Blood Glucose Self-Monitoring

Blood glucose (also called blood sugar) helps provide energy to the body’s cells. Keeping track of blood glucose levels is important for diabetes management. Checking your blood glucose regularly, and keep them within reasonable levels, helps to prevent short-term problems like dangerously high (hyperglycemia) and low (hypoglycemia) blood glucose as well as other long-term problems like nerve damage so you stay healthy now and later.

If you are living with diabetes, your health care provider might recommend self-monitoring blood glucose as part of your daily routine. In order to measure blood glucose, you will use a glucose meter. A glucose meter, will use a small drop of blood often called a “fingerstick” to determine your blood glucose. These readings help provide valuable information that you and your health care team can used to make decisions about your eating patterns, food portions, medication(s), and insulin to improve or control of your diabetes. Getting familiar with your blood glucose patterns will help you and your health care provider understand better how your body react to your food, exercise and medications.

Most people with diabetes will be monitoring blood glucose levels several times a day. There are many different types of glucose meters available. How often people with diabetes need to check their blood glucose and the recommended target level varies from person to person. Be sure to talk with your health care provider about what is the best for you.

When choosing a glucose meter, here are some things to consider:

  • Meter size
  • Amount of blood needed for the sample
  • How long it takes to display the reading
  • Ease in reading the display
  • Ability to save the results in the meter’s memory and download to a computer
  • Cost of the meter and blood glucose strips
  • Whether sites other than the finger can be used to get a blood sample

Talking meters are also available for people who have impaired vision or blindness.

How to Check your Blood Glucose Levels

You will put a drop of blood, usually from a finger or forearm prick, on a coated blood glucose strip. Put the blood glucose strip into the blood glucose meter and wait for the results. The meter will read your glucose level from the strip and generate downloadable data to help you and your doctor determine the amount of  medicine you need and how diabetes medications or insulin, food, and exercise are affecting your blood glucose. In the United States, meters display the glucose level in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or in millimoles per liter (mmol/L).

General Guidelines for Monitoring Blood Glucose

Note: The number of times people check can vary, it is best to talk with a doctor about what is best for you.

How Can You Use Your Blood Glucose Readings?

You can take an active role in your medical care by using your readings to keep your blood glucose levels under control. Keep a written record of your blood glucose readings and highlight any that are higher or lower than your target. When you have an unusual reading, make notes on any factors that might have affected your glucose level. These could include what you ate, exercise patterns if you’re sick, if you missed taking medication or insulin, and positive or negative emotions. Then share this information with your health care providers so they can evaluate your diabetes care program and make changes if necessary.

Questions to ask your Healthcare Team:

  1. What’s the best type of blood glucose meter for me?
  2. How can I learn to use my blood glucose meter?
  3. How often should I check my blood glucose level?
  4. What is my target range?
  5. When should I call your office about my blood glucose levels?
  6. How often will I need check-ups?
  7. Should I see a diabetes educator?
  8. Should I see an endocrinologist for my care?
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