4 Keys to Tracking Your Blood Sugar

4 Keys to Tracking Your Blood Sugar

Your testing routine provides valuable information on how well your treatment plan is working.

Monitoring blood glucose is a key part of diabetes management.

Your doctor may want you to track your blood glucose at home. Tracking your blood sugar throughout the day is becoming increasingly easier and less of a hassle as home-testing tools and even smartphone apps ease the process. But doing it appropriately and correctly still requires planning.

Finding the right meter
The first step is to ask your doctor for a prescription for a blood glucose meter that is right for you. Pharmacies sell them, but you’ll want to be sure that your insurance covers the one you’re prescribed.

Other factors besides insurance coverage matter, too. You can ask your doctor how hard a specific meter is to use and whether the results can be tracked on your computer. If you can’t upload results or send them via a smartphone device, you’ll need to manually record them or enter them into a spreadsheet or online tool.

Other important questions relate to how bulky the meter is and how easy it is to use in situations that are typical for you, such as in a classroom if you’re a student or teacher. Certain additional features—such as audio prompts or extra-large buttons—may also help you determine if a particular model is right for you. These are important considerations because you will need to have your blood glucose meter with you at all times.

It’s also not a bad idea to take a look at the product’s instructions, often available for download from the manufacturer’s website, to suss out whether they’re clear and easy to understand.

Caring for and using your meter
Your health care team member can help you learn to use the blood glucose meter properly and ensure a smooth process, from loading a test strip to getting a blood sample to performing the measurement. Steps to keep in mind typically include handwashing, learning the appropriate temperature for testing, ensuring a good blood sample and calibrating the meter. Because this list might seem daunting, getting help from your clinician is a good idea.

Blood glucose meters and the related supplies, such as test strips, need good care. They should not be subjected to extreme temperatures and they should be kept free of dust, dirt and moisture.

The costs of the meter and the test strips can be substantial, so it’s important to take good care of yours and to be sure that you maintain a ready supply of unexpired materials.

When to test
The frequency with which you’ll need to test your blood glucose is something that your doctor will determine, but a typical rate is 3 to 4 times a day. Common testing times are before and after eating.

You also should test your blood sugar if you have reason to believe that it is high or low, and you may also need to test more often if you are sick or unusually stressed. Some newer devices coming onto market offer continuous glucose monitoring and will deliver an alarm if an abnormal reading is detected. These devices are more expensive than standard monitors and can be more complicated to use. Ask your doctor if they may be a good option for you.

Who does the testing
You will likely do your testing yourself, but in the case that you cannot for any reason, a caregiver also needs to understand diabetes and how to use the meter to help you whenever the need arises.

Medically reviewed in January 2019.

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