How To Monitor Your Blood Sugar Levels

There are different ways to monitor your blood sugar. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that you should talk to your doctor about whether or not you should be checking your blood sugar and the best way to monitor your levels.

Monitoring your blood sugar levels is an important way to stay healthy, especially if you have diabetes or other medical conditions that affect blood sugar levels.

Target Blood Sugar Levels

Doctors at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the ADA Follow these general guidelines for blood sugar target levels:

  • Before a meal: 80–130 mg/dL
  • 2 hours after eating a meal: Less than 180 mg/dL
  • A1C: Less than 7%

However, these doctors also remind people that your target blood sugar levels may be different. Your doctor will determine your target blood sugar levels based on:

  • How long you have had diabetes
  • Age/life expectancy
  • Other medical conditions you may have
  • Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar level, unawareness
  • Individual considerations for your health and lifestyle
  • Using a Glucometer

A glucometer is a device most people use to monitor their blood sugar levels. To use a glucometer, you add a small drop of blood to a test strip, then insert it into the machine to read your blood sugar level.

Glucometer manufacturers provide these steps for using the machine:

  • Wash hands with warm water to improve blood flow.
  • Turn on the meter and insert a test strip. Some meters turn on automatically when you insert the test strip.
  • Prepare the lancing device by exposing the needle, then prick your finger for a drop of blood.
  • “Touch and hold the test strip opening to the drop until it has absorbed enough blood to begin the test. The glucometer will start the test automatically once enough blood is applied to the opening in the test strip.”
  • View your test results on the screen of the glucometer. Some glucometers will verbally report your test results.
  • Discard the used lancet properly in a puncture-resistant container.
  • Record your result. You may write your result in a booklet, and many meters have a memory function.
  • Inform your doctor of your results and use your results to follow your doctor’s prescription for medication doses.

To help maintain accuracy, some meters also require you to test the device itself. Instead of a drop of blood, you use a control solution to check that the machine can read both low and high levels. If your glucometer needs to be tested, it will come with specific instructions and test ranges, and information about the type of control solution to use.

Other Testing Methods

While using a finger-stick glucometer is the most common way to monitor your blood sugar levels, there are options. Some meters allow you to prick your forearm, leg, or hand instead of your finger. You should not use anything other than your finger if your glucometer isn’t approved for other site uses.

In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first continuous monitoring system for blood sugar levels. This system uses a sensor, placed under the skin in the arm, to read blood sugar levels once a minute. You use a scanner app on your smartphone to see the results. The device must be replaced every 14 days but doesn’t require any finger sticks to use.

An A1C reading also monitors blood sugar levels. The A1C is a blood test, drawn by a lab, to check your average blood sugar over the last three months. While a glucometer reading may be high or low because of what or how much you ate or when you took your medication, an A1C reading allows doctors to see how well your blood sugar levels are managed over time. Doctors use A1C reading to diagnose diabetes. They may check your A1C with your yearly labs to see if you are developing diabetes disease.

You and your doctor will choose the best way to monitor your blood sugar levels, how often you need to check them, and what your target range is. Follow your doctor’s instructions to help stay healthy.

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