Using Blood Glucose Results

Perhaps there are a few “unusual” individuals who actually enjoy the finger stick necessary to get a small blood sample for checking glucose levels, but it’s fair to assume most people don’t look forward to this ritual. Yes, it’s easy to reduce the discomfort by sticking the sides of your finger instead of the finger pad, and some meters even accept samples drawn from someplace other than a finger. But, checking blood glucose levels is still something many people avoid, and too many simply ignore completely.

One reason, it turns out, is that the process can seem pointless. In fact, there is a recurring discussion among insurers, and even some medical professionals, to stop reimbursing (stop prescribing) blood glucose monitoring supplies for people not taking insulin. The reason – “patients do not use the data to make behavior changes.” But patients, it turns out, are often not trained on how to use blood glucose results to make changes. Sometimes the prescribed schedule for type 2 diabetes patients– checking blood sugar only first thing in the mornings or only once a week, for example – doesn’t really give them information that is “actionable.” The unfortunate result of this circular argument is that blood glucose testing can be viewed by doctors, insurers and patients alike as worthless.

The truth is that routine blood glucose checks can be very valuable with type 2 diabetes, and can even motivate behavior change. But, you have to measure the effect of one circumstance on blood glucose levels to the effect of a different one so you can see a difference. The simplest example is measuring blood glucose before and after different meals, and noting which foods seem to send your levels higher and keep them high longer (and which foods don’t). Careful blood glucose monitoring can reveal the beneficial effects of exercise, or the negative effects of too little sleep. Recognizing how blood glucose levels vary can certainly motivate behavior change.

You’ll need two things to start an informal monitoring effort. First, some convenient way to keep notes recording blood glucose readings, and recording the circumstances, like food, that could be affecting those readings. Second, you’ll need an adequate supply of testing strips or your medical team’s OK to vary your prescribed schedule for the strips you already have. Make blood glucose monitoring useful, and you’ll be surprised how your motivation to modify behaviors changes.