Keeping an eye on your blood sugar level on a regular basis is the most critical factor you should never ignore while managing diabetes. So, learn how to monitor your blood sugar with these easy tips.
Diabetes is known to be a silent killer as it often does not cause any evident symptoms until one day the patient develops serious life-threatening complications. This marks the importance of monitoring blood sugar levels regularly.
Monitoring your blood sugar will help you know when it is higher or lower than the normal range. This will allow you to seek appropriate treatment in time to prevent complications.
If you are diagnosed with diabetes or one of your loved ones, read on to learn more about why and how to monitor blood sugar levels.
Why Should You Monitor Your Blood Sugar?
As mentioned before, diabetes is a silent killer that can affect men and women, old and young, and rich and poor. According to a report published in the International Diabetes Federation, nearly 1 in 11 adults suffers from diabetes across the world and 1 person dies due to this condition every 6 seconds.
Maintaining good blood glucose control is key to prolonging your life span. Keeping blood sugar levels within the recommended blood glucose level ranges will help to offset the likelihood of complications and therefore increase life expectancy. Read more here about the Joslin Lifetime Achievement Award.
Persistent elevated blood sugar levels may put you at risk of developing long-term complications like retinopathy, neuralgias, cataracts, and diabetic nephropathy. You can read more about how to prevent diabetic retinopathy here.
Uncontrolled diabetes can also increase your risk of life-threatening complications like stroke and heart attacks without you being aware of the damage caused to your vital organs due to the abnormal blood sugar levels.
It is not only the increase in your blood sugar level that you need to worry about. Patients with diabetes can also develop severe hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia refers to a condition caused due to a sudden drop in the blood sugar level due to which the patient may lose consciousness and even slip into a hypoglycemic coma.
Healthcare experts have revealed that hypoglycemia usually occurs due to larger than required doses of insulin or other diabetic drugs or even skipping meals after taking these medications.
Hence, diabetic patients need to be vigilant about their blood sugar levels and make effort to monitor their diabetic control on a regular basis.
Checking your blood sugar levels will allow you to get a better idea of your glycemic control. This information will help you analyze the factors that could be responsible for causing your blood sugar levels to go up or down.
With this information, you will be able to work with your healthcare team to make the right decision about the best diabetes care plan for yourself.
Self-monitoring of blood sugar
According to the research published in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, self-monitoring of blood sugar can help to prevent or delay diabetic complications like cataracts, retinopathy, heart attacks, stroke, blindness, kidney diseases, and amputation.
Regular blood sugar testing can provide useful information to you for improving your diabetes management plan by:
- Monitoring the effects of diabetes medications you are using on your blood sugar levels
- Identifying too high or too low blood glucose levels
- Tracking your progress for reaching your treatment goal
- Assessing how your diet and exercises are affecting your blood sugar levels
- Understanding how factors, like illness or mental stress, are affecting your blood sugar levels
If you have realized the importance of monitoring your blood sugar levels, let us move further to learn the right ways to check blood sugar and its recommended range for maintaining optimal glycemic control.
What Is The Recommended Target Blood Sugar Range?
The ADA (American Diabetes Association) has recommended the following range of blood sugar level that patients with diabetes should ideally maintain:
- Your fasting blood sugar to be tested in the morning before breakfast or before meals should be within a range of 80 to 130 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) or 4.4 to 7.2 mmol/L (millimoles per liter)
- Your postprandial (post-lunch) blood sugar tested about 2 hours after meals should be less than 180 mg/dL or 10.0 mmol/L
However, the ADA notes that the goal for diabetic control may vary for each patient depending on a combination of factors related to the patient’s health and hence, should be individualized.
This means the target blood sugar range for each person depends on several factors like his or her age and general health.
