When Should You Check Your Blood Sugar
People with diabetes are encouraged to check their blood sugars often, and with the latest technology like continuous glucose monitors , the frequency of checking has increased more than ever.
But what if youre using a glucometer, lancet device, and test strips? How often, and maybe more importantly, exactly when should you check your blood sugar?
This article will outline the importance of checking your blood sugar, how often, and when you really should check for better diabetes management.
When To Test Your Blood Sugar
by Health Writer
If youve got diabetes, keeping blood glucose levels steady is the name of the game. Normally, your body regulates blood sugar well, thanks to a series of feedback mechanisms that involve the secretion of the hormone insulin. But in people with type 1 diabetes, your body doesnt make enough insulin in type 2 diabetes, an inability to effectively use insulin causes glucose levels to swing around. The complex regulation of glucose is one reason that managing diabetes can be challenging for patients, says Jacob Kohlenberg, M.D., assistant professor in the division of diabetes, endocrinology, and metabolism at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis, MN. Here, tips for tracking your blood sugar levels.
How The Test Is Done
You can buy a testing kit from a pharmacy without a prescription. Your provider can help you choose the right kit, set up the meter, and teach you how to use it.
Most kits have:
- Small needles that fit into a spring-loaded plastic device
- A logbook for recording your numbers that can be downloaded and viewed at home or at your provider’s office
To do the test, prick your finger with the needle and place a drop of blood on a special strip. This strip measures how much glucose is in your blood. Some monitors use blood from areas of the body other than the fingers, reducing discomfort. The meter shows your blood sugar results as a number on a digital display. If your vision is poor, talking glucose meters are available so that you don’t have to read the numbers.
Be aware that no meter or strip is accurate 100% of the time. If your blood sugar value is unexpectedly high or low, measure again with a new strip. Do not use strips if the container has been left open or if the strip has gotten wet.
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How A Winter Cold Affects Blood Sugar Testing
When youre sick, your body produces extra stress hormones , which can raise your blood sugar levels, says Betul Hatipoglu, M.D., professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, OH. As a result, illness, especially infection, can put those with type 1 diabetes at risk for a diabetes emergency called diabetic ketoacidosis, adds Dr. Thomas. This is a complication resulting from not enough insulin and needs to be treated immediately with fluids and additional insulin medication. Testing your blood glucose levels regularly can help you spot a spike like this and take action quickly.
How Can I Check My Blood Sugar
Use a blood sugar meter or a continuous glucose monitor to check your blood sugar. A blood sugar meter measures the amount of sugar in a small sample of blood, usually from your fingertip. A CGM uses a sensor inserted under the skin to measure your blood sugar every few minutes. If you use a CGM, youll still need to test daily with a blood sugar meter to make sure your CGM readings are accurate.
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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.
Other Important Times To Check Your Blood Sugar
Some other important times in your life that you should pay special attention to your blood sugar and check more frequently may be:
- When theres a change to your medication regimen, including insulin
- When youre on vacation or traveling
- During pregnancy
- If theres been a change to your daily routine
- Youve been diagnosed with a new health condition
- Theres been a drastic change to your diet
- Youve been under a lot of stress
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Oral Glucose Tolerance Test :
This test measures an individuals response to a glucose load. They are instructed fast similar to the FPG and then they are given a measured dose of glucose to consume within 5 minutes and the blood is measured both immediately after the drink is finished and 2 hours afterwards. The 2 hour measurement is major recording.
Normal OGTT levels should be under 140 mg/dl although most functional medicine doctors want to see them under 120 mg/dl. The pre-diabetic range is from 140-200 mg/dl and over 200 mg/dl is considered diabetic.
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Stress And Blood Sugar Testing
Whether physical or psychological, any stress has the same effect. Stress hormones such as cortisol push the liver to produce more sugars and make the body more resistant to insulin, says Dr. Hatipoglu. The result: higher blood sugar levels. Of course, everyone gets stressed at times. But its chronic stress and its effect among people with diabeteswho are not able to process the additional sugarthats especially problematic. Your best strategy: Monitor blood sugar levels frequently and, if needed, adjust the treatment to prevent any complications, he says.
