Monitoring Matters: Know Your Blood Glucose Numbers

If you’re living with diabetes, tracking your blood glucose (or sugar) levels should be part of your daily routine. When you know your numbers, and what they mean, you can spot problems early and take action to return your glucose levels to a healthy range.

When you know your numbers, and what they mean, you can spot problems early and take action to return your glucose levels to a healthy range.

What Is Glucose?

Glucose is a sugar that your body uses for energy. Your body naturally regulates the amount of glucose in your blood. But if you have diabetes, you may need to follow a healthy eating plan, be active, and possibly take medications to control your blood glucose. 

How Is Blood Glucose Monitored?

There are two ways to measure your blood sugar: 

  • At home. You can check it yourself using a blood glucose meter. You’ll stick your finger to get a drop of blood and put the blood on a test strip, which the meter reads. This tells you what your blood sugar is at that moment. Your health care provider can recommend a meter, but you also want to check with your insurer. Use a meter that is preferred under your health plan.
Your Blood Glucose Numbers small

How often you check your blood sugar depends on you. It may vary based on the type of diabetes you have and if you take medication. If you’re sick, you should test more often. You may check it when you first wake up, or before or after a meal, or at bedtime. Some people with diabetes just check once a day, while others check many times. Talk with your health care provider about the best schedule for you.

It’s a good idea to keep a written log. Record the date, time and test result each time you check. Take these results, along with your meter, to each visit. You may want to ask your provider to watch you test yourself to make sure you’re using the meter correctly.

  • In the doctor’s office. You can get an A1C test in your doctor’s  office or at a lab. This test measures your average blood sugar level over the past two to three months. The American Diabetes Association recommends getting this test every three months unless your results remain stable or your treatment changes.

Why Is Monitoring Blood Glucose Important?

Your blood sugar levels show you how well your diabetes is controlled. With good control, you lower your chances of having serious problems (heart, kidney, nerve disease and vision loss).

Before you developed diabetes, your blood glucose always stayed within a normal range, no matter what you ate or how active you were. With diabetes, that’s no longer the case. When you check your blood sugar, you can see what food, activities, medicines, illness and stressors make your numbers go up or down. And you can make changes accordingly with your health care provider’s guidance.

What Do the Numbers Mean?

Blood sugar levels are measured by milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood (mg/dL). Here’s what the numbers are telling you:

  • Goal blood sugars for people with diabetes are 80-130 mg/dL fasting or pre-meal, and less than 180 mg/dL one to two hours after the start of a meal. It is important to talk with your provider about the best target numbers specifically for you.
  • Less than 70 mg/dL: Too low and can be considered a risk. May be caused by taking too much diabetes medication, waiting too long to eat or skipping meals, unplanned exercise, or drinking alcohol on an empty stomach. 

If you take insulin or oral diabetes medication that can cause low blood sugar, it’s very important to always carry your blood glucose meter, a source of fast-acting carbohydrate (glucose tabs or hard candy) and a small snack (pack of cheese or peanut butter crackers) to eat after you treat your low sugar. It’s wise to wear identification stating that you have diabetes.

Small Steps: Budget Your Carbs.
You can still have foods you love, but sometimes it means cutting carbs elsewhere.