Monitoring Your Blood Sugar Level
Last Updated February 2021 | This article was created by familydoctor.org editorial staff and reviewed by Robert “Chuck” Rich, Jr., MD, FAAFP
If you have;diabetes, its important to monitor your;blood;sugar at different times of the day and throughout the year. There are 3 tools that can help you do this and, therefore, manage your diabetes: A blood test done every three months, blood tests taken every day, and a system that constantly monitors your blood glucose.
The 3-month blood test is called an A1C test. This test reflects your blood sugar control over the past 2-3 months. Testing your A1C level every 3 months is the best way for you and your doctor to understand how well your blood sugar levels are controlled. Your doctor will likely be the one who orders an A1C test. However, you can also purchase over-the-counter A1C testing kits that you can use at home. Your A1C goal will be determined by your doctor. However, the goal is generally less than 7% or 8%, depending on your age.
The daily blood test is done with a blood glucose monitor . This is also called a home blood sugar meter, a glucometer, or a glucose meter. This type of testing is often referred to as self-monitoring of blood glucose. Your doctor may prescribe a BGM, especially if your blood sugar fluctuates. They will show you how to use it.
How It Is Done
A home blood sugar test involves pricking your finger, palm, or forearm with a small needle to collect a drop of blood and placing the blood on a special test strip, which you insert into the blood glucose meter before you begin the test. The blood glucose meter displays the results of a blood sugar test within a minute after testing.
The instructions for testing are slightly different for each model of home blood glucose meter. For accurate results, follow the instructions for your meter carefully. When testing blood sugar using a home blood glucose meter:
Safely dispose of your lancets after using them. Do not throw them into the household trash. A used lancet might accidentally stick someone. Place used lancets into a plastic container, such as an empty detergent bottle. Seal the container when it is about three-quarters full. Check with your local trash disposal agency about the proper disposal of lancets. Some agencies have specific instructions for the disposal of medical waste. Sometimes your doctor’s office will dispose of them for you.
When To Test Your Blood Sugar
The number of times that you need to check your blood sugar each day depends on the type of diabetes you have, the type of medicine you take to treat your diabetes, and how well your blood sugar levels are controlled. For example, people who take insulin injections or use an insulin pump, may need to check their blood sugar more frequently than those who take diabetes pills. Some people test their blood sugar before eating meals or snacks, before and after exercise, when they feel sick, or when they think their blood glucose is low. Talk with your health care team about how often you should check your blood sugar.
What Can Affect My Results
If you consistently see results that arenât expected, recalibrate your meter and check the strips.
The chart below shows you the ideal blood sugar ranges for most adults except for pregnant women. Your ideal range may be different from another person’s and will change throughout the day, so check with your doctor for your targets.
Time of Test
How Do I Check Blood Sugar Level
Checking blood sugar level is very simple thanks to the availability of easy-to-use handheld glucometers. These consumer glucometers have made it very easy to always keep an eye on your blood sugar level. They are an absolute essential for diabetics and also for people trying to maintain their blood glucose level.
- Check out Here how to choose the best diabetic blood sugar meter.
They operate by taking pin-pricks of blood onto a small electrode slip, which when inserted into the device gives a digital readout of the amount of glucose content in the blood. These devices have become extremely popular for their convenience, reliability and accuracy.
An essential laboratory test of blood glucose level is the Oral Glucose Tolerance Test or OGTT. It is a diagnostic test for DM or any glucose intolerance. Here, a blood sugar reading is taken after a 10-12 hour fast. Then another reading is taken after 2 hours after ingesting a measured amount of glucose. This test shows the bodys ability to absorb glucose, thus is a confirmatory test for DM.
What Is Causing My Blood Sugars To Be Out Of Range
Here are some common scenarios of blood sugars being out of range, possible reasons for them and what to do if you face these scenarios.
High glucose levels before breakfast
Morning glucose levels are often referred to as fasting glucose levels. If these levels are out of range, you may find that it is difficult to keep your levels down for the rest of the day. Possible reasons why your blood sugar is high in the morning include:;
Consuming sweet drinks in the morning before measuring your sugar levels
Forgetting to take medication
What to do if your blood sugar is high in the morning:
If this is the first time you notice it happening or if it only happens occasionally, try taking note of what you had the night before and the duration of sleep you had
If your blood sugar has been high in the mornings continuously for a few days, speak to your healthcare team about it
High glucose levels before meals
If your levels are out of the target range before your meals, think about whether you had anything to eat or drink within the last two hours. If the answer is yes, your glucose levels may have been caused by this. Perhaps you had a chocolate bar on the way home, or a sweet drink before dinner? If you have not consumed any food or drink, and your glucose levels are high before your meals, speak with your healthcare team as you may need to adjust your medication.;
High glucose levels after meals
What Other Tests Can Help Me Keep Track
Using a glucose meter can help you check your blood sugar levels, but other tests can help you know how well you’re controlling your diabetes too.
