How To Test Blood Sugar | How To Use Glucometer | How To Check Blood Glucose | (2018)
Are Your Blood Sugar Readings Accurate?
If you have type 2 diabetes, testing blood sugar levels regularly — and understanding what the numbers on each reading mean — can help you monitor blood sugar and better manage the condition. These numbers are important because blood sugar test results can help you figure out how your diet, exercise, and medications might be affecting your diabetes.
When you master blood sugar readings, you’ll be on your way to better blood sugar control and, ultimately, better results on your A1C test, the blood test your doctor orders to track blood sugar control over time. Maintaining good blood sugar control over a long period, such as a decade, could significantly reduce your risk of diabetes complications like heart attack and stroke.
Understanding Blood Sugar Fluctuations
Even with highly effective modern technologies such as digital glucose meters, people with diabetes still worry about testing accuracy. Although you want to get the best results for each skin prick, when you’re new to blood sugar testing it can be confusing to watch those results change throughout the day.
“It’s helpful to understand that blood sugar changes minute by minute,” says certified diabetes educator Karen A. Chalmers, MS, RD, CDE, diabetes services program manager in the section of endocrinology, diabetes and nutrition at Boston Medical Center in Massachusetts.
For example, a person might test before coming to a medical appointment and then be surprised to find that his or her blood sugar is higher or lower by the time the doctor tests it. At first, this can lead to self-doubt and asking yourself, “Am I testing right?” or confusion about whether your meter and testing strips are accurate or not.
“Blood sugar is like a wave in the ocean — it’s constantly in motion,” Chalmers says. That’s why you’ll likely gain more information by looking at your tests over the course of an entire day or week to find a pattern rather than focus on individual test results.
Still, there’s a lot you can do to make sure that when you monitor your blood sugar you’re getting the most accurate and useful daily results, and ultimately lower A1C results in the long run.
Know When to Test
Your diabetes team will likely make recommendations for when you should be testing your blood sugar as you get started. For example, you might be told to test when you wake up in the morning, before meals, one to two hours after meals, and before bed. If you exercise, you might also test before and after a workout to see how your body responds to it. Depending on the medications you take, including insulin, you might have additional or fewer times to test.
To achieve blood sugar control, always make sure you keep a log of the times you test and your results. If you’re not sure why you have been told to test at certain times or why you are getting the results you get, talk to your diabetes team.
Additionally, if the cost of test strips throughout the month is difficult for you to afford, make a plan with your diabetes team to get the most out of the testing you are able to do. The cost of this maintenance may actually help you save money in the long run: A July 2012 article in theJournal of Diabetes Science and Technologyreviewed studies of blood sugar testing at home and found evidence to suggest that because testing helps people maintain better blood sugar control, ultimately it can lead to lower diabetes care costs over a lifetime.
Know How to Test
Once you’re accustomed to testing, you’ll become more confident in your readings. Use these tips to help with the learning curve:
Set reminders for testing.If you tend to forget to test, use reminders to help yourself get in the habit. Leave your testing kit and record book out where you’ll easily see them, such as on the kitchen table, or set a reminder on your phone or computer for the appropriate times. You can also ask a loved one to remind you. Find a system that works best for you.
Know your testing tools.If you’re not sure how to use your glucose meter and test strips, ask a nurse or diabetes educator to show you how. Pay attention to details such as calibration codes for your meter if necessary. Newer meters may be easier for you to use. Even if you’ve been testing for awhile, it’s sometimes helpful to try testing in front of a health professional to make sure you’re doing it right.
Care for the meter and strips.Keep all of your supplies clean and stored in a cool, dry place. Always have extra batteries available for your meter.
Take your meter to the doctor.Bring your meter with you to appointments so you and your doctor can compare notes.
Stay sharp.A dull lancet will mean painful skin pricks and possibly poor results. Change out lancets frequently and don't share your meter with anyone else.
Use up-to-date strips.Test strips have expiration dates. Note the date on your calendar so that you'll never use expired strips.
Use the right test strips.Test strips can look a lot alike, but they don’t all work for every meter. Get the kind or brand recommended for your specific device.
Clean your hands.Washing your hands immediately before testing will remove any dirt and debris as well as sugars from foods (such as fruit) that you might have eaten or touched. A soak in warm, soapy water can also make it easier to get a blood sample because it brings blood to the skin surface.
Get a sufficient sample.“Getting a big enough drop of blood is important,” Chalmers says. Your meter will let you know if you didn’t, but you want to make each prick and test strip count.
Know when results might not be accurate.Over time, you’ll get to know your diabetes and how your body feels. While the majority of blood test results will be accurate, there may be times when your gut tells you that the numbers you’re seeing can’t possibly be correct. You can always retest after double-checking that your meter settings are right and your testing procedure were correct. However, based on how you feel, if you suspect that your blood sugar might be very high or going very low, call your doctor for advice or go to the emergency room.
By testing your blood sugar accurately at regular intervals, you’ll learn how diabetes is affecting your body, improve your A1C test numbers, and help yourself stay healthier over time.
Video: How to Measure Your Blood Sugar - Mayo Clinic Patient Education
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