A woman peering over a barrier made of testing trips. She looks as though shes searching for something.

Glucose Checking: You Gotta Know Your "Why"

My heart sank when I read the Facebook post. It was from a man who was newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. His doctor had sent him home with a blood glucose meter, testing supplies, and instructions to check once a day.

Advice for checking blood glucose levels at home

But the doctor didn’t say when during the day he should check. So the man was asking the Facebook group for advice. What is the best time for him to check? Various people shared what they do each day to monitor their glucose levels. But none of it gave the man any direction. Some check when they get up. Others check around mealtime. Still, others check before and after a meal. Then there’s those who check when exercising. And those who check before taking a shot of insulin. Most checked more than once a day.

People use a variety of triggers for checking their glucose levels. Some check based on the time of day. Others, based on mealtimes or physical activity or taking medication. Many people use a combination of triggers as they check their glucose levels throughout the day.

Which one should you use? Without understanding why you are checking, it’s impossible to tell.

Checking your glucose levels gives a snapshot

Checking your glucose levels gives you a snapshot of your body’s current state. It measures the amount of glucose present in your bloodstream at a specific point of time. The number, in and of itself, isn’t “good” or “bad.” But it is an indication of whether your blood glucose levels are within your target range or outside of it.

A single reading can’t tell you how often your glucose levels have been in the target range. But testing in pairs (before and after a meal or exercise, for example) can give you insight into how certain foods or activities raise or lower your glucose levels. And most glucose meters can estimate your A1c based on your last three months' readings if you are checking several times a day.

If you understand why you’re checking and what you’re looking for, your glucose levels can help you track how effective your diabetes self-care has been in the past and point to what you can do in the future to improve it.

Without a “why” your glucose level is just a random number

Regularly checking your glucose levels can provide you with data to improve your diabetes self-care. But to be able to use this information effectively, you have to know why you are checking your glucose levels. And you need to know how to use the information that you gather.

Work with your healthcare provider

The best way to get clear on these things is to work with your healthcare professional to understand your own health needs. It’s not enough for your healthcare provider to show you how to take a blood sample and record the readings. If that is all you are taught all you end up with is a list of numbers with little or no context.

Establish your personal target range

You need to know what those numbers mean — for you and your health, not just the standard target range. Not everyone is aiming for the standard 70 to 130 mg/dL right now. And you need to know how you can respond to those numbers in a way that improves your diabetes self-care. Are there things you can do to bring your glucose levels more in line with your targets? Exercise? Medication? A change in diet? Managing stress?

Once you understand these all things then you can figure out when is the best time for you to check your blood glucose levels.

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