The glycosylated hemoglobin test will tell you how you’ve been controlling your blood sugar levels over the past few months. It’s usually done during regular visits with your diabetes health care team.
Hemoglobin is the substance inside red blood cells that carries oxygen to the cells of the body. The higher the glucose level in the blood, the more the glucose sticks to the hemoglobin. And once hemoglobin picks up glucose, the glucose stays on it for the life of the red blood cell, which is about 2 to 3 months.
The most commonly measured type of hemoglobin in the blood that has glucose attached to it is called HbA1c. In general, the lower your HbA1c, the better you’ve been controlling your blood sugar levels over the last 2 to 3 months. Having lower HbA1c levels may make it less likely that you’ll develop long-term diabetes problems.
Ketones are something else you’ll need to check for sometimes. Ketones are chemicals that show up in the urine and blood after the body breaks down fat for energy. The body will break down fat when it can’t use glucose. This can happen when you haven’t taken enough insulin to help the glucose get into the cells, or when you haven’t eaten enough to provide glucose for energy .
What Are Blood Sugar Targets
A blood sugar target is the range you try to reach as much as possible. These are typical targets:
- Before a meal: 80 to 130 mg/dL.
- Two hours after the start of a meal: Less than 180 mg/dL.
Your blood sugar targets may be different depending on your age, any additional health problems you have, and other factors. Be sure to talk to your health care team about which targets are best for you.
When Should You Test Your Blood Sugar
Blood sugar testing is important for controlling type 2 diabetes. Find out what goes into determining the best testing schedule for you.
Blood sugar testing is a fundamental part of treating type 2 diabetes. By obtaining regular blood sugar readings, people with diabetes can, among other things, help their doctor make more informed decisions regarding the type and dosage of medication they need. Blood sugar testing also can help you see what foods, events, and activities trigger highs and lows in your blood sugar levels.
So how often should you test your blood sugar? The answer depends mostly on the status of your health and the demands of your daily life.
People with type 2 diabetes should take a blood sugar reading at least once a day. Some may need to test as frequently as seven times a day. Whether you need to or are able to perform more frequent testing depends on a number of factors:
You should talk with your doctor about these factors to devise the right blood glucose monitoring schedule for you.
Creating a Blood Sugar Testing Schedule
In general, type 2 diabetes patients should schedule blood sugar testing to coincide with specific daily events. That makes it easier to remember when to test. Regular testing times include:
- Before all three meals
What Else Can I Do To Help Manage My Blood Sugar Levels
- Keep track of your blood sugar levels to see what makes them go up or down.
- Eat at regular times, and dont skip meals.
- Choose foods lower in calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sugar, and salt.
- Track your food, drink, and physical activity.
- Drink water instead of juice or soda.
- Limit alcoholic drinks.
- For a sweet treat, choose fruit.
- Control your food portions .
Symptoms Of Type 2 Diabetes
These tend to show up after your glucose has been high for a long time.
- Yeast infections. Both men and women with diabetes can get these. Yeast feeds on glucose, so having plenty around makes it thrive. Infections can grow in any warm, moist fold of skin, including:
- Between fingers and toes
- Under breasts
- In or around sex organs
What Is The Future Of Blood Sugar Testing
Even though you can monitor blood sugar level with glucometers and CGMs, the future might provide additional ways to manage your diabetes.
- Multiple waves: Researchers have been studying and experimenting with new technologies. For example, some adults with type 2 diabetes in Europe have access to a device that can measure blood sugar using ultrasonic, electromagnet, and thermal waves.
- Radio waves: Other advances on the horizon involve using radio waves to measure blood sugar .
- Tears: Additionally, some researchers are working on a sensor to monitor blood sugar under the lower eyelid . It works by measuring the sugar level of tear fluid.
- Contacts and lasers: Other future technologies might possibly include using a smart contact lens to measure blood sugar, as well as laser technology.
What Does It Feel Like When Your Blood Sugar Is Too High
If your blood sugar levels are too high, it can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms. The most common symptoms include extreme thirst and the constant feeling that you need to urinate. Other symptoms include headaches, feelings of tiredness or fatigue, blurry vision, nagging hunger, or trouble focusing or concentration. Those with extremely high blood sugar levels may experience diabetic coma which requires immediate medical attention.
