When to Test Blood Glucose: The Basics
Being diagnosed as a person with diabetes is understandably devastating, initially; however, there is some good news. As I mentioned in my general review of diabetes, options are available to control the risk and resulting damage cause by the disease. The most significant advance in the management of diabetes over that past couple of decades has been the advent of blood glucose self-monitoring. The ability to test your blood glucose at home has changed everything, and understanding the testing basics is probably the most important thing a person with diabetes must learn.
Prior to the wide availability of blood glucose testing option, people with diabetes were given multiple instructions and restrictions from their care providers. They were told what they could eat and how to use their medications, and then updated their progress upon the next office visit. When problems were identified, it was already too late to reverse the damage. The urine testing methods available were of limited value because glucose does not show up in the urine until after blood glucose is way too high.
Today, thanks to home testing, patients still receive dietary guidelines and have to use medication, but they can now see first hand how much progress can be made and how deviating from instructions can worsen results.
The key to successful blood glucose monitoring is pattern management. Understanding to cyclical pattern changes thru out the day and in relation to meals is absolutely essential to the control of diabetes. Blood glucose levels go up after you eat, peak after 1-2 hours, then start to decline. What you eat and how much determines how high the levels get. The more often you eat, the more ups and downs you’ll see. Smaller and more frequent meals can help control extremes. The number one mistake I have identified as a pharmacist is when people actually test their blood glucose. Too many people test once daily, usually around the same time, and usually in the morning. It should be obvious after reading this paragraph that testing in this manner misses out on what is going on the rest of the day. If testing frequently in not necessary or not an option, at the very least the testing requires some variety. A few days of testing first thing in the morning mixed with testing before meals some days and after meals on other days will provide you with much more valuable data. Glucose numbers after meals with significant carbohydrate content can be very enlightening. Activity and exercise will also influence results.
There is a lot to learn about the technical details of blood glucose monitoring, but when you test and recognition of patterns is the most important and critical to the entire process. I’ll have more to share regarding some tech aspects and how to reduce the cost of blood glucose testing in future articles, but if you only learn what you’ve read here, then we’ve made progress towards controlling diabetes and I’ve done my job sharing my word as a pharmacist.