Make Your Blood Glucose Testing Meaningful

Patient Expert
View as:|
1 of 11

When you have diabetes, you certainly know that you are supposed to check your blood glucose. But few people know why or when or even how. For many people, it’s a waste of time and money. Here is the way that your blood glucose meter and test strips can lead you back to good health.

Know why you check your level

Well-managed diabetes causes nothing. That’s the trouble — we can become complacent. Only blood glucose levels that are too high will bring on the devastating complications of diabetes. And only levels that are too low can lead to a coma or immediate death. Only by knowing what our level is can we avoid these dangerous extremes.

The right time to check for a high level

Your blood glucose levels will usually peak around 72 minutes after the first bite of a meal. That’s why the American Diabetes Association recommends that you check your blood glucose one or two hours after you start eating. Pick any of these times for your practice, but be consistent to make tracking your levels possible.

How often to check for a high level

At first, you’ll need to check after most if not all meals. If you note what you have eaten, you’ll soon notice what foods cause blood glucose spikes. Then, you can avoid or minimize these foods, prevent further high levels, and safely cut back on how often you check.

The right time to check for a low level

Too much medicine, particularly insulin or a sulfonylurea, is the biggest reason why your level can go too low. So check after taking medicine, particularly when you skip a meal or eat less than usual. More exercise than usual can also lead to a low level.

How often to check for a low level

Check your level both before and after taking one of these drugs or exercising. You need to be especially cautious when you do something potentially dangerous, and this includes driving a vehicle. If you take a diabetes drug that can cause low blood glucose, you can’t ever be sure that you are safe unless you check.

Test in pairs

Checking before and after events is what Accu-Chek calls “Testing in Pairs.” This simple idea is perhaps the best one promoted by a meter manufacturer, helping us to manage diabetes better and the company to sell more test strips. Simply check before and after eating, before and after exercising, and before and after reducing stress.

Set your goals

Decide together with your doctor how much you can let your blood glucose level go up after eating. Because people who don’t have diabetes rarely have a level above 140 mg/dl two hours after eating, the American College of Endocrinology recommends this level as our maximum. A level of 70 mg/dl or less is too low.

What you need to do when your blood glucose level is too high

If you take insulin, a small shot will quickly bring your level back to normal. Otherwise, a short walk will work. But you can also get a prescription to take more of your diabetes drug or a new one when you levels go too high. Perhaps the safest and best strategy is simply to cut back on how many carbohydrates you eat.

What you need to do when your blood glucose level is too low

When your level goes too low, the best strategy is to take glucose tabs. But if you can’t take them or if you pass out, you need glucagon, available only by prescription, and to have a knowledgeable family member or friend inject it.

Trust your experience

When you check your blood glucose regularly, you will learn how different foods affect your level. Because each of us is different, we don’t react the exactly same way to food. Reading what people write goes only so far. Your experience will tell you how and why to change what you eat.