Sugar

  • Target Range: 5.0 to 10.0 mmol/L
  • Significance: Blood sugar levels tend to spike after meals. Keeping post-meal levels within this range helps prevent sudden highs and lows, contributing to better daily stability. Meeting this target also aids in achieving your A1C goals.

How to Identify Your Targets?

Personalized targets are essential for effective diabetes management. Here's how to determine the right targets for you:

Personalized Targets

  • Individual Needs: Blood sugar targets can differ based on age, health conditions, and risk factors. For instance, older adults might have different targets compared to younger individuals.
  • Health Factors: Conditions like pregnancy, kidney issues, or heart disease may require specialized targets. Always consider these factors when setting your goals.

Consult with Healthcare Providers

  • Regular Check-Ins: Regular consultations with your healthcare provider are crucial. They can help adjust your targets based on changes in your health and lifestyle.
  • Ongoing Monitoring: Frequent check-ups allow for timely adjustments to your medication or diet, ensuring your targets remain appropriate.

How to Maintain Healthy Fasting Blood Sugar Levels

Managing your fasting blood sugar levels in Canada involves several key factors. Let's break them down:

Balanced Diet

  • Whole Foods: Focus on eating whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
    • Why: These foods have a lower glycemic index, meaning they cause a slower, more stable rise in blood sugar.
  • Portion Control: Keep an eye on portion sizes to avoid overeating, which can spike blood sugar levels.
    • Tip: Use smaller plates and measure portions to help regulate intake.
  • Consistent Meals: Aim to eat at regular intervals.
    • Benefit: This helps keep your blood sugar levels steady throughout the day.

Regular Physical Activity

  • Exercise Routine: Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.
    • Examples: Walking, cycling, swimming, or even gardening can be effective.
  • Why It Matters: Physical activity helps your body use insulin more efficiently, lowering blood sugar levels.
    • Extra Tip: Incorporate strength training exercises twice a week to build muscle, which helps improve blood sugar control.

Medications and Insulin

  • Medication Adherence: Always take prescribed medications as directed by your healthcare provider.
    • Types: This can include oral medications or injectable insulin.
  • Role of Insulin: If your body doesn’t produce enough insulin naturally, insulin therapy can help manage your blood sugar levels.
    • Monitoring: Regularly check your blood sugar to see how well your medication is working and adjust as needed with your healthcare provider’s guidance.

Stress Management

  • Impact of Stress: Stress can cause blood sugar levels to rise due to the release of stress hormones like cortisol.
    • Why: These hormones make it harder for insulin to work properly.
  • Stress Reduction Techniques:
    • Mindfulness and Meditation: Practice deep breathing exercises or meditation to help lower stress levels.
    • Physical Activity: Exercise is also a great way to reduce stress.
    • Hobbies and Interests: Engage in activities you enjoy to divert your mind from stressors.
  • Sleep: Ensure you get enough restful sleep each night, as poor sleep can negatively impact blood sugar levels.

What to Do If You're Sick and Have Diabetes

Illness can significantly impact your blood sugar levels. When you’re sick, your body releases stress hormones to fight the illness, which can cause blood sugar levels to rise. Additionally, changes in eating habits, hydration, and medication routines can further complicate blood sugar management.

How Illness Affects Blood Sugar

  • Stress Hormones: Illness triggers the release of hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones can cause blood sugar levels to spike.
  • Dehydration: Fever, vomiting, or diarrhea can lead to dehydration, which also affects blood sugar.
  • Medication Disruption: Over-the-counter medications for colds or flu may contain sugar, and changes in your routine can lead to missed doses of diabetes medication.

Managing Blood Sugar During Illness

  1. Frequent Monitoring:
    1. Check Often: Test your blood sugar every 2 to 4 hours.
    2. Ketone Testing: If you use insulin, check for ketones if your blood sugar is above 14 mmol/L.
    3. Why: Frequent monitoring helps you catch high or low blood sugar levels early.
  2. Hydration:
    1. Drink Fluids: Aim to drink at least one cup of fluid every hour.
    2. Choices: Opt for water, broth, or sugar-free drinks.
    3. Why: Staying hydrated helps maintain proper blood sugar levels and prevents dehydration.

Food and Fluid Intake When Unable to Eat Solid Foods

  • Simple Carbohydrates: If you can’t eat solid food, consume easily digestible carbohydrates.
    • Examples: Popsicles, fruit juices, and regular (not sugar-free) gelatin.
    • Why: These can provide necessary energy and help maintain blood sugar levels.
  • Balanced Fluids: If you have difficulty eating:
    • Options: Drink nutritional supplements like Glucerna or broth-based soups.
    • Why: These provide necessary nutrients and calories without spiking blood sugar too drastically.

