4. Checking Blood Glucose

Checking your blood glucose (also called blood sugar) is important. You can use the results to make decisions about food, physical activity, and medication. These decisions can help you feel better day to day and delay or prevent diabetes complications such as heart attack, stroke, or blindness.

How do I check my blood glucose?

Many people use a blood glucose meter to check their blood glucose several times a day. A meter is a small device that tests a tiny drop of blood and then displays your blood glucose level at that moment. A lancet is a device used to prick the skin to get the drop of blood.

What are the blood glucose targets for people with diabetes?

The general targets recommended by the American Diabetes Association are listed below. Talk with your health care team about whether these targets are right for you.

ADA targets:

  • When you wake up and before meals: 80 to 130 mg/dL
  • 2 hours after starting a meal: below 180 mg/dL

When are the best times of day to check blood glucose?

Many people check blood glucose first thing in the morning before they eat (called “fasting”) as well as before other meals. You also may want to check after meals (called “postprandial”) when your blood glucose is likely to be higher.

Other times to check include:

  • When you’re having symptoms of high or low blood glucose
  • When you’re ill, especially if you’re vomiting or suffering from dehydration
  • Before, during, and after physical activity
  • Before you drive
  • Before you go to sleep

How often do I need to check?

If you’re using your blood glucose results to decide how much insulin to take, you’ll need to check several times a day. You will probably need to check more often if you’re pregnant or you make changes to your medications, activity, or meal plan. Talk it over with your doctor.

More recent technology has lead to continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) that check your blood glucose at regular intervals. These work by using a sensor attached to the skin. This sensor uses a transmitter to send your blood glucose levels to a receiver, which tracks if your levels are trending up or down. This gives you a more complete look at how your blood glucose levels are changing throughout the day and night.

Can I get a blood sample without sticking my finger?

Some glucose meters can check blood samples from areas other than the fingertips. This can be the fleshy parts of the hand, the forearm, the outer thigh, the calf, or the abdomen.

Sometimes, to get the most accurate results, experts recommend that you use your fingertips instead of these other sites.

These times include when:

  • Your blood glucose is low or likely to be low
  • You have trouble realizing that your blood glucose is low
  • It’s’s less than two hours after starting a meal
  • You’ve been physically active If you’re seeking ways to keep your fingertips from getting sore, or you can’t get blood from alternative sites, talk with your doctor about different types of lancets or other techniques that can help.

How can I make sure that my meter provides accurate results?

Follow your meter’s instructions for the most accurate results. This includes:

  • Keeping your meter clean
  • Making sure your test strips haven’t passed their expiration date
  • Storing your strips as recommended
  • Coding (setting up) your meter for your strips if necessary and using the control solution as recommended
  • Making sure your blood sample is big enough If your meter isn’t working at all, it may need new batteries. Check the back of your meter for the meter manufacturer’s phone number in case questions arise.

Once a year, talk with your doctor or diabetes educator about how you use your meter.

Content courtesy of the American Diabetes Association.

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