How Do I Check My Blood Glucose Levels
To check your blood glucose levels, you prick your finger with the lancet and add a small drop of blood onto a blood glucose checking strip. This strip is then inserted into the meter, which reads the strip and displays a number your blood glucose level.
When and how often you should check your blood glucose levels varies depending on each individual, the type of diabetes and the tablets and/or insulin being used. Blood glucose levels are measured in millimoles per litre of blood . Your doctor or Credentialled Diabetes Educator will help you decide how many checks are needed and the levels to aim for.
Keeping a record of your blood glucose levels can be very helpful for you and your doctor or Credentialled Diabetes Educator. You can keep a diary or use a mobile phone app or website to record your levels.
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.
Inconsistent Highs & Lows
Sometimes you may get a lower or higher blood glucose reading than usual and you may not be able to figure out the reason. When you are sick with a virus or flu, your blood glucose levels will nearly always go up and you may need to contact your doctor. There are a number of other common causes for blood glucose levels to increase or decrease. These include:
- Food time eaten, type and amount of carbohydrate for example: bread, pasta, cereals, vegetables, fruit and milk
- Exercise or physical activity
- Other medications
- Blood glucose checking techniques.
Contact your doctor or Credentialled Diabetes Educator if you notice that your blood glucose patters change or are consistently higher or lower than usual.
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Some Ways To Help You Prevent High Morning Readings
What should my blood sugar be when I wake up? It depends if you already have diabetes or not. However, you should also know what you could do to keep your blood sugar levels from rising in the morning. Here are few suggestions:
1. Manage Your Body Weight
If you are overweight, consider losing weight to make it easy to manage your blood sugar levels. It really helps when you have been recently diagnosed with type-2 diabetes. Weight loss usually helps regulate hormones and increase insulin sensitivity to lower your blood sugar levels. To lose weight, pay attention to your diet first avoid processed foods, eat veggies and fruits, and cut the intake of less-healthy foods. Cranking up your physical activity may also help.
2. Have a Bedtime Snack
Eating something before you go to sleep may help stabilize your blood sugar. Your snack should contain no more than 20g of carbs. This keeps your liver from producing excess glucose while you sleep. Some of the most impressive carb-friend snack options are low-fat yogurt, frozen grapes, small piece of fruit, a serving of fresh salsa and tortilla chips, and soybeans.
3. Have an Active Lifestyle
A Quick Tip
Too Many Prescriptions For Test Strips
Dr. Kevin Platt, who is in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan, led a team who looked at the insurance data of 370,740 people with type 2 diabetes. The researchers specifically assessed how these individuals had been filling test-strip prescriptions for blood sugar tests following the updated guidelines that the Endocrine Society and Society of General Internal Medicine issued in 2013.
These guidelines recommended that people with type 2 diabetes reduced the frequency of at-home blood sugar level tests.
In their analysis, the researchers only looked at people with diabetes who did not require insulin or take medication that increases hypoglycemia risk. However, they did include people who took no medicine for the regulation of blood sugar, as well as those who took medicine that did not require them to check their blood sugar levels frequently.
The researchers found that 86, 747 of filled three or more claims for test strips during the course of the year. They also noted that more than half of these individuals, equivalent to 51,820 people or 14 percent of the study population, were potentially using the supplies inappropriately.
Of these people, 32,773 individuals were taking agents not considered to be a risk for causing hypoglycemia and 19,047 had no claims for any antidiabetic medications, the authors write.
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Recommended Target Blood Glucose Level Ranges
The NICE recommended target blood glucose levels are stated below for adults with type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes and children with type 1 diabetes.
In addition, the International Diabetes Federations target ranges for people without diabetes is stated.
The table provides general guidance. An individual target set by your healthcare team is the one you should aim for.
*The non-diabetic figures are provided for information but are not part of NICE guidelines.
Measuring Blood Sugar Levels Throughout The Day
Should you be measuring blood sugar levels throughout the day? While its true that people with diabetes should measure their blood sugar at regular intervals, there are some distinctions regarding how often to test. This is dependent on whether you have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, and what medications you are taking.
The tables below summarize target blood sugar levels at different times of day, and how often you should be measuring your blood sugar dependent on factors such as what type of diabetes you have, how recently you were diagnosed, and what medications you take.
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What Is Diabetic Ketoacidosis
If you think you may have low blood sugar, check it even if you dont have symptoms.
When too many ketones are produced too fast, they can build up in your body and cause diabetic ketoacidosis, or DKA. DKA is very serious and can cause a coma or even death. Common symptoms of DKA include:
- Fast, deep breathing.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Stomach pain.
If you think you may have DKA, test your urine for ketones. Follow the test kit directions, checking the color of the test strip against the color chart in the kit to see your ketone level. If your ketones are high, . DKA requires treatment in a hospital.
DKA happens most in people with type 1 diabetes and is sometimes the first sign of type 1 in people who havent yet been diagnosed. People with type 2 diabetes can also develop DKA, but its less common.
Why Is It So Important To Check My Blood Levels
Regular checking and recording of your blood glucose level can reinforce your healthy lifestyle choices as well as inform you of your response to other choices and influences.
Importantly, blood glucose level pattern changes can alert you and your health care team to a possible need for a change in how your diabetes is being managed.
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When Should I Check My Blood Sugar More Frequently
- If your diabetes medicine changes
- If you begin taking other kinds of medicines
- If you change your diet
- If your exercise routine or activity level changes
- If your stress level increases
- If youre sick. When you are sick, even without eating, your sugar levels may run high, so testing is important.