Seeking Medical Help

  • When to Call a Doctor:
    • Persistent Symptoms: Seek help if you experience vomiting or diarrhea for more than 4 hours.
    • Severe Dehydration: Look for signs like dry mouth, extreme thirst, and dark urine.
    • Unmanageable Blood Sugar: If your blood sugar remains high despite taking your medication.

Understanding Hypoglycemia and Hyperglycemia

What is Hypoglycemia?

Hypoglycemia occurs when your blood sugar levels drop too low, typically below 4.0 mmol/L. This can happen for various reasons, including taking too much insulin, skipping meals, or engaging in intense physical activity. Recognizing the symptoms quickly is crucial.

  • Symptoms:
    • Shaking: Your hands might tremble.
    • Sweating: You may start sweating excessively.
    • Confusion: You might feel disoriented or have trouble concentrating.
    • Hunger: An intense craving for food, especially something sugary.
    • Irritability: Feeling unusually irritable or anxious.

What is Hyperglycemia?

Hyperglycemia refers to high blood sugar levels, usually above 10.0 mmol/L. This can occur due to factors like eating too many carbohydrates, not taking enough insulin, or stress.

  • Symptoms:
    • Frequent Urination: You may need to urinate more often than usual.
    • Excessive Thirst: Feeling very thirsty and drinking a lot of fluids.
    • Fatigue: Feeling unusually tired or weak.
    • Blurred Vision: Difficulty seeing clearly.
    • Dry Mouth: Persistent dryness in your mouth.

Causes and Prevention


  • Causes:
    • Excess Insulin: Taking more insulin than needed.
    • Missed Meals: Skipping or delaying meals.
    • Alcohol: Drinking alcohol without eating.
    • Exercise: Unplanned or intense physical activity without adjusting food intake or insulin.
  • Prevention:
    • Monitor Regularly: Check your blood sugar levels frequently.
    • Balanced Diet: Eat meals and snacks at regular intervals.
    • Exercise Plan: Adjust your food and medication intake according to your exercise routine.
    • Carry Snacks: Always have quick snacks like glucose tablets, juice, or candy.


  • Causes:
    • Overeating: Consuming too many carbohydrates.
    • Insufficient Insulin: Not taking enough insulin or other diabetes medication.
    • Illness: Being sick can increase blood sugar levels due to stress hormones.
    • Stress: Emotional stress can also cause blood sugar levels to rise.
  • Prevention:
    • Medication Adherence: Take your medication as prescribed.
    • Healthy Eating: Follow a balanced diet plan recommended by your healthcare provider.
    • Regular Exercise: Engage in physical activity to help manage blood sugar levels.
    • Stress Management: Practice techniques like deep breathing or meditation.

Immediate Steps to Take


  1. Consume Fast-Acting Carbs: Eat or drink something that will quickly raise your blood sugar, such as:
    • Examples: Glucose tablets, fruit juice, regular soda, or candy.
  1. Wait 15 Minutes: After consuming the fast-acting carbs, wait for 15 minutes and then recheck your blood sugar.
  2. Repeat if Necessary: If your blood sugar is still low, consume another 15 grams of fast-acting carbs and recheck after 15 minutes.
  3. Follow Up with a Snack: Once your blood sugar is back to normal, eat a small snack that includes a carbohydrate and protein, like an apple with peanut butter.


  1. Hydrate: Drink plenty of water to help flush out excess sugar from your blood.
  2. Take Medication: Follow your doctor’s advice on adjusting medication if needed.
  3. Monitor Blood Sugar: Check your levels every few hours.
  4. Seek Medical Help: If blood sugar levels remain high (above 14 mmol/L) despite taking corrective steps, contact your healthcare provider.

Understanding the signs, causes, and immediate responses to both low and high blood sugar levels is essential for managing your fasting blood sugar levels in Canada.

Comparison Chart

To help you make an informed decision, Diabetes Canada provides a glucose monitoring comparison chart. This chart summarizes the key features, benefits, and limitations of different glucose monitoring systems available in Canada. Use this resource to compare options and find the best fit for your needs.

Proactively Manage Your Metabolic Health

TeleTest offers both continuous glucose monitors and metabolic blood work including HbA1c and fasting blood sugar tests to provide a comprehensive view of your metabolic health. For those in Canada with provincial insurance such as OHIP, the cost of blood work is usually covered. Regular monitoring can help identify early signs of diabetes or prediabetes, allowing for timely intervention. This proactive approach enables individuals to make informed lifestyle and dietary adjustments, seek appropriate medical advice, and potentially prevent the progression of diabetes. By staying vigilant and regularly assessing metabolic health, one can significantly enhance their well-being and maintain optimal health.

Disclaimer: This blog post is intended for educational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Always consult your healthcare provider for personal health concerns.Lifestyle Needs: