How often should you check your blood sugars?
One of the most important components of your diabetes treatment plan is the blood sugar test. Understanding how your blood sugars shift throughout the day can help you and your doctor manage your diabetes effectively. It starts with a glucose meter and a regular testing schedule.
"All diabetic patients should know how to check their blood sugar levels," said Renee Schickler, MD, endocrinologist at Vanguard Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago. "The frequency depends on the patient's willingness to test their blood sugars, their ability to control stable blood sugars, and their treatments to control it, whether that's diet and exercise, insulin, or oral agents."
When to check your blood sugars?
Patients who need to check their blood sugars frequently should do so before breakfast, prior to meals and before bed time. "Additional times could also include two to three hours after eating and sometimes even in middle of the night if blood sugars are low overnight," Dr. Schickler said. "Keep in mind, testing times may vary due to illness or the extent in which a patient exercises."
Keep these six rules in mind when you're deciding on a testing schedule:
- If you have an active lifestyle, test more often, especially after your workouts.
- Do you take insulin? If so, test at least four to six times per day, especially before meals.
- If you have been sick or stressed out, test more often to ensure your glucose stays in range.
- When you start a new medication, be even more vigilant about regular testing.
- If you have gained or lost weight, pay close attention to your blood sugars.
- If you are pregnant, nursing or have a medical condition, test much more often.
What if you have a tough time getting on a testing schedule and sticking to it? "For a patient who's not checking frequently, I would like them to commit to just a week of daily fasting, pre-meal and pre-bedtime testing so I can capture a blood sugar profile and better understand the best treatment for them," Dr. Schickler said.
Remembering to check your blood sugars
When you're faced with a busy lifestyle, it can be easy to forget to test your blood sugar. To avoid this, keep your meter with you at all times. Some find it easier to invest in more than one meter and keep them in strategic places, such as in the car or at the office. Still having trouble? Set alarms to remind you to test at certain times throughout the day. The more often you test, the easier it can be for your doctor to find the diabetes treatment plan that works for you.
Interview with Renee Schickler, MD, Vanguard Weiss Memorial Hospital
Mayo Clinic, "Blood Sugar Testing: Why, When and How"