Diabetes Testing Tips You Should Know
To manage diabetes, there are many steps you need to take — and one of the most important is monitoring your blood sugar. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), anyone with diabetes can benefit from monitoring blood sugar, especially if you’re on insulin or other diabetes medication, are pregnant, or are struggling to control your diabetes.
"Checking blood sugar regularly is one of the most effective tools in managing diabetes," says Kelly O'Connor, RD, director of diabetes education at the Center for Endocrinology in Baltimore. “Glucose levels are affected by what you eat, insulin, other medications, and physical activity. The only way to know what effect these things have on your blood sugar is to test it often.”
What Diabetes Testing Can Tell You
Many people check their blood sugar at the times their doctor recommends and dutifully turn in their log books at their next appointment, O'Connor says. "However, they’re missing part of the point if they don’t sit down and study their blood sugar results to look for patterns." When you monitor blood sugar frequently, there are four main benefits:
- You and your doctor learn about high and low glucose, which helps determine the best treatment for you.
- You protect yourself from the dangers of high or low glucose by finding out about your blood sugar right away.
- You learn about your diabetes in ways that help you take more responsibility for self-care.
- You get motivated to make healthier lifestyle choices.
"For example, checking blood sugar two hours after eating a meal gives direct feedback as to whether or not the meal was of appropriate size and content — most specifically, whether or not too many carbohydrates were consumed," O'Connor says.
Studies also show that when you monitor your blood sugar frequently and regularly, it helps you better manage your diabetes. For example, according to research reported in theJournal of Diabetes Science and Technology, each time you check your blood sugar during the day, you decrease your average blood glucose (A1c) by 0.25 percent. In addition, frequent diabetes testing improves life expectancy and reduces the cost of diabetes care by about ,000 a year.
Diabetes Testing Tips
Start by washing your hands and inserting a test strip into your meter. After you prick your finger with the lancet, squeeze a drop of blood until the blood touches the edge of the test strip. Then read and record the result. Here are some other smart testing tips:
- There’s no wrong time to check your blood sugar. Any time you check, it provides information about what your body is doing.
- Rotate the times of day that you check your blood sugar. You might have developed the habit of testing first thing in the morning, but your body may have a completely different glycemic level later in the day.
- Record all your readings in a logbook, or you can use a special app on your smartphone or laptop, and bring the information to all of your appointments with your doctor or diabetes educator.
- Checking your blood sugar in “pairs” — such as testing two hours before and two hours after a meal, or before and after exercise — is an effective way to find out what your blood sugars are doing.
- If you get a reading that seems unusual for you, wash your hands and repeat it. Blood sugar readings can be affected if you have anything on your hands that might contain sugar.
Patterns in Diabetes Test Results
Stress, illness, and menstrual cycles can all affect blood sugar levels. "The more an individual knows about what makes his or her blood sugar go high and what makes it go low, the more a doctor or diabetes educator can help," O’Connor says. Look for patterns in your diabetes test results by asking yourself these questions:
- Is my blood sugar too low or too high at the same times during the week or during the day?
- Could those times be related to meals, exercise, stress, or other factors?
- Is there something I can change that will eliminate the sugar highs and lows?
If you’re testing but aren’t sure what your blood sugar targets should be, consult your doctor or diabetes educator. You can also refer to the ADA for the general . "Your doctor can also adjust your targets if you’re having problems managing your diabetes," O’Connor says.
Video: Diabetes Symptoms & Treatments : Testing for Diabetes
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