Importance of Monitoring Blood Glucose and Choosing the Right Meter

The importance of monitoring blood glucose cannot be over stated. When you are diagnosed with diabetes, testing your blood glucose levels is the primary tool for diabetes self management.  Knowing blood glucose levels gives you the confidence that your levels are within the right limits, or it lets you know when to take action if your blood sugar is too high or too low.

Blood Glucose Target Range

It is estimated that 195 million people around the world have either type 1 or type 2 diabetes.[1] By the year 2030 this figure is expected to have grown to 330 million.[2] With numbers so high it is more important than ever that diabetics be able to self monitor their disease and become knowledgeable advocates for good health.

If you have diabetes you are the one in control. You must be the one to take prompt action when blood sugar levels are too high or too low. Therefore, you must know your target range and how and when to act when blood glucose levels are not within target. When you are first diagnosed with diabetes, your doctor will work with you to set a target range for your blood glucose levels. Ranges vary from person to person for a variety of reasons including weight, age, health conditions and other factors. However, following is a chart with basic target blood glucose levels:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*fasting means going without food for at least eight hours to achieve a fasting blood glucose level

Testing Times: When to Test Blood Glucose Levels

The doctor will discuss blood glucose testing methods with you as you learn to self manage your diabetes. How often you test your blood glucose levels is dependent upon a variety of factors such as whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes and how well you are managing your disease.[3]

Testing for Type 1 Diabetes: If you are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes you may be asked to test your blood glucose levels three to four times a day. Your doctor might recommend checking your levels before and after you eat, before and after you exercise, and before you go to sleep. If you become sick or your routine changes you may find that you need to check your blood glucose levels more often.

Testing for Type 2 Diabetes: If you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes you are most likely taking insulin to manage your disease. Testing is extremely important to ensure the insulin doses you are receiving are correct. You may be instructed to test your blood glucose levels up to three times  day based on the amount of insulin you are prescribed.

How to Test for Blood Glucose Levels

In order to test your blood glucose levels you will need a special monitor. New technology has developed many different types of monitors. The newest designs are small and compact making them very easy to carry in a purse or in a pocket. In the past, diabetes testing monitors were large and bulky. Other improvements in today’s monitors include the ability to track your results every time you take a blood glucose test and the ability to recognize trends over time. Often, you will be able to download these results for your doctor to see and evaluate. You can discuss the best type of monitor for your particular needs with your health care team. In addition, you can ask friends or support group members which monitors work the best for them and why.

Diabetics used to dread actually taking the glucose test because it requires drawing blood. The good news is that, in addition to making blood glucose monitors more user friendly they have also made it almost impossible to feel the ‘pricks’ when you test your finger for blood. The proper way to test for blood glucose is as follows:

  • Wash hands with anti-bacterial soap
  • Get a fresh test strip from the monitor’s container, (replace the cap as soon as you remove the strip to keep the other strips fresh)
  • Place the test strip in the meter
  • Lay the lancet on the finger you will be testing, (it is more comfortable to test on the side of your finger – not the top- so you will not have soreness at the tips of your fingers)
  • Massage the area to encourage a drop of blood to form and touch the test strip to the blood, (make sure your skin does not touch the test strip when you touch the blood)
  • The monitor will quickly give you a reading of your blood glucose levels

Recording Results

Most of today’s blood glucose monitors have the ability to record your results and keep track of them over time. You may also want to keep a journal of your blood glucose test results. Your journal should include the day, the time, and the results of the test. You can also note any other factors that might affect your results such as medications, exercise, foods, and stressors.

Keeping a blood glucose journal lets you see how well you are managing your diabetes. With your self managing program, you should be noting nutrition, exercise, stressors, and blood glucose levels. If your blood sugar levels are too high or too low for several days you can look back over your journals and see if there are things going on in your life that are causing problems. Have you changed your diet? Did you stop exercising because of the cold weather? Are you experiencing stress at work? All of these things can cause changes to your blood sugar levels. The goal of self management is learning to accept that these problems will arise and being able to compensate for them so they do not cause problems in your blood sugar levels.

The future of blood glucose testing is exciting. Researchers are now exploring ways to test blood glucose levels through non-invasive methods, such as tears.[4] No matter what new technology is developed, the importance of monitoring blood glucose will always remain critical and a priority in the self management of the disease.

References

[1] Gavin, J. (2007). The Importance of Monitoring Blood Glucose. US Endoctrine Disease , 1-4.

[2] Ibid

[3]  Continuous Glucose Monitoring. (n.d.). Retrieved from National diabetes Information Clearinghouse: http://fnic.nal.usda.gov/nal_display/index.php?info_center=4&tax_level=2&tax_subject=278&topic_id=1382

[4]  Collier, R. (2010). Rosy Outlook for People With Diabetes. Canadian Medical Association Journal , 428.

This article was originally published July 12, 2012 and last revision and update of it was 9/10/2015.