Make A Note Of Your Readings
It may sound obvious, but you must record your readings. Note them down in a diary, a notebook or in your phone calendar. Some meters have software that lets you do this. You could try a diabetes app too.
You and your healthcare team can then look back over your results to see if you need to adjust your treatment.
How To Use A Blood Sugar Meter
There are different kinds of meters, but most of them work the same way. Ask your health care team to show you the benefits of each. In addition to you, have someone else learn how to use your meter in case youre sick and cant check your blood sugar yourself.
Below are tips for how to use a blood sugar meter.
The Best Time To Check Blood Glucose After A Meal
Most of the food you consume will be digested and raises blood glucose in one to two hours. To capture the peak level of your blood glucose, it is best to test one to two hours after you start eating.
Q: I was recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Should I check my blood glucose two hours from when I start eating or after I finish eating my meal?
A: Most of the food you consume will be digested and raises blood glucose in one to two hours. To capture the peak level of your blood glucose, it is best to test one to two hours after you start eating.
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The American Diabetes Association recommends a target of below 180 mg/dl two hours after a meal. The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists recommends a lower target: below 140 mg/dl two hours after a meal.
Ask your doctor which target is right for you. Postmeal blood glucose monitoring is important because it helps you see how your body responds to carbohydrates in general and particular foods. Managing postmeal blood glucose can help reduce your risk of developing heart and circulation problems.
Virginia Zamudio Lange, a member of Diabetic Living’s editorial advisory board, is a founding partner of Alamo Diabetes Team, LLP in San Antonio.
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How To Choose A Blood Glucose Meter
There are many blood sugar meters to choose from, so start by thinking about what’s most important to you. Ask yourself a few questions.
- Are you concerned about accuracy? Make sure you’re using a meter and test strips that provide accurate results. Roche quality control processes ensure consistent accuracy. Find out more about our accuracy commitment.
- Do you use blood glucose results to dose insulin? The Accu-Chek Guide meter sends results directly to a smartphone app that includes an insulin calculator.5
- Do you feel like you’re always short on time? A system that syncs your data wirelessly, without manually entering results, can save time with every test. You may also want to consider a blood glucose meter that gives results quickly, makes it easier to handle test strips, doesn’t require coding, or simplifies lancing or dosing.
- Would you like to reduce the pain of testing? Choose a system with a lancing device specifically designed for comfort, such as the Accu-Chek FastClix lancing device. Precision-guided technology minimizes the lancet’s painful side to side motion and thin-gauge, bevel-cut lancets help ensure smoother entry. Plus, 11 customizable depth settings make it easier to get the right amount of blood the first time.
- Will you track results in the blood sugar meter, with an app or on a computer? Most blood sugar monitors have built-in memories, and many can beam or transfer data directly to your computer or an app on your smartphone, such as the mySugr app.
What You Need To Know About Glucose Meter Accuracy
Here are some things that can affect readings:
User error. Suspicious of the results? Read and follow the user guide instructions that come with your meter. Store your meter and strips away from sunlight and temperature extremes. Check the viability of each new bottle of test strips by running a check using glucose control solution .
Laboratory versus at-home results. Meters intended for self-monitoring by people with diabetes are allowed to vary by as much as plus or minus 10 percent from the results laboratory equipment would give.
Location of the blood. Blood glucose levels differ within the body. Rapid changes from dosing insulin or eating show up first in blood obtained from the fingertips.
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Know Your Blood Glucose Targets
Before you use another test strip, make sure you know your blood glucose targets.
In a telephone survey of 500 people with type 2 diabetes, over half of those taking no diabetes medication, 30 percent of those taking pills, and 12 percent of those taking insulin did not have blood sugar level targets. See our blood glucose guidelines for general targets. Then ask your health care provider what ranges are right for you.
Type of test: Fasting
American Diabetes Association recommends: 70-130 mg/dl
American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists recommends: Less than 110 mg/dl
Type of test: A1C
American Diabetes Association recommends: various A1C goals, from 6.5 percent to less than 8 percent. Talk to your provider about what A1C goal is best for you based on your diabetes control, age, and overall health. If you can keep your glucose levels in tight control with minimal hypoglycemia, then 6.5 percent may work well for you. However, if you are older, have had diabetes for many years, or have some unawareness of hypoglycemia, then an A1C of 8 percent may be better.