You can ask your doctor the blood sugar range that could be normal or reasonable for you to attain and maintain. Your doctor will be able to set the most appropriate target blood sugar level for you based on factors, such as:
- The type and severity of your diabetes
- How long you have had diabetes
- Pre-existing diseases like hypertension, high cholesterol, or obesity
- The presence of diabetic complications
- Pregnancy status
- Your overall health
Generally, healthy adults below 60 years of age can aim for a slightly lower blood sugar target. Also, some people may need a slightly higher blood sugar target, including those who:
- Are above 60 of age
- Suffer from other medical conditions, like heart, kidney, or lung diseases
- Have developed hypoglycemia unawareness that reduces the ability of the body to sense a drop in the blood sugar level
Blood Sugar Levels and Your Medications
Regular monitoring of your blood sugar level will help you assess whether your diabetes is well controlled or not. It will also give you an idea of the effectiveness of the medication you are using.
It should be noted that not all anti-diabetic drugs have the same effectiveness in all patients. Some patients are able to achieve good glycemic control with certain anti-diabetic drugs while the same medications may fail to produce favorable results in other patients.
Hence, it is important to check your blood sugar level regularly in the initial few weeks to months of starting the treatment for diabetes. This will allow you to detect an increase or decrease in your blood sugar levels. The unfavorable response to the medications will help your physician change the treatment plan by modifying the dosages or the drugs. The process will have to be continued until your blood sugar levels are stabilized.
Similarly, it is also important to check your blood sugar levels frequently at any time later when you change your medications or their dosages.
How to Test Your Blood Sugar?
There are several ways to montior your blood sugar. You can test your blood sugar levels by visiting a laboratory near your home. You can also check your blood sugar level at home using a glucometer.
A glucometer, also called a blood sugar meter or blood glucose meter, is a small device designed to help patients check their blood sugar levels at home through simple and easy-to-follow steps. You can read about saliva-based glucose tests here.
Read on to learn how to test your blood sugar levels at home using a glucometer.
Keep your meter and supplies with you
Before checking your blood sugar levels, make sure you have a blood glucose meter and other supplies with you such as:
- A blood glucose monitor
- A finger-stick device such as a lancet for pricking your finger
- An alcohol swab to clean and sterilize the site of puncture
- A bandage in case bleeding persists beyond a few drops
Depending on the type of blood sugar test you want to perform, whether fasting or post-lunch, you will have to adjust your meal schedule accordingly.
For example; if you plan to check your fasting blood sugar in the morning, have your dinner at least 10 hours before the intended time of your breakfast or the test. So, if you usually have breakfast at 6 am, have dinner at around 8 pm the earlier night so that you can check your fasting blood glucose in the morning before breakfast.
Similarly, you can check your post-lunch blood sugar after about 2 hours of having lunch.
Monitor Your Testing Strips
Your blood sugar meter and the testing strips need to be used and maintained in a proper manner.
Here are some tips that will help you ensure proper usage of your blood sugar testing device and strips:
- Always check the user’s guide of your blood glucose meter for the instructions as the procedure may vary among different devices
- Use a blood sample size as directed in the user’s guide
- Use the test strips that are designed for or compatible with your glucometer
- Do not use expired strips
- Store the test strips in the recommended manner
- Clean the device routinely and run quality-control checks
For more information about the diabetes test strips and whether they expire, read our recent blog here.
Create a Routine For Testing Your Blood Sugar
Creating a routine is the key to ensure you are able to assess the change in your blood sugar level in an efficient manner.
The blood sugar levels tend to fluctuate throughout the day. You may get incorrect results if you check your blood sugar at different times of the day even though you have excellent glycemic control. Hence, it is best to set a fixed time of the day to test your blood sugar.
For example; you may test your fasting blood sugar at the same time, say 6 am, every morning and your post-lunch sugar at around 2 pm.
This will give you a better idea of how well your diabetes is controlled and allow you to seek appropriate treatment in case the results show very low or very high levels.
