Blood Sugar Testing
Regular blood sugar testing is an important part of managing diabetes. Taking control of your blood sugar, also called blood glucose, will help you feel better and stay healthy. Keeping your blood sugar at healthy levels reduces your chances of having eye, kidney, and nerve problems. Lots of things can affect blood sugar levels. Diet, exercise, medications, illness and stress can all make blood sugar levels go up or down. Knowing your blood sugar numbers will help you and your health care provider make timely changes to your diabetes treatment plan.
There are two common types of blood tests used to measure blood sugar levels for someone with diabetes. One is called a hemoglobin A1C test. This is done in a medical facility. The other type is a blood sugar self-test. This is done at home with a small device. Both tests are necessary to get a complete and accurate picture of your blood sugar control.
Hemoglobin A1C Test
A hemoglobin A1C test is a simple blood test that shows your average blood sugar levels over the past 3 months. It is the best way to know if your blood sugar is under good control. During the test, a small amount of blood is taken from a vein and sent to a lab. Your doctor then gets the test results back from the lab in a few days.
You may need this test twice a year if your blood sugar is stable. You may need it up to four times a year if your blood sugar is not stable. And you may need it any time there is a change in your treatment plan.
An ideal hemoglobin A1C test score goal for a person with diabetes is based on factors such as your age, how long you have had diabetes, your overall health, and possible risk of complications from treatments. You and your health care provider will work together to find the right test score goal for you.
It is important to know that a single A1C test score is not exact. This means that your blood sugar levels may have been a bit higher or lower over time than the score shows. Because of this, think of a single score as being within a range. For example, a score of 7 percent could represent 6.5 to 7.5 percent. Ask your health care provider for more information about what your score means.
For many people just diagnosed with diabetes, keeping their hemoglobin A1C score at less than 7 percent can have long-lasting benefits. However, the longer you have had diabetes, the harder it may be to keep your A1C score stable. You may need to take insulin or other medications to help control your blood sugar. Talk with your healthcare provider about your treatment options.
Blood Sugar Self-Testing
Blood sugar self-testing is done with a small handheld device called a blood sugar meter. Blood sugar meters let you test your blood sugar on your own. You don’t have to go to your healthcare provider’s office or a medical facility.
Self-testing lets you see how your daily living affects your blood sugar. These results can help you control your diabetes day by day, or even hour by hour.
Testing blood sugar several times a day is recommended for a person with diabetes who is on insulin therapy or who has symptoms. If you have aren’t on insulin, have no symptoms, and your blood sugar is stable, testing may not be of benefit. Ask your healthcare provider if self-testing is right for you.
There are many types of blood sugar meters. Each may work differently. Make sure you read and understand the instructions on your meter. Your health care provider can help you chose the best meter for you and teach you the right way to use it.
To self test, you prick the tip of your finger with a small, sharp device called a lancet. You then squeeze your finger until you see a small drop of blood. You touch the blood drop to a test strip. You then put the strip into the blood sugar meter. The meter tests the blood and shows a number on a small screen. This number is your current blood sugar level.
Self-testing is usually done before meals or at bedtime. If you test your blood before a meal, your ideal self-test score goal will likely be 80-120 milligrams per deciliters. If you test your blood 2 hours after meals, your ideal self-test score goal will likely be 180 or less milligrams per deciliters.
Keep a record of your scores. Talk with your healthcare provider about your scores, test times, and blood sugar goals.
Controlling Your Blood Sugar
Certain things can make blood sugar levels go too high. Eating more than usual or eating foods with a lot of sugar in them can make your blood sugar too high. Stress, sickness, and certain medicines can cause high levels. Not exercising or skipping your diabetes medication can also cause high levels.
And certain things can make blood sugar levels too low. These include eating less or later than usual, or missing a meal. Too much exercise can cause low blood sugar. And taking too much insulin can cause low levels.
Talk with your healthcare provider if you’re having trouble keeping your blood sugar levels stable.
What to Do
To stay healthy, self-test your blood sugar as often as directed. Stick to your meal plan. Exercise as advised. And take your prescribed medications. Make sure to get a hemoglobin A1C test as often as your healthcare provider advises. Knowing your blood sugar numbers will help you control your diabetes.
What We Have Learned
- Lowering your blood sugar will not reduce your chances of having eye, kidney, and nerve problems. True or False?
The answer is False. Keeping your blood sugar at healthy levels reduces your chances of having eye, kidney, and nerve problems.
- Hemoglobin A1c test is the best way to know if your blood sugar is under control. True or False?
The answer is True. A hemoglobin A1C test shows your average blood sugar levels over a longer period of time so it’s the best way to know if your blood sugar is under good control.
- Blood sugar meters let you test your own blood sugar at home. True or False?
The answer is True. Testing at home means you don’t have to go to your healthcare provider’s office or a medical facility.