Testing Your Blood Sugar
If you want to manage your diabetes, you need to test your blood sugar (glucose). You can't know if what you're doing is working if you don't see the effects. You and your healthcare team can't make good decisions about what to do next. Regular blood sugar testing can help you:
- Understand how food, exercise, illness, and other factors impact your blood sugar levels.
- Improve your blood sugar management by applying what you have learned to your diabetes care plan.
- Track how well your diabetes care plan is working and make informed treatment decisions with your healthcare team.
Keeping blood sugars in range
There are two good ways to find out how well your diabetes is being managed. You should do both.
1. Test your blood sugar.
- An important first step in monitoring your blood sugar is learning how to sample your blood. This includes using a new lancet, varying the location of the lancing site, and cleaning the site. A variety of lancing devices are available that can minimize the pain and damage that can come from frequently drawing a drop of blood.
- Work with your doctor or diabetes educator to learn how to use one of the many types of lancing devices and blood glucose meters that are available for personal use.
- Ask your doctor or diabetes educator what your testing schedule should be. You may be asked to test before and after meals and at bedtime.
- Keep track of your results in a diary and take it with you for your office visits so your doctor can check for any trends.
2. Have an A1C
- This test is done by a healthcare provider and can give a clearer picture of how well your diabetes is being managed. It shows your "average" blood sugar level over a 2–3 month period.
- How often you will need an A1C test depends on your treatment and how well your diabetes is being managed. Work with your doctor to determine your testing schedule
- The American Diabetes Association recommends that your A1C be less than 7% (for patients in general1). Your healthcare team will set the target that is right for you.
Who should check?
Experts feel that anyone with diabetes can benefit from checking their blood sugar. The American Diabetes Association recommends blood sugar checks if you have diabetes and are:
- taking insulin or diabetes pills
- on intensive insulin therapy
- having a hard time managing your blood sugar levels
- having severe low blood sugar levels or ketones from high blood sugar levels
- having low blood sugar levels without the usual warning signs
Using a blood glucose meter
Blood glucose meters are small computerized devices that "read" your blood sugar. In all types of meters, your blood sugar level shows up as a number on a screen. Be sure a member of your healthcare team shows you the correct way to use your meter.
There are many meters to choose from. Some meters are made for those with poor eyesight. Others come with memory so you can store your results in the meter itself. Be sure to ask what meter your healthcare team suggests. They may have meters that they use often and know best.
1. American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes—2011. Diabetes Care. 2011;34(suppl 1):S11-S61.