So why do you do it?
If you are checking your blood sugars ONLY because your doctor told you to then you are wasting a lot of time, money and hassle. Your doctor certainly needs to look at those results but if you check daily and only see your doctor every 3-6 months, then only the most recent few weeks before your appointment are usually relevant.
How can YOU use your results to better manage diabetes?
The first step is to know your A1c. That's the lab test your doctor does that tells what your average blood sugar has been for the past 2-3 months.
Know what your goal is and where you are with respect to that goal.
For example if your A1c is 7.2 and your goal is to be <7 then you know that overall your blood sugars are running higher than you want. But when are the high blood sugars happening? Knowing when to check is the next step.
1. Fasting Blood Sugar in the morning before having anything except water.
2. 2 hours after the start of meals.
Fasting Blood Sugar
Normal fasting blood sugar is 70-100. Your diabetes goal should be somewhere in the 70-120 range depending on the goals you and your doctor have discussed. Fasting blood sugars are usually elevated due to insulin resistance, meaning that your body has insulin but it does not use it effectively. During the night we are very inactive, we may not sleep well, we might have pain, or hormones such as with menopause could be affecting blood sugars. All of these conditions require the body to use more insulin and with diabetes it does not as well as it should and we end up with higher morning blood sugars.
If your A1c is in target but your morning blood sugars are >120 then it is likely just a brief early morning rise in blood sugars that are occurring and may not be a concern.
After Meal Blood Sugars
We all struggle with portion control right? Checking 2 hours after a meal will tell you how well your body is clearing the sugar from your blood stream. Your goal is to be less than 180, or even better less than 160. is less than 140 by 2 hours after a meal.
If your blood sugar 2 hours after eating is higher than your target, look at the size of the meal you ate or how many servings of carbohydrate you had. Then compare that to a smaller amount at other meals and eventually you find what works best to keep your blood sugars in control.
Are there any other times to check?
If you feel shaky or weak you should check for low blood sugar. Below 70 is lower than normal but you can feel low at higher levels if your body is not adjusted to lower levels yet. You can also see the effects of illness, , hormones, stress and other life factors on your blood sugars also but it's much easier to identify patterns when you have an experienced diabetes educator to work with.
Bring results to your doctor visit.
Check for 2 weeks before your doctor visit and take your results with you and show your doctor. Make sure you have the numbers in a log book unless you know your doctor can download your meter results to a computer. Keeping notes on food, activity, pain, illness or anything else you suspect is affecting your blood sugar will help you and your doctor have a more effective conversation at your visit. Your doctor may also suggest other times to check depending on what medication you take.
What about the cost of strips?
Many of the meter companies now have savings cards that bring the copay down to $15. Call the toll free number on the back of your meter and ask if they have one. Insurance may limit the number of strips they will pay for so make the most of your results by choosing the best times to check and using your results to make necessary changes in meals or exercise.
What if my meter is not working?
Call the toll free number on the back of your meter if you are having trouble with the meter working and their customer service can help. Your diabetes educator or doctor may also be able to help you resolve problems.
Karen Marschel, RD, LD, CDE specializes in helping women work through the steps to reverse or prevent diabetes amidst the obstacles of life after 40. Sign up for free resource 10 Strategies to Control Carb Cravings, and check out 7 Steps to Reversing Diabetes at http://kmnutrition.com/services
Blood Sugar Monitoring for Type 2 Diabetes: How to Use Your Results by KAREN MARSCHEL