You may need to monitor more frequently if you think you are experiencing low blood glucose, if you are sick or under a lot of stress, or if your regular daily routine changes. It may also be necessary to check your blood glucose level before driving or to pull over and check while you are driving if you think your blood glucose may be low.
Blood glucose goals
You want to have a clear idea of what your blood glucose goals are. The American Diabetes Association has established general blood glucose goals for most adults with diabetes; they are listed here. However, these goals may not be right for everyone. Personal characteristics such as advanced age or the presence of certain diabetes complications may mean that different goals might be better for you. Speak with your doctor or educator about what goals are right for you.
Not all of your monitoring results will be within the desired range every time you check. Rather than get discouraged by this, try to think of why your blood glucose might be higher or lower than desired (or expected) and what you might do differently next time. For example, a high number after a meal might prompt a thought such as, “I think my number after dinner tonight went up so high because I ate too much bread. I’ll cut back to one slice instead of two tomorrow night and see what happens.” A low number before dinner might lead to: “Now that I see how low my numbers are before dinner, I’m going to have to start having a mid-afternoon snack to keep myself from dropping too low on my drive home.” When you try something different in response to out-of-range numbers, monitor again afterward to see if what you tried changed your results.
If you don’t know the cause for numbers that are out of your goal range, you might have a thought along these lines: “The meal plan the dietitian gave me worked so well last year. I haven’t changed anything, but my numbers after my meals keep getting higher. I’m going to mention this to the doctor next week when I see him.”
There may be times when you become frustrated with your body because you see different results after eating the same meal, taking the same dose of medicine, and engaging in the same activities as you usually do. Why does this happen? We don’t know for sure. The body doesn’t always perform in exactly the same way every day. Also, the blood glucose meters used for home testing are not 100% accurate, so you may see some variation in your readings because of that, as well. For these reasons, it is best to look for trends or patterns in your blood glucose numbers rather than focus on isolated numbers. If your results are somewhat different but still in your target range, you need not be concerned. However, if your results are significantly different under the same conditions, check your monitoring technique. (See “Good Monitoring Technique” for details.) If you find no problems with your method of monitoring, and there are no unusual stresses on your body that might affect your results (such as sickness or lack of sleep), discuss your varying results with your diabetes educator.
Summary of benefits
So, what benefits does blood glucose self-monitoring offer you? Here is a list of some of them:
- It clarifies the effect of your food choices and/or portions on your blood glucose level.
- It helps identify hypoglycemia (low blood glucose). Frequent monitoring can also help you manage hypoglycemia unawareness (the inability to sense low blood glucose), if you have it.
- It guides your decision-making about adjusting your food intake and/or medication for exercise, travel, changing jobs, moving, starting a new school routine, or other schedule changes.