What You Should Know About Checking Your Blood Sugar
Keeping your blood sugar at the right level is a very important part of managing your diabetes. It is the best way to help you stay healthy and reduce the risk of long-term complications of diabetes.
Blood sugar is also called blood glucose. Sometimes your blood glucose may be too high or too low. This can happen for many different reasons. It is important for you to know when your blood glucose is too high or too low and what to do about it.
There are two blood tests that help you manage your diabetes. One of these is called self-monitoring of blood glucose (SMBG) when you check your blood sugar several times each day with a glucose meter. The other test is called an A1c which measures your blood sugar control over the past two to three months.
Self-Monitoring of Blood Glucose (SMBG)
Most people check their blood sugar two - four times per day. The American Diabetes Association recommends that blood sugar for most people should be:
- Between 80 mg/dl and 120 mg/dl before breakfast
- Between 90 mg/dl and 130 mg/dl before other meals
- Less than 180 one - two hours after a meal
Your medical provider may have different guidelines for you.
Most people have an A1c test done 2-4 times per year. The American Diabetes Association recommends that the A1c for people in general should be less than 7%. The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists recommends that A1c be less than 6.5%. The goal for each individual should be as close to normal (less than 6%) as possible without hypoglycemia.
Each person with diabetes is different. Work with your medical provider to determine:
- your specific blood sugar goals.
- what times to check your blood sugar (usually before or two hours after a meal).
- how many times to check your blood sugar each day.
Checking urine for sugar is no longer considered to be accurate.
What To Do
Once you know when and how often to check blood sugars, you need to get a blood glucose meter. Meters can be purchased at most pharmacies. There are many different kinds of meters. Your medical provider will help you choose the best one for you. Most insurance plans will pay for your meter and the necessary supplies if you have a prescription from your medical provider.
To check your blood sugar you must prick your skin to get a drop of blood. Your medical provider can teach you how to use your meter.
How often should you check your blood sugar?
Blood sugar is usually measured two to four times a day, either before meals or two hours after meals and at bedtime.
Reasons to check your blood sugar more often
- If you have symptoms of low blood sugar (Hypoglycemia).
- If you have symptoms of high blood sugar (Hyperglycemia).
- To learn how meals, medicine and physical activity affect your blood sugar.
- If your diabetes medicine changes.
- If you begin taking other kinds of medicine.
- If your exercise or activity level changes.
- If you are sick or have increased stress.
Figuring out what the numbers mean
The results you get when you check your blood sugar can help you make adjustments to insulin, food intake, and level of physical activity.
Some people are very skilled at making their own adjustments; others need more help.
Bring your log book or recording sheet and your meter to each medical appointment. Your medical provider will help you figure out if you need to make some adjustments in your daily routine.
It is important to remember that the blood glucose meter is a tool to help you manage your diabetes. If your reading shows a number higher than your goal it may mean you have eaten too much, had less activity than usual or didn’t take quite enough insulin. It does not mean that you are bad. It simply means that you need to make some changes.
A blood glucose meter is like a speedometer in a car. They both help to keep numbers - blood glucose or driving speed - in a safe range! A lancet (also called a lancing devise) is used to prick your skin to get a drop of blood. Using a lancing devise can make pricking your finger easier.
When using a finger
- Wash hands with soap and warm water.
- If you have trouble getting a drop of blood, massage the finger gently and hold it below the waist before sticking your finger.
- Stick the side of the finger. It hurts less than the fingertip.
- The finger can be squeezed gently to increase the size of the drop of blood.
- Alternate fingers and sides of fingers.
Some blood glucose meters can be used on places other than the fingers. Make sure to rub the area until it feels warm before sticking.
CAUTION. You should only use a finger to check for low blood sugar. Low blood
sugar registers more quickly there than on the arm. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids every day. Being well hydrated makes testing your blood sugar easier.
Each kind of meter is different. Ask your diabetes educator or medical provider to teach you how to use your meter. You can also check the instructions that come with the meter for questions. Most meters have an 800 number to call if you have questions.
You should place
- Other sharp objects
in a hard-plastic opaque container with a screw-on or tightly secured lid, for example, a detergent bottle.
Before discarding the container, be sure to reinforce the lid with heavy-duty tape. This container goes into your regular household trash. You may even want to label the container: “NOT FOR RECYCLING.”
“I couldn’t imagine sticking my own finger, but the nurse showed me how. It’s not so bad. The important thing is to prevent the really bad things that diabetes can cause if you don’t keep a close watch on that blood sugar.
“I have a lot of years ahead. It’s up to me whether I turn into a sick old woman or I live an active and full life. That’s an easy choice!
“The hardest times to keep up with my testing schedule are when I’m away from home. I just have to go into a bathroom and get it done. Nobody’s perfect. When I get off my schedule, I just pull myself back on track and keep going.”
This guide is not a substitute for the judgment of trained professionals. If you are a person with diabetes you should seek care from a qualified practitioner.