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.

 

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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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