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What You Can Do
If the dawn phenomenon affects you, try to:
- Eat dinner earlier in the evening.
- Do something active after dinner, like going for a walk.
- Check with your health care provider about the medicine youâre taking.
- Eat breakfast. It helps bring your blood sugar back to normal, which tells your body that it’s time to rein in the anti-insulin hormones.
- Eat a snack with some carbohydrates and protein before bed.
You’ll also want to avoid all sugar-sweetened beverages, like soda, fruit punch, fruit drinks, and sweet tea. Just a single serving can raise your blood sugar — and, in some cases, give you hundreds of extra calories.
If you have diabetes, chances are your blood sugar will be higher in the morning from time to time. That may not be something to be overly concerned about. If it happens for several mornings in a row, check it once during the night — around 2 or 3 a.m. — for a few nights. Then, take those numbers to your doctor. They can figure out if you really have the dawn phenomenon, or if something else is causing those higher morning numbers.
Diabetes Stops Here: “Why All the Morning Highs?”
Mayo Clinic: “What is the dawn phenomenon that some people with diabetes experience? Can anything be done about it?”
American Diabetes Association: “Diabetes Myths.”
Diabetes Forecast: “Why Is My Blood Glucose So High in the Morning?”
How Food Affects Blood Sugar Testing
Testing your blood sugar both right before and after meals will give you an idea of how food affects your sugar levels. Ideally, youre looking for numbers of 80-130mg/dL before and less than 180 mg/dL one to two hours after eating. According to Wolf, Someone should check blood sugar before meals when they are on a medication, such as insulin, that requires them to adjust their dose based on their blood sugar reading. This so-called correction dose is given if your blood sugar is above your target. It is helpful to check blood sugar one to two hours after eating as well because it tells you how your body responded to your meal.
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Follow Your Diabetes Meal Plan
Make a diabetes meal plan with help from your health care team. Following a meal plan will help you manage your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
Choose fruits and vegetables, beans, whole grains, chicken or turkey without the skin, fish, lean meats, and nonfat or low-fat milk and cheese. Drink water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages. Choose foods that are lower in calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sugar, and salt. Learn more about eating, diet, and nutrition with diabetes.
Who Should Monitor Blood Glucose
If youve been diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, or youre pregnant and have developed gestational diabetes, a form of the disease that occurs during pregnancy and goes away after a baby is born, testing your blood glucose levels regularly and at specific times throughout the day will be a key aspect of managing your disease.
The American Diabetes Association recommends that, for ideal use and implementation, anyone prescribed continuous glucose monitoring should receive robust education, training, and support and should be able to perform self-monitoring of blood glucose in order to calibrate their monitor and/or verify readings if they dont represent their symptoms.
It will be helpful to keep a log of your results, as well as details about what youve eaten throughout the day and how much physical activity youve gotten. With this information, you and your doctor can get a grasp on how certain foods or activities affect your blood sugar and what adjustments you should make to meet your target goals.
|Target Blood Glucose Goals|
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What To Expect From Your Blood Sugar In The Morning
After an overnight fast, a normal blood sugar level is less than 100 milligrams per deciliter , according to the American Diabetes Association . But, according to Susan Spratt, MD, an endocrinologist and associate professor of medicine at Duke University School of Medicine, not everyone with type 1 or type 2 diabetes has to shoot for normal levels.
If youre young, the goal may be to get your fasting blood sugar levels to less than 120 mg/dL, Dr. Spratt says. But if youre older and have other health conditions, that number may be higher, she says.
The ADA points out that not everyone will have the same blood sugar level goals. Instead, your endocrinologist or doctor will calculate your target number based on your age, how long youve had diabetes, whether you have health conditions like heart disease and other factors.
When Is The Best Time To Test Blood Sugar
by Patient Advocate
The preferred time to test blood sugar isn’t before breakfast any more. Researchers looking at studies of hundreds of people with type 2 diabetes suggest that high blood glucose levels after meals has a greater effect on A1C levels among people who have their diabetes under good control than among those with poor control.
