Testing Blood Glucose Levels: The Basics

Kelsey Bonilla Health Guide
  • As diabetics, our glucose monitor becomes a faithful companion. When I leave the house in the morning, my meter is the most important thing to remember to toss in my bag. On those rare occasions when my meter fails me (or I accidentally leave it somewhere) I can feel completely lost.  Testing my blood sugar is a part of my daily routine, often my hourly routine. Blood glucose monitoring becomes ingrained in the lives of diabetics, but it's worth taking some time to examine how, when, and why we test.


    I have seen discussions about how often and when to test on numerous diabetes blogs and forums. I remember seeing a woman ask if she was testing too often. In my experience, the more often I test, the better my diabetes control. Before becoming pregnant, I averaged about 12 tests per day. That number steadily increased throughout the previous year, as I sought to achieve a low A1C and consistency in my blood sugars. Throughout my pregnancy, I tested around 16 to 18 times per day.

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    Basically, I try to never go more than three hours between tests, even throughout the night. I might do it more often if I’ve experienced a high reading I’m trying to lower. My typical testing times include:

    • upon waking up
    • breakfast
    • post-breakfast (1 hour)
    • post-breakfast (2 hours)
    • morning snack
    • lunch
    • post-lunch (1 hour)
    • post-lunch (2 hours)
    • afternoon snack
    • before exercising
    • after my workout
    • dinner
    • post-dinner
    • bedtime
    • midnight
    • 3 a.m.

    That's a lot of information to process!  Luckily, I have the help of my Certified Diabetes Educators who work with the doctor to decipher all of those numbers and help me make decisions regarding insulin basal rates and bolus ratios.


    The act of testing itself is fairly straightforward. Poke your finger, squeeze some blood into a test strip, wait a couple seconds, get an answer. However, life sometimes throws a curveball. One day my husband and I were on a walk. I'd been snacking on raisins to keep my blood sugar up during the exercise. We stopped so I could do a test, and my blood glucose monitor showed a result of over 250 mg/dl!


    Shocked and annoyed, I quickly bolused for an aggressive correction and kept walking. About 50 yards later it dawned on me: I did not feel high, and my hands were probably sticky and sweet from the raisins. I very sanitarily licked my finger and retested to see a result 150 points lower than the initial test. Testing one more time to be sure, I realized that I had a lot of insulin-on-board and needed to snack. We were near several food stands, so half of a peanut butter cookie later, I was good to go. It was a great lesson to be sure my sweet fingers aren't sabotaging my test results.


Published On: August 29, 2007