If you have diabetes, it’s important to check your glucose (blood sugar) regularly. Glucose is the body’s main source of energy, and if it gets too high or too low, it can cause serious health problems. Checking your glucose levels helps you keep them in a healthy range – but how do you know when they’re out of whack? In this article, we’ll cover why checking your glucose is so important and how best to do it at home. We’ll also look at some simple ways to keep your glucose levels stable day-to-day (and long-term).
Why checking your blood sugar is important
Monitoring your glucose is an important tool used to:
• See how well your treatment plan is working
• Help you make decisions about your diabetes management
• Assess what affects your diabetes, such as food, medications, activity, stress, sick days, changes in hormones (monthly periods, pregnancy, sleep patterns), alcohol or significant changes in weight.
Best time to check your blood sugar
Checking glucose at different times of the day is helpful to see how well-controlled your diabetes is
throughout the day. This will also help look for glucose patterns or trends. Ask your provider how often
and at what time of day you should check your glucose. Everyone’s plan will be based on their unique
Times to consider checking your glucose include:
• First thing in the morning before eating any food
• Before meals
• Before bed
• Two hours after eating a meal
• Before and after exercise
• Before driving
• When not feeling well, having symptoms of high or low glucose or when ill (cold, flu, etc.)
Always bring your glucose meter with you to all diabetes appointments, including when
you see your doctor, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, diabetes care and education specialist or
registered dietitian. I cannot stress this hard enough. The pet peeve of most endocrinologists is a diabetic patient who repeatedly forgets to bring his glucometer to the appointment or refuses to check their blood sugars.
What are my blood sugar goals?
For most patients with diabetes, your fasting blood sugar (before you eat) should be 80-130 mg/dL. Blood sugar two hours after a meal should be less than or equal to 180 mg/dL. For pregnant patients, fasting blood sugar goal is less than or equal to 95 mg/dL. Pregnant women are expected to have a blood sugar less than or equal to 120 mg/dL, two hours after a meal.
Conditions associated with changes in blood glucose
|Increases blood glucose||Decreases blood glucose|
|Stress||Difficulty with digestion (including gastroparesis)|
|Infection||Increased physical activity|
|Inadequate doses of diabetes drugs||Excessively high doses of diabetes drugs|
|Changes in hormones (pregnancy or monthly periods)||Weight loss|
|Extra snacks||Skipping a planned meal|
What are some easy ways to keep my glucose in a healthy range?
There are many simple things you can do to keep your glucose levels in a healthy range.
- Eat healthy foods. Avoid junk food, processed foods and other unhealthy options that contain a lot of fat, sugar and sodium. Instead, try to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains like brown rice or whole wheat breads.
- Get enough sleep every night. Your body’s ability to keep your glucose levels in check is compromised if you don’t get adequate sleep at night time because this can lead to an increase in stress hormones that impact blood glucose levels negatively by increasing insulin resistance (a form of diabetes). If you work overnight shifts or have trouble falling asleep at night due to external factors such as loud noises then consider using ear plugs or turning up the volume on white noise machines until it’s loud enough that it drowns out external noises so they won’t disturb your slumber!
- Exercise regularly with moderate intensity exercises such as walking briskly for 30 minutes per day on most days (or longer/faster if desired).
What should I do if my glucose isn’t at a healthy level?
If your glucose levels are not within a healthy range, it is important that you talk to your doctor about how to control them. Your doctor may refer you to a dietitian if necessary or suggest changes in your treatment.
How to check your blood sugar with a blood glucose meter
Gather the following supplies: glucose meter, test strips,
lancet, lancing device, and glucose logbook.
• Wash your hands with soap and water, and dry with a clean towel.
• Load a new lancet into the lancing device.
• Place a test strip into the meter. Make sure the strips are not out of
date, they are the correct strips for your meter and the meter is
coded to match the strips, if applicable.
• Obtain your blood sample, and apply the blood on the test strip
according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
• Record your results in your glucose log.
• Dispose of the lancets according to your local and state medical waste guidelines.
• If you need more help, refer to your owner’s manual or contact the meter’s toll-free customer service
number. This telephone number can usually be found on the back of the meter. A representative is
typically available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
• Checking your glucose at another location on your body, called alternate site testing, is an option when
your glucose levels are steady, such as before a meal and two hours after a meal. Glucose levels are
expected to change quickly in certain situations, so alternate site testing is not advised:
• When glucose levels are rising quickly, such as within the two hours after a meal or when you are sick
• When glucose levels are falling quickly, such as when insulin reaches its “peak” activity (rapid-, short and intermediate-acting insulins only), after exercise and during a hypoglycemic (low glucose) event.
What is a glucose log?
A glucose log is a way to keep track of your glucose to see if you can find patterns. Examples of a glucose log include:
• Logbook – a small book that comes with your meter.
• Glucose log sheet – a single sheet of paper that can be faxed or mailed to your provider
• Downloaded logbook – a way of downloading your glucose results from your meter to your computer.
• Phone app logs – some meters link to phone apps that display your numbers.
How is diabetes diagnosed?
The following tests can diagnose diabetes. If any of these test results are abnormal, testing should be
repeated on a different day to confirm the diagnosis.
|BLOOD TEST||WITHOUT DIABETES||PREDIABETES||WITH DIABETES|
|Fasting glucose||Less than 100 mg/dL||100-125 mg/dL||126 mg/dL or greater|
|Oral glucose tolerance test||Less than 140 mg/dL after 2 hrs.||140-199 mg/dL after 2 hrs.||200 mg/dL or greater after 2 hrs.|
|Random glucose||Less than 140 mg/dL||140-199 mg/dL||200 mg/dL or greater|
|Hemoglobin A1C||Less than 5.7%||5.7%-6.4%||6.5% or greater|
Here’s the takeaway:
- If you have diabetes, check your glucose regularly. It’s an important part of managing your condition, and it can help you maintain healthy blood sugar levels as well as avoid serious complications.
- The American Diabetes Association recommends checking your glucose 3 times a day if you are on insulin therapy; at least once a week if you are not on insulin therapy.
This was first published on January 24, 2022 and Last Updated on March 16, 2023 by MyEndoConsult