Blood sugar checking gives you valuable information. You can use your blood sugar readings to make day-to-day decisions to keep your blood sugars in your target range.
DO THESE BLOOD SUGAR CHECKING FRUSTRATIONS SOUND FAMILIAR?
- You are tracking your blood sugar numbers in a record book or in your meter but your doctor doesn't even look at your results.
- You've tried to make sense of your blood sugar numbers but there seems to be no rhyme or reason to what’s happening.
My clients often tell me that blood sugar checking is frustrating. They feel this way because nobody has ever helped them figure out how to check their blood sugars with a plan.
If you test with a plan, your blood sugars can give you valuable information. You can use it use it to figure out what’s impacting your blood sugars and how your body is functioning.
Blood sugar checking can help you make day to day decisions about:
- How factors like meals, physical activity, stress, or illness affect your blood sugars
- How well your diabetes medications are working to lower your blood sugars
- If your blood sugar is too high or too low.
Many people can get BETTER information with LESS blood sugar checking when they check with a plan!
So let’s take a look at blood sugar checking.
WHY IS BLOOD SUGAR CHECKING IMPORTANT?
Without checking your blood sugars, you won’t be able to tell if your blood sugars are high by the way you are feeling. Most people won’t have symptoms of high blood sugar until they are over 200 mg/dL or 11 or 12 mmol/l. If your blood sugars have been high over a period of time, your body gets used to how the high blood sugars feel. You might not be able to tell even when they are higher than 200mg/dL or 11/12 mmol/l.
Symptoms of high blood sugar include increased thirst, headaches, blurred vision, fatigue, weight loss, trouble concentrating or peeing often. But remember, it’s more likely that you will have NO symptoms.
When your blood sugars are high over time, they can damage your blood vessels and nerves. This can cause heart disease, stroke, and damage to your eyes, kidneys, and feet. To lower the risk of diabetes complications, keep your blood sugar in the target ranges.
The chart above provides general target goals for blood sugars. Your doctor or diabetes educator might set higher or lower blood sugar goals for you. As well, you may not meet these guidelines all the time. That’s normal!
What is the difference between my HAIC value and blood sugar testing?
Your HA1C value tells you about your blood sugar average over the past 2-3 month. It can’t tell you about any highs and lows that you may have had. It averages those into the 3-month number. Your HA1C can still be in the target range but you can still have lots of high and low blood sugars. Checking your blood sugars is the only way to know if your blood sugars are within the target ranges.
Also, because it is a 2-3 month average, your HA1C doesn’t give you information to make day to day decisions. H1C can't tell how food, medication, activity or stress affect your blood sugars. Your blood sugar meter gives you information about your blood sugars at one point in time.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO CHECK YOUR SUGARS?
Many people only check their fasting or morning blood sugar. This gives you good information about what's happening first thing in the morning, but it doesn't tell you what's happening for the rest of the day. It's important to check at different times of the day to get the full picture. You probably won’t have enough strips to check before and after everything. You probably don't want to be checking your sugars that often either as it's inconvenient.
Don’t worry! Pick times to do some before and after checking over the course of a week so you can get a general picture. When you are first diagnosed, you will check your sugars more until they start to come back to the target range.
Blood Sugar Checking in Pairs
Checking in pairs usually gives you the best information about what is happening. Two checks will always give you more information than one lone check.
Common times to check in pairs
- Bedtime and fasting (before you eat in the morning). This tells you how your liver is working overnight. It’s not related to what you ate the night before. See more here about the Dawn Phenomenon.
- Before and 2 hours after meals. This tells you how your body handled what you ate and/or whether your body makes enough mealtime insulin.
- Before and after physical activity. This tells you the impact physical activity has on your blood sugars.
CHECKING in pairs can help you problem solve
Are there any factors that might be impacting your sugars. Did you eat a big snack? Did you miss your regular pre-supper walk? Did you forget to take a medication dose? Are you having a stressful day? Did you have a poor night's sleep? Did you eat a bigger meal than usual? Did you forget to take your medication or did you skip an exercise class?
And don’t worry! A one time or occasional out of target result isn’t a big deal even if you can’t figure out the cause.
Times when a single check is enough
- Before driving. To make sure you don’t get an unexpected low when you are behind the wheel
- If you think you are having low or high blood sugar. So you can treat a low, or seek medical attention if your sugar is very high.
IDENTIFYING BLOOD SUGAR PATTERNS
Tracking patterns in your blood sugar is also important.
It can be difficult to find patterns when your blood sugars are in your meter. Tracking your blood sugars on paper your sugars can make it easier to find your patterns.
Record your results along with any other relevant information:
- The time you took your blood sugar
- What you ate
- What medication you took
- Any physical activity you did
- How you slept
- Whether you were ill
- If you were feeling stressed
Take note of any highs or lows. You may want to circle or highlight the numbers to help you see the patterns better.
If you notice patterns see if they relate to something. If they aren't, talk to your doctor or diabetes educator. You may need some help figuring out what’s going on. You may even need a medication change to help you bring your sugars into your target ranges.
Some patterns you should ask your doctor or diabetes educator about are:
- Your blood sugars are often high before you eat – and it’s not related to an unusual snack or change in activity patterns
- Your blood sugars are running high most of the time – before and after meals
- You have high sugars 2 hours after you eat and you only ate the recommended 30 – 45 grams of carbs per meal
- Your blood sugars are high in the morning
- You have a pattern of low blood sugars at a particular time of day
So if you check with a plan – you might be able to check less and learn more about your blood sugar patterns!