The main objective of diabetes management is to maintain blood sugar levels within a specific target range because this reduces the risk of developing further complications associated with diabetes. This requires a combination of balanced food, regular physical activity, healthy lifestyle habits and medication.
Regularly monitoring your blood sugar levels can help you understand how your diabetes management is progressing. This information, over time, can be assessed to provide the most impactful strategy for your diabetes management. Therefore, keeping a record your blood sugar levels and noting reasons for changes is important.
When and how often you will need to test your blood sugar levels will depend on the type of diabetes that you have, your medication, your diet and physical activity. Your doctor will advise you about this.
Some of the most common times for testing blood sugar levels are:
- Before breakfast
- Two hours after your meal
- Before you go to bed
- When you are feeling unwell
Regular testing will keep you informed about your practices, letting you know which ones are working and are not. The pattern of your blood sugar readings can help your health care professional decide on continuing or changing your treatment regime. All of this can increase your confidence in your management methods.
Reasons for changes in blood sugar levels
Sometimes, you may not be able to explain your blood sugar readings. Here are some common reasons for an increase or a decrease in the levels of blood sugar:
- Skipping meals or delaying meal times
- Type and amount of carbohydrate in your food
- Change in medication
Contact your doctor if you notice that your blood sugar patterns are consistently higher or lower than your usual readings.
Testing at home
Testing your blood sugar level by yourself at home or on the move is easier and more accurate than in the past.
All you will need:
- A blood glucose meter
- A lancet device with lancets
- Test strips.
- Wash your hands then insert a test strip into your glucose meter.
- Use your lancing device on the side of your fingertip to get a drop of blood.
- Touch and hold the edge of the test strip to the drop of blood and wait for the result.
- Your blood glucose level will appear on the meter’s display. All meters are slightly different, so always refer to your user manual for specific instructions.
- You can keep a track of your reading either in a diary or by using a mobile phone app.
Your home blood sugar test will give you a daily measure of your blood sugar level while the HbA1c is an indication of how well your blood sugar levels have been managed over a period of 2 to 3 months. The HbA1c is usually carried out once or twice a year.
Target ranges for your blood sugar may differ depending on your age, duration of diabetes, the type of medication you are taking and if you have any other medical problems. Regardless of the type of diabetes you have, you should generally aim to maintain your HbA1c below 7.0%. This is usually considered to be a good enough range for a diabetic to reduce the risk of long-term complications. Speak with your doctor about your individual target ranges.