Why It Is Done
A home blood glucose test is an accurate way to measure your blood sugar level at the time of testing. If you have diabetes, testing your blood glucose levels at home provides information about:
- Your blood sugar level. It is important to know when your blood sugar is high or low, to prevent emergency situations from developing. It is also important to treat consistently high blood sugar levels so you can decrease your chances of developing heart, blood vessel, and nerve complications from diabetes.
- How much insulin to take before each meal. If you take rapid-acting or short-acting insulin before meals, the blood sugar test results can help you determine how much insulin to take before each meal. If your blood sugar level is high, you may need extra insulin. If your blood sugar level is low, you may need to eat before you take any insulin.
- How exercise, diet, stress, and being ill affect your blood sugar levels. Testing your blood sugar can help you learn how your body responds to these things. Where possible, you can adjust your lifestyle to improve your blood sugar level.
Home blood sugar testing also may be used to:
- Test blood sugar levels in people who have symptoms of high blood sugar or low blood sugar .
Develop A Plan For Physical Activity
Physical activity is the perfect partner to your healthy eating plan: Food gives you energy, and activity can help to burn it up! The American Diabetes Association recommends accumulating 30 minutes of aerobic activity such as walking on most days, with the addition of resistance training two or three times a week.
Every step you take can improve your overall health by:
Improving blood sugar levels.
Helping your body better use the insulin you still make, which means the same as improving insulin sensitivity.
What to consider when developing a physical activity plan:
What activities do you enjoy?
How can you build activity into your already-busy day?
How active are you now?
Do you have an all-or-nothing mentality? If yes, try to reshape your thinking. Any activity is better than none when it comes to lowering your blood sugar. Snatch 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there, and youll soon accumulate your daily 30 minutes.
Assess your steps for a few days by wearing a pedometer . One mile is about 2,000 steps.
Set small, realistic goals, go at your own pace, and reward yourself when you reach them. For instance, if you start with 1,500 steps, try adding a couple hundred steps each day until you reach your goal.
When Should I Test My Blood Sugar
You may need to check your blood sugar several times a day, such as before meals or exercise, at bedtime, before driving, and when you think your blood sugar levels are low.
Everyone is different, so ask your doctor when and how often you should check your blood sugar. If you’re sick, you’ll probably need to test your blood sugar more often.
Testing Your Blood Glucose
Testing your blood glucose
Testing your blood glucose, also known as;Self-Monitoring of;Blood;Glucose , is a method of checking how much glucose is in the blood using a glucose meter anywhere, anytime. Your doctor can also test your glucose from a blood sample that is checked in the lab.
Blood glucose targets for non-pregnant adults*;
Less than 180 mg/dL
Your doctor uses what is called an A1C test to see what your average blood glucose level has been over the recent 3 months. Used for all types of diabetes, this test gives you and your doctor an indication on how well you are responding to your treatment plan. The recommended goal is to keep the level below seven percent . Your doctor will talk to you about the goal that is right for you. The A1C test is sometimes referred to as the hemoglobin A1c, HbA1c or glycohemoglobin test.
The importance of self-testing;
Your A1C test result will not show the daily effects of food choices and activity on your blood glucose levels. A blood glucose meter is a good way to test and track the immediate effects of food, activity and other changes in your blood glucose levels. This allows you to take immediate action to bring your glucose levels within range as recommended by your doctor. Your doctor may also rely on your blood glucose meter results, in addition to your A1C test result, to assess and adjust your treatment plan.
The connection between A1C and average blood sugar levels.;
Recording your blood glucose results;
How Often Should I Check My Blood Sugar
The number of times that you check your blood sugar will depend on the type of diabetes that you have and the type of medicine you take to treat your diabetes. For example, people who take insulin may need to check more often than people who do not take insulin. Talk with your health care team about how often to check your blood sugar.
The common times for checking your blood sugar are when you first wake up , before a meal, 2 hours after a meal, and at bedtime. Talk with your health care team about what times are best for you to check your blood sugar.
How Do I Measure My Blood Sugar Level
Follow your doctors advice and the instructions that come with the BGM or CGM. Different meters work differently, so be sure to check with your doctor for advice specifically for you. With a BGM, youll usually follow the steps below:
- Wash your hands and dry them well before doing the test.
- Use an alcohol pad to clean the area that youre going to prick. For most glucose meters, you will prick your fingertip. However, with some meters, you can also use your forearm, thigh, or the fleshy part of your hand. Ask your doctor what area you should use with your meter.
- Prick yourself with a sterile lancet to get a drop of blood.
- Place the drop of blood on the test strip.
- Follow the instructions for inserting the test strip into your glucose meter.
- The meter will give you a number for your blood sugar level.
If you have a CGM, youll follow the insertion directions that come with the monitor. Once its warmed up, the transmitter wirelessly sends the data to your computer or smartphone.