Having diabetes involves monitoring your blood sugar (also called blood sugar) levels. Most people do this by pricking their finger with a blood glucose meter (blood glucose meter), which measures sugar in small amounts of blood.
Some people use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), which is a subcutaneous sensor that checks blood sugar every few minutes. People using CGM must also use a blood glucose meter daily to ensure their CGM is accurate.
When you have diabetes, monitoring your blood sugar levels is critical because keeping your blood sugar within your target range can help prevent complications, including:
- heart disease
- kidney disease
- vision problems
It’s important when you check your blood sugar. Health experts recommend checking your blood sugar multiple times throughout the day.
This article explains the importance of monitoring your blood sugar, how to measure it, and how to check your blood sugar.
Why check blood sugar?
Whether you have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, checking your blood sugar can give you an idea of what’s causing your blood sugar to rise or fall. For example, some factors that can raise blood sugar are:
- Too much food, especially carbohydrates
- Lack of insulin (a hormone that metabolizes food)
- certain drugs
Additionally, the following factors may contribute to low blood sugar levels:
- Insufficient food consumption
- too much insulin
- some drugs
- more physical activity than usual
Knowing your body patterns can help you and your healthcare provider understand how best to manage your diabetes. For example, monitoring blood sugar levels and keeping them within a target range reduces the risk of diabetes complications.
In addition, controlling diabetes can help prevent severe high blood sugar (high blood sugar) and severe hypoglycemia (Hypoglycemia).
How to measure blood sugar?
How blood sugar levels are measured varies depending on the device you use.
blood glucose monitor
Glucose meters work by using enzyme-coated paper (glucose oxidase) reacts with glucose in the blood. Additionally, the meter has an electrode that generates an electrical signal when a glucose response is detected.
This signal then generates a number that is related to the electrical signal. The more glucose in the blood, the higher the number.
Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM)
You wear a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) under the skin in your abdomen or arm. Instead of measuring glucose levels in the blood like a blood glucose meter, CGMs measure glucose levels in the fluid between cells. The sensor then sends the information to the monitor.
When to check blood sugar
How often you check your blood sugar may depend on several factors, including:
- the type of diabetes you have
- If you take insulin (a hormone made by the pancreas) or other medicines to control your diabetes
People with well-controlled diabetes who are not taking insulin may not need frequent blood sugar checks. However, it is critical to work with your healthcare provider to determine the appropriate frequency.
type 1 diabetes
People with type 1 diabetes (also called “juvenile diabetes” because it appears in childhood) need to check their blood sugar frequently. Glucose monitoring in type 1 diabetes is centered around mealtime and includes:
- Before breakfast, lunch and dinner
- Two to three hours after each meal
type 2 diabetes
People with type 2 diabetes who use insulin to treat their diabetes must have their blood sugar levels checked regularly. Again, always work with your healthcare provider to determine the correct frequency for your situation. However, general guidelines recommend checking blood sugar four times a day at the following intervals:
- When you first wake up (fasting)
- before meals
- two hours after a meal
People with well-controlled type 2 diabetes may not need frequent blood sugar monitoring.
type of drug
There are many different types of medicines that can lower blood sugar. The type of medication you take may affect how often your healthcare provider recommends testing your blood sugar levels.
For example, if you take insulin or medications that can cause low blood sugar, your doctor may recommend that you monitor your blood sugar more frequently.
Symptoms of uncontrolled diabetes
Target ranges for blood sugar levels are individualized and based on many factors, including:
- How long have you had diabetes
- your age
- other health conditions or complications
The American Diabetes Association recommends the following target ranges for most nonpregnant adults with diabetes:
- preprandial blood sugar (your blood sugar level before meals): 80–130 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)
- postprandial blood sugar (blood glucose level one to two hours after starting meal): less than 180 mg/dL
In addition to measuring your blood sugar levels at home, your healthcare provider will regularly order blood tests to monitor your blood sugar levels. The A1C measures your average blood sugar level over the past two or three months. This level should be below 7%. Another way to report A1C is eAG. In this case it should be less than 154 mg/dL.
How to Test Your Blood Sugar
People with diabetes usually check their blood sugar levels themselves. But if you’re sick and can’t do it yourself, it’s best to let a roommate, friend, or family member know what to do.
To use a blood glucose meter, follow these steps:
- Insert the test strip into the meter.
- Prick the side of the fingertip with the device to obtain a drop of blood.
- Place the edge of the test strip on the blood and wait for the result to appear on the display.
If you are interested in CGMs, you should consult your healthcare provider as these are prescription devices. To use CGM, follow these steps:
- Place the sensor under the skin of the abdomen or arm.
- Most CGM devices check blood sugar levels every five minutes, 24/7. You don’t need to do anything for this to happen.
- View the information transmitted by the sensor. This data may be sent to a separate receiver, your phone or an insulin pump.
- Download the data to a computer to share with your healthcare provider (some CGM devices do this automatically).
You will also need to replace the sensors on the CGM regularly, usually every 1 to 2 weeks.
Monitoring blood sugar levels is critical for people with diabetes because keeping blood sugar within a target range can help prevent complications of the disease. People often do this with blood glucose monitors, which involve pricking your finger so the machine can measure the sugar levels in your blood.
People with well-controlled type 2 diabetes may not need to check their blood sugar levels as often. However, those who have type 1 diabetes and use medication or insulin to control their diabetes need to check their blood sugar frequently, usually before and after each meal.
If you have diabetes, you may be wondering when you should check your blood sugar levels. Since there are many types and severity of diabetes, you will need to work closely with your healthcare provider to develop a plan that best suits your situation. You may want to discuss CGM with your healthcare provider if you are concerned about frequent checkups or difficulty using a blood glucose monitor.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I stabilize my blood sugar?
Many things can cause blood sugar to rise or fall. Checking your blood sugar levels regularly is one way to spot the patterns that cause this to happen. As you begin to identify which foods and activities are causing your levels to become unstable, you can modify your diet and behavior as needed.
What should I do if my blood sugar is too low?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends this if your blood sugar is below 70 mg/dL one The following: Take four glucose tablets or drink four ounces of fruit juice or regular (non-diet) soda or eat four hard candies.
What should I do if my blood sugar is too high?
If your blood sugar levels are too high, your healthcare provider may prescribe medication or adjust your current medications, and recommend that you get more exercise, follow a diabetes meal plan, and check your blood sugar levels more frequently.