Checking your blood sugar level with a blood glucose meter (glucometer)
is one of the most important steps you can take in managing your diabetes.
Regular self-monitoring will give you the best chance of success.
The only way to know your blood sugar level is to test it. Some people say
that they can feel when it is high or low, but that type of guesswork is NOT
accurate. When you keep track of your blood sugar you will:
- Start to see patterns that will help you plan meals, activities, and what
time of day to take your medications.
- Learn how certain foods affect your glucose levels.
- See how exercise can improve your numbers.
- Provide your doctor with important information regarding the control of
your blood sugar.
How to test your blood
The traditional glucose meter comes with test strips, small needles called
lancets, and a logbook for recording your numbers. There are many different
kinds of these meters, but they all work essentially the same way. A complete
testing kit can be purchased from a pharmacy without a prescription. Your doctor
or nurse can help you choose the equipment that's right for you, help you set
it up, and teach you how to use it.
At first, some people worry and feel squeamish, but they quickly become comfortable
with it. You will do fine!
Glucose checks are often done 2 or 3 times a day but you should determine
the timing and frequency with your doctor or nurse. Often, blood sugars are
checked when you wake up and then 2 hours after a meal. Goals for blood glucose
levels are usually under 120 when fasting and under 140 two hours after a meal.
Your goals should be individualized for you.
Newer non-invasive glucose monitors are also becoming available. One of these
is worn like a watch and can provide readings as frequently as every 10 minutes
with no needle sticks. It can store thousands of readings in an electronic
diary. To date, these newer monitors are intended to supplement, not replace,
traditional glucose monitoring.
Your doctor will test your HbA1c
The individual readings you do at home using a glucometer give a sense of
your blood sugar at any given moment. They also track patterns when you keep
an accurate log. In addition to home testing, your doctor will want to get
a more precise sense of your blood sugars over time. To do this, he or she
will periodically check your hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c). This test evaluates the
average amount of sugar in your blood over the last 2 to 3 months.
Your HbA1c determines whether your blood sugar levels are under good or bad
control. Keeping blood sugars under good control can protect you from many
of the complications associated with diabetes. A reading under 7% is considered
reasonable control. For many people it is even better to aim for less than
6%. Ask your doctor about your level and target goal.
Review Date: 5/1/2006
Reviewed By: Alan Greene, M.D., F.A.A.P., Department of Pediatrics, Packard Children's Hospital, Stanford University School of Medicine; Chief Medical Officer, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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