American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists recommends: 6.5 percent or less
Note: A woman who is pregnant or trying to get pregnant will have lower target numbers for the health of her baby. Children have higher target numbers. Elderly people, especially those who have cardiac disease, may have higher target numbers.
Why Check Blood Sugar Levels
If you take certain medication, like insulin or sulphonylureas, checking your blood sugars is a vital part of living with diabetes. It can help you work out when you need to take more medication, when you need to eat something or for when you want to get up and move around more.
Routine checks can help you know when you might be starting to go too low or too high . Its a way of getting to know your body and how it works. It can help you and your healthcare team spot patterns too. Do you write your results down? You might find that helpful.
But importantly, it will help you stay healthy and prevent serious diabetes complications now and in the future. By complications, we mean serious problems in places like your feet and your eyes. This happens because too much sugar in the blood damages your blood vessels, making it harder for blood to flow around your body. This can lead to very serious problems like sight loss and needing an amputation.
The higher your blood sugar levels are and the longer theyre high for, the more at risk you are.
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Blood Sugar Monitoring: When To Check And Why
Managing diabetes is one part investigation and two parts action. Unlike some other diseases that rely primarily on professional medical treatment, diabetes treatment requires active participation by the person who has it. Monitoring your blood sugar level on a regular basis and analyzing the results is believed by many to be a crucial part of the treatment equation.
When someone is first diagnosedwith diabetes, he is usually given a blood sugar meter and told how and when to use it, as well as what numbers to shoot for. However, the advice a person receives on when to monitor and what the results should be generally depend on his type of diabetes, age and state of overall health. It can also depend on a health-care providers philosophy of care and which set of diabetes care guidelines he follows. At least three major health organizations have published slightly different recommendations regarding goals for blood sugar levels.
There is some common ground when it comes to blood sugar monitoring practices. For example, most people take a fasting reading before breakfast every morning. Some people also monitor before lunch, dinner and bedtime some monitor after each meal and some monitor both before and after all meals. However, when monitoring after meals, some people do it two hours after the first bite of the meal, while others prefer to check one hour after the start of a meal.
Tips For Checking Your Blood Sugar With Less Pain
Fingertips have more nerve endings, so this part of the finger tends to be the most sensitive.
If you use a finger prick to check your blood sugar level, a few techniques can make the process less painful whether youre using a glucometer or a continuous glucose monitor.
Blood sugar testing is crucial to diabetes management because high or low blood sugar can cause severe complications. If too much blood sugar accumulates in your bloodstream, you can experience major complications such as:
- nerve damage
- difficulty speaking
Blood sugar can fluctuate throughout the day especially after meals, after exercising, and during stressful events. So its important to carefully monitor your blood sugar and keep it within a healthy range.
A blood sugar level less than 140 milligrams per deciliter , but greater than 70 mg/dL is typically considered in the target range.
You should check your blood sugar regularly, even if you arent experiencing symptoms of a high or low glucose level. Some people with high and low blood sugar dont have any symptoms.
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If You Start Stop Or Change Any Medications
Different medications can have an effect on your blood sugar, for example, steroids and anti-psychotic medications increase your blood sugar levels according to the American Diabetes Association. Several medications, such as beta-blockers, bactrim, MAO inhibitors, and metformin can cause low blood sugar according to MedLinePlus. Whenever you start, stop or change medication, it is a good idea to frequently test your blood sugar until you understand how the medication affects your glucose levels.
Not Understanding Your Meter
Today’s glucose meters are more sophisticated in their accuracy yet easier to use than ever before. Still, you need to check your meter’s accuracy periodically and you should follow the manufacturer’s instructions for doing this correctly. You also need to know the fine points on how to use it and care for it, and what the error messages mean.
