Many people think they can tell what their blood glucose (sometimes called blood sugar) levels are by how they feel. But, some people can feel “high” when their blood glucose levels are low, and some can feel “low” when their blood glucose levels are normal or high. The only way to know for sure is to test your blood glucose levels.
A blood glucose test measures the amount of a type of sugar, called glucose, in your blood. Glucose comes from carbohydrate foods. It is the main source of energy used by the body.
Insulin is a hormone that helps your body’s cells use the glucose. Insulin is produced in the pancreas and released into the blood when the amount of glucose in the blood rises.
Normally, your blood glucose levels increase slightly after you eat. This increase causes your pancreas to release insulin so that your blood glucose levels do not get too high.
Blood glucose levels that remain high over time can damage your eyes, kidneys, nerves, and blood vessels.
It can help you:
1.Judge how well you’re reaching overall treatment goals
If you have diabetes, a single drop of blood can speak volumes. When placed on a test strip and fed into a blood sugar meter, that little drop can tell you whether, at that moment, your sugar level is too high, too low, or just about right.
You can also get an important glimpse into the future. If your blood sugar is too high for too long, you could be at risk for long-term complications such as blindness, heart disease, and amputations. By testing your blood sugar regularly, you can track the effectiveness of your medication, make informed decisions about meals and exercise, and head off problems such as high blood sugar or low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) before it’s too late.
2.Understand how diet and exercise affect blood sugar levels
While glucose meters can help keep track of your blood sugar tests, writing down the results will make it easier for you and the diabetes management team to see patterns and trends.
This will help you better understand the link between food, exercise, and blood sugar levels, and also help you and the health care team make any needed adjustments to the diabetes management plan.
3.Understand how other factors, such as illness or stress, affect blood sugar levels
Illness or stress can trigger high blood sugars because hormones produced to combat illness or stress can also cause your blood sugar to rise.
People who do not have diabetes can make enough extra insulin to keep their blood sugar in a normal range during times of stress and illness.
People with diabetes may need to take extra diabetes medication to keep their blood sugar near normal during times of illness or stress.
Stress and illness can cause the body to release epinephrine (adrenaline), glucagon, growth hormone, and cortisol.
As a result, more glucose is released from the liver (glucagon, adrenaline) and the body can become less sensitive to insulin .
Personally, I have found exercise, time outdoors enjoying nature, and a relaxing hobby to be most helpful against combatting stress.
In some cases, people are much more insulin sensitive right before getting sick and can tend to run low blood sugars.
If you haven’t been given special instructions on how to manage your diabetes medications during illness, please contact your healthcare provider for advice.
4.Monitor the effect of medications on blood sugar levels
Regular blood glucose monitoring is recommended when people are taking medications that may affect blood glucose levels. All diabetics should be monitored for signs and symptoms of high blood glucose levels (excessive thirst, frequent hunger, frequent urination, fatigue, or weight loss).
Fasting blood glucose levels should be tested if symptoms of elevated blood glucose levels develop. If signs and symptoms of high blood glucose levels are present or if fingerstick readings are unusually high, consult with a doctor.
5.Identify blood sugar levels that are high or low
Your meter measures the total amount of sugar in your blood. The level is expressed as milligrams of glucose (sugar) per deciliter of blood (mg/dl).
A person without diabetes would normally have a reading below 100 on an empty stomach and below 140 two hours after a meal.
The basic goal for people with diabetes is a reading between 70 and 130 on an empty stomach and less than 180 two hours after the start of a meal.
Your diabetes educator may set different targets for you. Don’t be discouraged, for example, if your blood sugar levels are higher than you expect; work with your health care team to get those numbers down.
Do call your doctor if your blood sugars are unusually high or low — he or she will want to know about these changes and help you adjust your treatment program so that you stay out of trouble and reach your goals.
How to Check Blood Sugar Levels
Blood glucose testing is easier, less painful, and more accurate than ever. Blood sugar levels can be tested with a blood glucose meter, a computerized device that measures and displays the amount of glucose in a blood sample.
To get a blood sample, a small needle called a lancet is used to prick the skin (usually on a finger or the forearm) to draw a drop of blood. The drop of blood is placed on a testing strip that goes into the glucose meter, and the blood glucose reading appears on a screen within a few seconds.
Follow these steps:
1.Wash and dry your hands—using warm water may help the blood flow.
2.Turn on the meter and prepare a test strip as outlined in your owner’s booklet.
3.Choose your spot—don’t check from the same finger all the time.
4.Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to prepare the lancing device and get a drop of blood from the side of your fingertip or other approved site.
5.Check your blood sugar by touching and holding the test strip opening to the drop until it has absorbed enough blood to begin the test.
6.View your test result and take the proper steps if your blood sugar is too high or low, based on your healthcare professionals recommendations.
7.Discard the used lancet properly into a sharps container.
8.Record the results in a logbook, hold them in the meter’s memory or download to a computer so you can review and analyze them later.
