How to monitor
To monitor your blood glucose levels, you need a blood glucose meter and a supply of the test strips that are made for your particular brand of meter. There are many brands of meters to choose from. You’ll find them in pharmacies, discount department stores, and perhaps even in your doctor’s office. All meters are small, lightweight, and easily portable. Some have special features such as a large number display that is easier for some people to read, large buttons that may be easier to press, rubber grips to make the meter easier to hold, or rubber feet to keep the meter stable on a tabletop. “Talking” meters are also available for people with visual impairment.
You may want to speak with your doctor or diabetes educator about which model would be best for you. Some insurance policies cover part of the cost of a meter, test strips, and other self-monitoring supplies such as a lancing device, lancets, and control solution to periodically test the meter itself. Call the member services number on your insurance card to ask about which diabetes supplies your insurance covers.
All blood glucose meters measure the concentration of glucose in your blood at the moment of monitoring. Results appear within 5 to 30 seconds, depending on the meter. Most meters have the capacity to store 50–3,000 results in memory, and many provide weekly or monthly averages of your results.
While the meter memory is helpful, many diabetes experts recommend keeping a written record of your results. Your meter may have come with a logbook you can fill out, and you can likely get replacements from your meter company as you fill the books up. You can also download record-keeping sheets from such Web sites as www.onetouchdiabetes.com/logbook and http://journeyforcontrol.com (click on “Patient Site”).
By seeing all of your numbers on one page for, say, a week or a month, it is easier for you to see trends in your blood glucose levels. For instance, you may notice that your numbers are unusually high after dinner on Fridays when you go out to eat with friends, or that your numbers are particularly low before lunch on the mornings when you attend a gym class. Patterns such as these allow you to alter your daily routine or your diabetes regimen so that you stay in your target blood glucose range as much as possible. Seeing your monitoring results is one way your body “talks” to you about what is going on inside based what you are doing outside.
All blood glucose meters come with user-friendly, step-by-step instructions for performing a blood glucose check. All require a small blood sample from the fingertip or, for some meters, an “alternate” site such as the forearm, upper arm, palm, the base of the thumb, thigh, calf, or abdomen. People who have very sensitive or calloused fingertips may prefer using a meter that accepts alternate-site samples. Blood glucose readings from alternate sites may differ from fingertip readings, however, if the blood glucose level is changing rapidly (rising or falling) at the time of monitoring. Your diabetes educator can advise you on whether you are a good candidate for alternate site testing and, if so, when to use these sites.
When to monitor
To get as much information as possible from monitoring, it is important to know when to check your blood glucose levels. Your doctor or diabetes educator will help you determine the best schedule for you based on your lifestyle, diabetes medicines, exercise, and daily activities. Most likely you will be advised to check a minimum of two times a day if you do not take insulin and at least four times a day if you do. Commonly suggested times to check are before and two hours after meals and at bedtime. Checking before and after meals helps you see how your food choices and any insulin or other diabetes medicines you take before meals are affecting your blood glucose level. Checking at bedtime can help you avoid hypoglycemia during the night by alerting you to a lower-than-recommended blood glucose level.