The solution for better diabetes control: If you’re confused about the ins and outs of your meter, ask for help from your doctor, diabetes educator, or pharmacist.
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Is There A Best Method To Testing
We recommend at least 3 tests per day, or at least 3 tests every second to third day.
Fasting blood sugar taken first thing in the morning before any meals. Most people do this regularly, on a daily basis.
Do one paired test per day like before and after lunch or before and after dinner. You can do this daily, monitoring either lunch or dinner, or some people may do paired tests every 2nd or 3rd day.
If youre newly diagnosed or trying to gain better control, then we recommend 3 tests per day fasting and one paired test daily.
If youre traveling fairly stable you may log fasting blood sugar daily, and one paired test 2-3 times per week.
If youre limited by budget for testing equipment, we recommend changing the routine. Dont always do fasting blood glucose, as this fasting blood sugar can commonly be high. You also want to assess how your after meal levels are, so you can get a better estimation of how your overall levels are tracking.
Low Blood Sugar Symptoms
Hypoglycemia happens when blood glucose levels drop too low. Low blood sugar can be caused by many things including the two different types of diabetes, certain medications, alcohol, endocrine disorders, eating disorders, pregnancy , and disorders of the liver, kidneys, or heart.
Here are some of the most common symptoms that someone with low blood sugar might experience:
- Tingling lips
If your blood sugar is low you might start to feel some of the first signs of hypoglycemia like dizziness, lightheadedness, or sweating. The only way to know for sure if your blood sugar is low is to test it with a glucose meter or other glucose monitoring device.
If you dont have access to these tools and start to feel the symptoms of low blood sugar, consume 15 grams of carbs or take a quick dissolve glucose tablet to raise your blood sugar levels and avoid further symptoms, according to the American Diabetes Association . Once your blood sugar is back in its target range, you can have a snack or meal to make sure it doesnt drop again.
Here are some other lifestyle and medicinal treatments that can help treat hypoglycemia:
- Eat a healthy diet full of whole foods that are minimally processed.
- Take prediabetes or diabetes medications as recommended by your healthcare provider.
- Use a glucagon kit in emergencies. Glucagon is a hormone that raises blood sugar levels quickly.
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If Your Diabetes Medication Changes
When your medication for diabetes changes or is adjusted, its important to know how that change is working. The best way is to check your blood sugar levels more often, according to FamilyDoctor.org. Check your blood sugar levels before and after taking medication and keep track of the results to show your doctor.
Factors That Affect How Often You Need To Test Your Blood Sugar
How often you test depends on several different factors.
You should test your blood sugar at home, but how often is enough? Well, it dependsmostly on your medication, you, and your doctor.
The American Diabetes Association recommends testing your blood sugar at least three times a day if you need multiple daily insulin injections. But for the rest of those with type 2 diabetes, testing frequency should be “dictated by the particular needs and goals of the patients,” the ADA says.
That means that frequent testing is clearly necessarily for some people with type 2 diabetes, but there is a little wiggle room for others.
Some studies suggest that frequent monitoring is not always helpful for people with type 2 diabetes. But that research is still being debated. Your doctor or diabetes educator can help you determine how often and when you should be testing.
How often you test depends on the following factors.
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The Big Picture: Checking Your Blood Sugar
Blood sugar monitoring is the primary tool you have to find out if your blood glucose levels are within your target range. This tells you your blood glucose level at any one time.
Its important for blood sugar levels to stay in a healthy range. If glucose levels get too low, we can lose the ability to think and function normally. If they get too high and stay high, it can cause damage or complications to the body over the course of many years.
The logging of your results is vital. When you bring your log to your healthcare provider, youll have a good picture of your body’s response to your diabetes care plan. To help keep track of your levels, we have a glucose log. We also have a blood glucose log available for purchase that is smaller so you can carry it with you.
Before A Meal And Two Hours After Eating
Testing your glucose before a meal and two hours after eating helps you make good decisions about foods and medication, according to Kaiser Permanente. Testing before eating will tell you how much food to eat and how much medication you need. Testing several hours after you eat gives you information on whether you are taking enough medication to cover the food you eat during a meal.