Blood glucose testing tips
Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your blood glucose meter.
Check the expiry date on all diabetes testing supplies.
How do you know which glucose meter to use?
Most people with diabetes choose the type of equipment covered by their insurance plans. However, many types of glucose meters are available with different features.
When choosing a glucose meter, consider:
Cost: Although most insurance plans cover the cost of glucose meters and test strips, there may be a limit to the number of test strips they cover (and test strips are the most expensive part of monitoring blood sugar levels). Make sure you know what your insurance will cover before investing in a glucose meter.
User-friendliness: Choose a glucose meter that is easy to use and maintain. For example, a glucose meter that doesn’t require large blood samples might be better for young kids, while an easy-to-calibrate meter might be better for teens taking on more of their own diabetes care. Glucose meters that take less time to give results may also be preferred.
Special features: Glucose meters are available in both large, easier-to-handle sizes as well as small, more portable sizes. Other features may include memory storage and the ability to record additional information like date, time, food intake, and exercise. The ability to download glucose readings into a computer program is an attractive feature for many families.
Other new technologies make it easier to keep track of blood sugar levels. Adjustable lancets can make finger pricks less painful by changing the depth to which the needle enters the skin. Certain glucose meters can use blood drawn from a forearm or other body parts that may be less sensitive than a fingertip.
In some cases, a doctor might want to get an even more detailed look at blood sugar level fluctuations.
Continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) are wearable devices that measure blood sugar every few minutes throughout the day and night by using a sensor that is inserted under the skin. By providing a more detailed profile of blood sugar levels, CGMs can help some people with diabetes do an even better job of “fine-tuning” their blood sugar control.
Your diabetes health care team will help you choose the best type of equipment for you.
Click Here for more information on Continuous glucose monitors (CGMs)
Types of blood glucose tests
1.Fasting blood sugar (FBS) measures blood glucose after you have not eaten for at least 8 hours. It is often the first test done to check for prediabetes and diabetes.
2.2-hour postprandial blood sugar measures blood glucose exactly 2 hours after you start eating a meal. This is not a test used to diagnose diabetes. This test is used to see if someone with diabetes is taking the right amount of insulin with meals.
3.Random blood sugar (RBS) measures blood glucose regardless of when you last ate. Several random measurements may be taken throughout the day. Random testing is useful because glucose levels in healthy people do not vary widely throughout the day. Blood glucose levels that vary widely may mean a problem. This test is also called a casual blood glucose test.
4.Oral glucose tolerance test is used to diagnose prediabetes and diabetes. An oral glucose tolerance test is a series of blood glucose measurements taken after you drink a sweet liquid that contains glucose. This test is commonly used to diagnose diabetes that occurs during pregnancy (gestational diabetes). Women who had high blood sugar levels during pregnancy may have oral glucose tolerance tests after pregnancy.
5.What is HbA1c?
HbA1c (glycosylated haemoglobin) is a measure of the amount of glucose attached to the body’s red blood cells; it is present in everyone. It gives an indication of your blood glucose control over the last 3 months.
Another important test checks for ketones, chemicals that show up in the urine and blood after the body breaks down fat for energy.
ACCURACY OF HOME BLOOD SUGAR MONITORING
The accuracy of a blood glucose monitor can be affected by several factors, including the type of blood glucose strip and monitor.
Check the accuracy of a blood glucose monitor occasionally by bringing it to visits with a healthcare provider when blood work is done; use your home monitor to check your blood sugar at the same time that blood is drawn.
When comparing glucose monitor results with those from a laboratory, there should be no more than a 15 percent difference; larger differences may indicate a problem with your monitor, blood glucose strips, or your monitoring technique.
Blood glucose meters — Blood glucose meters are reasonably accurate. However, there can be some variability from one unit to the next, so it is always wise to exercise caution and common sense when using the readings from these machines. As an example, if a reading does not fit with your symptoms (or lack of symptoms), take a second reading or use an alternate method for testing your blood sugar (such as a different meter). Blood glucose meters are least accurate during episodes of low blood sugar.
Alternate site testing — Blood sugar results can be less accurate if you test at places other than the fingertips (eg, arm, hand, leg). This should not be a problem if you always use one site. However, when the blood sugar is rising rapidly (eg, immediately after eating) or falling rapidly (in response to insulin or exercise), testing at alternate sites may give significantly different results than a fingerstick reading. In these situations, fingertip testing is preferred.
Help for people with vision impairment — People with vision impairment sometimes have difficulty using glucose meters. Meters with large screens and “talking” meters are available.
Important Facts About Blood Glucose Levels
Blood glucose monitoring alone does not improve your diabetes. It is how you use the information from your glucose testing that makes the difference to your diabetes control.
It is very important that blood sugar levels are kept as close to normal as possible. For most people with diabetes, a healthy range is between 90 and 130 mg/dl before meals and less than 180 mg/dl at one to two hours after a meal .
To learn more about the complications associated with diabetes refer to Diabetes Ireland Website.
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