Diabetes Testing is Useless — Unless….

David Mendosa | Mar 20th 2015 Jul 6th 2017

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Unless we are using insulin injections to manage our diabetes, testing our blood sugar with finger-stick tests is a waste of our time and our money. Testing doesn’t do anything to help us manage diabetes. It’s only when we use what we learn from checking our blood sugar level and take action on it that it’s worthwhile. We have to know why we do the test, how to do it, and when.

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What’s the Point of Checking our Blood Sugar?

The starches and sugars that people eat turn into glucose in the blood. When we have diabetes, a lot of that glucose doesn’t get to the cells that need it and stays in our blood instead. When our level is too high, it can lead to the complications that diabetes can cause.

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How High is Too High?

People who don’t have diabetes rarely have a blood sugar level above 140 mg/dl when they test two hours after eating a meal. So that’s the highest level it’s safe to have, says the American College of Endocrinology. Other endocrinologists, like Dr. Richard K. Bernstein, sets 83 mg/dl as the maximum because of the lower mortality rate at that level and below.

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Why Should We Test Two Hours After a Meal?

When we check our blood sugar two hours after we take the first bite of a meal, we are checking it a bit after its highest point. This is the standard recommendation of both the American Diabetes Association and the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. What’s most important is to be consistent when we test so we can track our progress.

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Should We Test our Sugar While Fasting or After Eating?

This depends on how high our blood sugar level is when we do an A1C test, which measures our general level during the past two or three months. When we get our diabetes diagnosis our level is usually quite high, so checking our fasting level makes the most sense when it’s above 8.4, because that contributes most to our level. But later when we begin to get it under control, the best advice is to check it after we eat.

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But My Finger-stick Level Doesn’t Make Sense!

Maybe your blood glucose meter or the test strip is too old and isn’t accurate any more. Or maybe the problem is operator error. Three of the most common problems are not getting enough blood on the test strip, not washing our hands before testing, and having to squeeze the test finger a whole lot to get enough blood.

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But What if My Level Really Is too High?

If we find that our level is too high, the one thing that will bring it right down is exercise. It actually doesn’t take a lot, as I well remember when my late wife’s blood sugar level was about 250 mg/dl after dinner one night. She wondered what she could do, and I suggested that we go for a short walk. When we returned, her level had dropped considerably.

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What Else Can We Do When Our Level is Too High?

When we accept that diabetes is a disease where we can’t handle carbohydrates like most people can, we can control our blood sugar level. Carbohydrates will usually raise our level a lot; protein has a small effect, and fats have none. The worst culprits are the grains and other starches, like potatoes. When we limit our carbs, we will see when we test that our blood sugar level is a lot better.