Self-monitoring is an integral part of diabetes management because it puts you in charge. Regardless of how you manage your diabetes — through diet and exercise alone or combined with oral medicines or insulin — regular blood sugar monitoring provides immediate feedback on how your program is working.
“Checking your blood glucose gives you the freedom to make choices without worry, the confidence to learn from your actions, and the motivation to keep striving to do better,” says Linda Dale, RN, BA, CDE, Clinical Nurse Specialist in the Outpatient Diabetes Education Program at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Diabetes Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “Monitoring tells you that what you’re doing either is working or isn’t, and it serves as motivation to keep up actions that are working or to make changes.”
The important thing is to know how to interpret the numbers and take the necessary action. For example, if you take insulin and your blood sugar is high, you may need to bolus, or take more rapid-acting insulin, to bring your levels down into range. If you manage your type 2 diabetes with diet and exercise, you might treat high blood sugar with a walk around the block.
People who use insulin and certain oral diabetes drugs are also at risk of developing low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, which needs to be treated promptly when it occurs. Regular monitoring may enable you to catch and treat it early, and any symptoms of hypoglycemia should be checked with a meter reading.
Over time, blood sugar monitoring records can be analyzed for patterns of highs or lows that may suggest that a change is needed in the treatment regimen.
“Regular monitoring is especially helpful for showing the positive effects of exercise,” says Dale. “Say your readings have regularly been around 140 mg/dl, but you start taking a walk every day and you start getting more readings around 120 mg/dl. That will definitely boost your motivation.”