In this post I will answer some of the most frequently questions I get asked by my diabetes patients when it comes to blood sugar testing: Why is testing your blood sugar so important? Which glucose meter should I choose? When should I measure my blood sugar, and how can I rely on the blood glucose readings?
Written by diabetes coach Hildegunn Fossheim
20-25 years ago few people owned a glucose meter. Blood sugar testing have been a privilege for us in the western world the last decades, and one that has contributed to a significant reduction of complications related to diabetes. The most common explanation for this is that by testing you can correct the blood sugar levels before it gets too high, which will help you achieve a lower HbA1c value.
The obvious answer to why it is so important to monitor your blood sugar is that the self-testing gives better insight and control of your diabetes, which in turn leads to a decreased risk of developing complications. With regular blood glucose monitoring you can also reduce the risk of hypos. In other words, blood glucose monitoring is an important tool to make you confident in your own diabetes, and it provides safety in everyday life both for you with diabetes and your loved ones.
Putting it bluntly, why should you monitor your blood sugar levels?
- To better understand and be able to manage your diabetes
- To judge how well you’re reaching your overall treatment goals
- To get the right insulin dose
- To avoid hypoglycemia
- For increased safety for both you and your family
- For healthcare professional to better understand your diabetes, and be able to help you better
Which glucose meter should you choose?
Many find that the result you get will vary, despite reliable equipment and good management. This is normal. The most important thing is to continue to use to the same meter to the possible extent. Here are some questions you will need to consider when selecting a glucose meter:
- How much blood do you need to measure?
- Which technical features do you want?
- Does the provider offer other additional features related to the meter that you can profit from?
- Do you want a meter with integrated strips?
- The size of your blood sample?
- Possible alternatives for site testing? (Note: fingerstick testing is still the most accurate reflection of sugar levels in the blood stream.)
When should you measure your blood sugar?
You should only measure your glucose levels when you plan to use the value to something- what you measure should always have a purpose. The value you get out of the testing should be a starting point for your next move. There may be several factors to why you are using your glucose value:
- To know your value every morning so you have starting point for the rest of the day
- Before a meal – for proper meal dosing
- After a meal – if you need to make sure the meal dose was right
- Before you go to bed
- If you engage in activities that requires your full attention and coordination, such as driving
- When you think your blood sugar may be low
- When you have symptoms of high blood sugar (feeling extra thirsty or tired)
When should you measure your blood sugar more often?
Certain conditions may affect blood sugar levels and lead to an increased need to measure your blood sugar more often
- Before exercising – many measure sugar levels both a couple of hours before exercising and frequently right before exercising. It can also be useful to measure your sugar levels during the exercise and right after your exercise.
- When recently you have had a hypo
- If your average blood sugar levels have been high for a longer period
- If you change your daily routine, which includes everything from trying out new food, when you are sick, stressed, traveling or changing medications.
- When you drink alcohol. Alcohol increases the risk of hypo (low blood sugar), and may also mask the symptoms of hypo.
- During pregnancy
Sources of error – why?
Occasionally you will get an incorrect blood sugar result on your meter. This inconsistency can be caused by several reasons. To be able rely on the measurements it is important that the testing of your blood sugar is done properly:
- Always wash your hands
- Do not use strips exposed to extreme cold, extreme heat or moisture.
- Re-calibrate your meter each time you open a new canister of strips
- Take a new sample each time you’re testing. Some patients use old pricks – this will give incorrect answers and may cause skin infections.