Why and How to Track Diabetes Health
Most people who have diabetes track their blood sugar levels. Many of us also track our weight, what we eat, and our exercise. But not many of us do anything useful with these numbers.
If we want to improve them, just writing them down and studying them will get us part of the way there. That’s because of the observer effect, where simply observing something can change what we do.
But only when we act in response to our health tracking, does it begin to be worth the effort. Unfortunately, those diabetes patients who don’t use insulin tend to waste their time and money when they test their blood sugar, according to research by the Cochrane Collaboration, the most respected group that reviews scientific studies. I wrote about that study and linked to it in my post titled, “The Trouble with Glucose Testing.” The problem is that our medical professionals often don’t teach us what our blood sugar levels should be and how to achieve them.
Fully 69 percent of U.S. adults told the Pew Research Center that they track health indicators such as weight, diet, exercise, or blood sugar. But 44 percent say that they track their progress only in their heads.
This clearly points to the first step we need to take when we track our diabetes health. We need to record our numbers. A paper log works well for many people, and that is what I have used most often. But we now have many sophisticated apps and health tracking devices that might make this easier.
The second step is to organize the results in a way that enables us to compare them over time. For example, when we track our blood sugar levels, we need to be able to separate out our pre- and post-meal levels.
The third step is to make notes of variables that you think might be causing your numbers to change. Did you eat or drink more or less than usual? Did you eat more or fewer carbs? Did your physical activity change?
Then, the fourth step is to change or eliminate one variable at a time to determine if it’s the culprit. Do you weigh more because you ate out? Did skipping breakfast lead to your eating a big lunch? You can change those variables to improve your levels.
Understanding how our behavior affects our levels is the key to adopting healthier habits. That’s why it’s so important to track.