Why monitor your blood sugar levels?
Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, monitoring blood sugar is an important part of your management regimen. Blood sugar monitoring provides a lot of useful information, as it can help you:
- Judge how well you’re reaching your blood sugar targets
- Know how diet and exercise affect your blood sugar levels
- Understand how other factors (for example, illness or stress) affect your blood sugar
- Monitor the effect of your diabetes medications on your blood sugar levels
- Identify “highs” (hyperglycemia) and “lows” (hypoglycemia)
How to check blood sugar levels?
Blood sugar levels are checked by using a blood glucose meter, which is available from any pharmacy. The meter uses a strip, which is inserted into the meter once you’ve placed a drop of blood on it; the blood should be taken from your finger using a lancet
How often should you check?
Your healthcare team can help you figure out how often you need to check your blood sugar levels. The frequency of testing depends on a number of factors, including:
- Whether your A1C and blood glucose levels are at target
- If you take medications or insulin to manage your diabetes
- How long you’ve had diabetes
- Whether you have any complications, or are at risk for complications
- Your overall general health, and whether you have other medical conditions (for example, high blood pressure or high cholesterol)
What are target blood sugar levels?
Keeping your blood sugar levels in their target range is important to help you live a healthy life and prevent or delay diabetes complications.
The target blood sugar range for most people with diabetes is:
- 4.0 to 7.0 mmol/L before eating a meal, and
- 5.0 to 10 mmol/L two hours after the start of a meal
Your “glycated hemoglobin” level (expressed as A1C) is also an important measure of your blood sugar levels. A1C is a blood test that is done in a laboratory with a sample of your blood. It is a measure of the level of glucose in the blood for the past 3 months.
The target A1C for most people with diabetes is 7.0% or lower.
Interpreting your blood sugar results
Once you have recorded the results of your blood sugar monitoring over a period of weeks or months, you and your healthcare team can review them to see if there are any consistent patterns of highs or lows. Some things that can affect your blood sugar levels include:
- The type and amount of food eaten. It is particularly important to take note of foods and drinks that contain carbohydrates.
- The speed with which the body digests food and creates blood glucose.
- The effect of physical activity on the body.
- The effect of stress on the body
- Medications – especially insulin and some oral medications
Once you have identified any patterns of high or low blood sugar levels, you and your healthcare team can make any lifestyle or medication changes needed in order to keep your blood sugar levels within target.
Overcoming barriers to blood sugar monitoring
Some people find it difficult to incorporate blood sugar monitoring into their daily or weekly routines. There are lots of reasons for this:
- If blood sugar readings are consistently high, it can be upsetting
- Monitoring seems pointless
- Finger pricks to get a drop of blood are uncomfortable
- Monitoring is inconvenient
Blood sugar monitoring is an important tool that can help you manage your diabetes effectively and prevent or delay complications.