Follow your doctors testing recommendations during this time. Continue testing more often until you have maintained your blood sugar goal values for at least 1 week. Or continue testing until your doctor advises you that more frequent testing is no longer necessary.
Diabetes Testing And Monitoring
If you have diabetes, blood glucose monitoring can help you keep your glucose levels within a target range by balancing food, exercise and insulin, reducing your chances of diabetes complications. A range of testing and monitoring equipment is available to help people manage their diabetes. Your doctor or diabetes nurse or educator can advise you on the most appropriate equipment for you and your situation.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners recommends that if you have type 2 diabetes and take oral medication only, you should talk to your doctor or specialist about the need to test your blood sugar levels at home, as most people in this situation do not need to do this type of monitoring. For further information, visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.
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Why Is Blood Sugar Checking Important
If you live with diabetes, a blood sugar check is paramount to good control. Without knowing your blood glucose numbers, you cannot appropriately dose insulin, treat a low blood sugar, eat a meal, or exercise with ease.
Think of a blood sugar check as a litmus test: the number isnt good or bad, it just gives a person with diabetes feedback on what they need to do next.
If a number is too high , its telling you to take some insulin or get some exercise, whereas if a number is too low, youll need to treat with sugar or some other form of glucose.
If your number is satisfactory, then you can proceed on with your day as planned.
Checking your blood sugar is also important to track long-term goals, like an hba1c test, and to see if youre reaching or even exceeding those goals.
Regularly checking your blood sugar also can give you feedback on whats working and whats not: maybe a particular food isnt working for your management goals, or a type of exercise, like yoga, has really helped to mellow out your blood sugar levels.
Its a good time to check in with yourself and calibrate your management to find what will work best for you, knowing that this can and will change over time.
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.
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How Do I Pay For These Tests And Supplies
Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance plans pay for the A1C test and some of the cost of supplies for checking your blood sugar. Check your plan or ask your health care team for help finding low cost or free supplies. Ask your health care team what to do if you run out of test strips. For more information about Medicare and diabetes, go to .
What Hba1c Do I Aim For
The goal for most people with diabetes will be in the 6.5-7 percent range however this may need to be higher for some people including children and the elderly. Your doctor or Credentialled Diabetes Educator can help you decide on a target that is both appropriate and realistic for your individual circumstances.
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Take Only Oral Medication That Can Cause Hypoglycemia:
- Shortly after fasting.
- Periodically at other times of day such as pre-meal or 1 hour post-meals, and the middle of the night.
These tips serve as guidelines to help you develop a solid diabetes management plan and do not replace personalized medical advice. Please consult with your doctor or other members of your diabetes care team on how often you should check your blood sugar each day.
Complications Of High And Low Blood Sugar Levels
If you dont get treatment, high blood sugar levels can lead to long-term complications, including:
Before checking your blood glucose levels, make sure that you have:
- a finger-stick device to prick your finger, such as a lancet
- an alcohol swab to sterilize the puncture site
- a blood glucose monitor
- a bandage if bleeding continues beyond a few drops
Also, depending on the type of test youre taking, you may need to adjust your meal schedule or time it around your meal, depending on your doctors instructions.
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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.
Fasting Plasma Glucose Test
A fasting plasma glucose test is taken after at least eight hours of fasting and is therefore usually taken in the morning.
The NICE guidelines regard a fasting plasma glucose result of 5.5 to 6.9 mmol/l as putting someone at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, particularly when accompanied by other risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
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How To Use A Blood Glucose Meter:
- After washing your hands, insert a test strip into your meter.
- Use your lancing device on the side of your fingertip to get a drop of blood.
- Touch and hold the edge of the test strip to the drop of blood and wait for the result.
- Your blood glucose level will appear on the meter’s display.
Note: All meters are slightly different, so always refer to your user’s manual for specific instructions.
What You Can Drink With Meals
Add a low-calorie, low-sugar drink or choose water. Proper hydration is essential to helping your body remove excess sugar.
Some drinks that are good for keeping your blood sugar level low include:
- Unsweetened tea
- Unsweetened coffee
- Sparkling water or club soda
- Flavored water or sparkling water without added sugar
- Diet soda or other diet drinks
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Why Should You Test Your Blood Sugar
When you have diabetes, your blood sugar levels dont always stay in an optimal range. Testing your blood sugar helps you understand how food, activity, and medicine affect your blood glucose, according to the American Diabetes Association. They suggest keeping a log, noting the date, time, and blood glucose level. You might also want to notate what you were doing or eating prior to testing your glucose levels.
Reducing The Use Of Unnecessary Care
Dr. Platt and team explain that once a person taking blood sugar medication has determined the dosage that works best for them, they no longer have to test their sugar levels on a daily basis.
However, the study findings indicate that even the people who did not need to take daily blood tests were still using an average of two test strips per day.
The researchers believe that people may keep on taking the tests to allow them to keep a log of their blood sugar levels and feel more in control of their condition.
However, they are spending a lot of money in doing so, whether it be on insurance plans or out of their own pocket in the absence of insurance.
The median claims cost for test strips was $325.54 per person per year in the case of people with an insurance plan, the researchers write, and the cost is likely to be even greater for those without insurance.
Healthcare costs and access to care are an important issue for many Americans, says Dr. A. Mark Fendrick, the studys senior author.
The savings that result from reducing the use of unnecessary care such as needless home blood sugar testing can create headroom to spend more on those clinical services that we need to buy more often.
Dr. A. Mark Fendrick
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