When A1C results are low – less than 7.3 percent – mealtime glucose contributes about 70 percent of the A1C. However, when A1C results are high – greater than 10.2 percent – fasting blood glucose contributes 70 percent of the A1C value.
If your A1C levels are above 7.0 percent, you run a much greater risk of complications. That means getting your diabetes under control needs to be your top priority. After you do that, you can concentrate on testing after meals.
But do we start counting from the beginning, the middle, or the end of the meal? And should we test one, two, or more hours after eating?
There is a great variation in the length of a meal. So it is more precise to start counting from the time of the first bite. Another reason to start counting from the beginning of a meal is because our glucose levels begin to rise about 10 minutes after the start of a meal.
The exception, according to the ADA, is women who have diabetes and are pregnant. They could benefit more from testing one hour after eating.
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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.
Urine Checks For Glucose
Urine checks for glucose are not as precise as blood glucose checks and should possibly be utilized when blood testing is outlandish. Urine checks for ketones, in any case, is significant when your diabetes is wild or when you are wiped out. Everybody with diabetes should realize how to check urine for ketones.
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Before And After Meals And Snacks
If you eat first thing in the morning, your first blood sugar check of the day can also count as your pre-meal check, but if you dont, youll need to check again before breakfast.
This can inform you as to how much insulin youll need for your meal . If youre running a little high, youll need to bolus extra, but if your blood sugar is on the lower end, you can take a little less insulin for any carbohydrates eaten.
Checking before every meal and snack can help curb postprandial glucose excursions, otherwise known as the stubborn high blood sugars you sometimes can experience after eating a meal and not adequately bolusing for said meal.
Ideally, you should also be checking 2 hours after all meals as well, to determine if your meal bolus was adequate, if you took too much insulin, or if you need to adjust and take more insulin.
Two hours is the recommended time frame, because by then most carbohydrates have been absorbed into the body and most fast-acting insulin has already peaked.
When checking before snacks , make sure youre calculating any active insulin on board so you dont overtreat a high and end up going low.
Making A Schedule For Blood Sugar Testing
Making a blood sugar testing schedule can be beneficial if you have diabetes. It can help you identify potential patterns, assess blood sugar levels , and may even allow you to gain better control over your blood glucose. It can get very dangerous when your blood sugar is uncontrolled, so a schedule may help you stay on track.
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Make Physical Activity Part Of Your Daily Routine
Set a goal to be more physically active. Try to work up to 30 minutes or more of physical activity on most days of the week.
Brisk walking and swimming are good ways to move more. If you are not active now, ask your health care team about the types and amounts of physical activity that are right for you. Learn more about being physically active with diabetes.
Following your meal plan and being more active can help you stay at or get to a healthy weight. If you are overweight or obese, work with your health care team to create a weight-loss plan that is right for you.
How Can I Treat Low Blood Sugar
If youve had low blood sugar without feeling or noticing symptoms , you may need to check your blood sugar more often to see if its low and treat it. Driving with low blood sugar can be dangerous, so be sure to check your blood sugar before you get behind the wheel.
Carry supplies for treating low blood sugar with you. If you feel shaky, sweaty, or very hungry or have other symptoms, check your blood sugar. Even if you dont have symptoms but think you may have low blood sugar, check it. If your blood sugar is lower than 70 mg/dL, do one of the following immediately:
- Take four glucose tablets.
- Drink four ounces of fruit juice.
- Drink four ounces of regular soda, not diet soda.
- Eat four pieces of hard candy.
Wait for 15 minutes and then check your blood sugar again. Do one of the above treatments again until your blood sugar is 70 mg/dL or above and eat a snack if your next meal is an hour or more away. If you have problems with low blood sugar, ask your doctor if your treatment plan needs to be changed.
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The Best Times To Check Your Blood Sugar
People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes may need to check their blood sugar at different times and in different frequencies. In both cases, its a good idea to be consistent about when you test.
Pick the times that work best for you and your health goals, Palinski-Wade recommends. For instance, you might consider testing when you first wake up , before a meal, two hours after eating, or before bed. This can help you understand your bodys blood sugar patterns and see what factors directly impact your blood glucose. Your healthcare provider can help you determine the best times to test.