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People with diabetes know that we are all supposed to check our blood glucose. But some of us do a better job of it than others. Frankly, it's sometimes frustrating to look at the results and see a number that's too high or too low.
If you think about it, though, that number is giving you information you need to maintain the best possible control.
Here are 10 good reasons for checking your blood glucose:
This reason is the most important, says Barbara Bradley, RN, MS, CDE. "Checking your blood glucose helps you make the right decisions about your self-management."
As reported in the October 2002 issue ("No Surprise: Cost of Strips Limits Testing," p. 67), a recent study confirmed that people who tested more often had better blood-glucose control.
If you find that your blood glucose is always higher or lower than your target range at certain times of the day, you and your healthcare provider can adjust dosages to help you maintain better control in the long run.
Testing gives you immediate feedback, allowing you to take quick action to either bring down that high or raise a low blood glucose.
Check your blood glucose before you eat that new dish—and then again two hours after you have taken the first bite. The result will let you know whether you will need to adjust the amount you eat in the future or adjust your insulin dosage.
Are you exercising? What does the exercise do to your blood-glucose levels? Does walking lower your blood glucose more than swimming? How about riding a bicycle, lifting weights, shoveling snow or gardening? The only way you can determine how your activity affects your blood glucose is to test before, after—and sometimes during—exercise.
As always, be sure to check with your healthcare professional before beginning any new exercise regimen. Some diabetes complications rule out certain types of exercise.
If you are no longer able to detect the symptoms of low blood glucose (hypoglycemia unawareness), you need to test more frequently. Testing will alert you that your blood glucose is dropping before you get into the danger zone.
Don't forget to test before you drive. Low blood glucose while you are driving can put you at risk for having an accident. And an accident could result in injury—or even death—to you, your passengers and people in any other vehicle that gets in your way.
Test often when you are sick. The stress of an illness such as a cold or the flu can increase your blood-glucose levels. Keeping your numbers in range as much as possible will help you to recover faster. You might also need to be checking for ketones when you are sick.
Don't forget to take your insulin or medication, even if you're not eating. Your body still needs help to control your diabetes. Talk to your doctor about how to adjust your usual doses.
Even before you have an illness, you need to discuss sick day plans with your diabetes educator so that you'll know what to do when you're "under the weather." Review the plan every few months to make sure you're familiar with what you need to do. Also review the plan with your educator when your diabetes regimen changes.
If you're an insulin pumper, testing helps you adjust your basal rates and bolus doses. When your basal rates are set so that your blood glucose stays in optimal range and your insulin-to-carbohydrate ratios are accurate, it's much easier to maintain good control.
How often should you check? That depends on your diabetes and your treatment plan. Some people can stagger their testing patterns and get a good picture of their blood-glucose control by testing only twice a day, while others test 10 or more times per day.
Check with your healthcare provider to determine what is best for you.
Diabetes Health is the essential resource for people living with diabetes- both newly diagnosed and experienced as well as the professionals who care for them. We provide balanced expert news and information on living healthfully with diabetes. Each issue includes cutting-edge editorial coverage of new products, research, treatment options, and meaningful lifestyle issues.