Don’t Assume Your Blood Sugar Metre is Correct
It is quite common for diabetic patients to simply assume that their blood sugar meter is working fine and showing the correct results.
However, it is possible for your blood glucose meter to show wrong results, especially if it has become worn out due to excessive usage or rough handling.
You may also get an incorrect reading if you do not follow the right method of testing your blood sugar. Using expired strips or the strips that are not designed to be used with your glucometer can also give wrong results.
You can check that your glucose meter is working properly by comparing the results with that of the laboratory testing.
This means you can test your blood sugar at a laboratory once in three months or so and then, compare the results of this test with that of home testing. If the results are similar or have a minimal difference, you can assume your device is working perfectly.
Log Your Blood Sugar
Most blood glucose meters have a feature that allows patients to save the results using an app on the smartphone. If you do not have a smartphone, you can maintain a written record of your blood sugar levels to monitor your glycemic control.
Take Steps to Prevent Infection
It is important to take proper hygienic precautions while testing your blood sugar at home. You can clear and sterilize the tip of the finger with an alcohol swab to protect yourself against the risk of infections.
How to Use a Blood Sugar Meter
There are different types of blood sugar meters most of which work in a similar manner. You can read the instructions on the user’s manual to learn the right way of using your glucometer. You can also ask your healthcare team to demonstrate how to use the device.
Here is a step-by-step method to check your blood sugar using a glucometer:
- Make sure the meter is clean and ready to use.
- Remove one test strip and close the container immediately as test strips can get damaged due to the exposure to moisture.
- Wash your hands with soap and water and dry well.
- Massage your hand to improve blood flow into your finger.
- Clean the tip of the finger you plan to prick with an alcohol swab.
- Prick your finger using a lancet.
- Gently place a drop of blood onto the test part of the strip by gently squeezing from the base of the finger.
- Place the strip into the recommended slot of the meter. The reading will appear after a few seconds.
- Track and record the results.
- Add notes about what might have caused the reading to be out of the target range, such as your foods or activities.
- Dispose of the strip and lancet properly in a trash container.
Never share your blood sugar monitoring equipment, like lancets, with anyone, including your family members.
Store the test strips in the container provided and make sure they are not exposed to extreme heat, moisture, or cold temperatures. You can read here what happens when you use expired diabetes test strips.
How to Monitor Blood Sugar With Type 1 Diabetes?
You should check your blood sugar at home on a regular basis. The test can be performed more frequently when you have just initiated the therapy or changed the medication.
You can continue checking your blood sugar at least twice or thrice a week until adequate glycemic control is achieved with the new therapy. Thereafter, you may test your blood sugar once or twice a month. This should in any case follow the instructions of your doctor.
Should You Monitor Your Blood Sugar At Home?
Yes, it is important to monitor your blood sugar at home as it allows you to detect when the levels increase or decrease thus preventing serious complications. Always follow the instructions of your physician and counsel with them when you are in doubt.
How the RetinaRisk App Can Help You Monitor Your Blood Sugar
The RetinaRisk App calculates your risk of sight-threatening diabetic eye disease. It displays in a user-friendly way (red, amber, green) each patient’s risk and vividly demonstrates how lowering blood sugar and blood pressure can significantly lower the risk of sight-threatening eye disease. It motivates people with diabetes towards enhanced diabetes control and to become more active participants in their own wellness journey. Your eyesight is your biggest asset!
When Should You Contact a Doctor?
Contact your doctor if you develop the symptoms of increased or decreased blood sugar level. You should also seek your doctor’s advice when your blood sugar reports show very high or low results. If you have any discomfort or other symptoms it is always best to consult with your healthcare professional. An ounce of prevention is worth a ton of care!
Make sure to monitor your blood sugar levels on a regular basis to ensure optimum control of your diabetes. It can help you know how well your treatment plan is working and allow you to change your medications, when needed, thus improving your diabetes control. Good monitoring means good control on diabetes and a longer and happier life.