Many people with type 2 diabetes do not regularly check their blood sugar levels. No one enjoys poking their fingers and bleeding. No one. However, just like watching what we eat and adding more regular exercise to our day, checking our blood sugar levels at different times of the day is an important step toward controlling our diabetes.
I have written posts on my personal blog about why I test. It seems like it shouldn’t be necessary to explain why; everyone should be testing! I still fail to understand why people with diabetes don’t test! Denial? Fear? Economics? Part of the reason people with type 2 (who don’t use insulin) don’t test is because they aren’t encouraged by their healthcare team to do so. Insurance companies (including Medicare) don’t generally allow T2s to have test strips. Ludicrous! This has to change. Studies have shown that checking our blood sugar when we don’t use insulin doesn’t do any good. Instead of just getting upset about that, I looked into the why of that statement. The reason is because T2s often don’t do anything with the information they receive from testing. If you test, and don’t make changes in what you’re eating or how much you’re exercising, then your blood sugar will likely not improve. Your diabetes will likely progress much faster.
The important thing to remember when you’re dealing with a life with diabetes is that you do have some level of control. Yes you do! YOU control what you eat. YOU control how much you move. YOU are in charge! Checking your blood sugar, and doing something with that information, is a basic tool for improving your health. USE IT!
Here are some basic things to know about checking your blood sugar and what to do with the information.
- Checking your fasting blood sugar every morning will give your healthcare provider valuable information about how your body is doing overnight. If your numbers are consistently high, then a change in medication might be in order. It will also give you information about how many carbs you can safely eat for breakfast.
- Checking before and after certain meals will help you to understand how your body is handling those foods. Check before your first bite and then again approx. 90 minutes after your first bite. “They” recommend checking 1-2 hours after eating. Everyone is different and you need to determine for yourself when your peak sugar point is. Mine is 90 minutes. How do I know? Because I took the time long ago to test at 1, 1.5 and 2 hours after a few meals. Lots of pokes; worth the effort.
What should you do if your blood sugar rises too high? You have several options: Stop eating that food, reduce your portions or tweak the meal, ie: add more protein and/or fat and reduce the carbs.
- Want a snack? If you check your blood sugar level before snacking you can avoid serious spikes. Testing before snacking can help to guide you to a better food option. Blood sugar high? Drink water and munch on veggies/pickles/nuts. Blood sugar lower? Go ahead and have a few carbs if you want.
Do you have to test all the time? Heck no. I test, on average, three times per day. I’ve been known to test 10 times in one day but that’s only when things are out of whack and I’m trying to regain some control. I’ve also had many days when my fasting reading is the only one I do.
Now that you’re testing, be sure to write down your results. You need a record of your results to share with your healthcare team and to remind you of what your body does in certain situations. Personally, I have an Excel spreadsheet that I use, because I’m a geek, where I record my readings along with comments like: “I was sick”. “Today sucked.” “I don’t freakin care!!!!” “Dang, I’m good!” Stuff like that. You can use whatever works for you; paper and pencil, computer or even a fancy tracker app on your smart phone. Whatever method you use, be sure there’s an option to print out/email/show your doctor.
That’s about it. I cannot stress enough how important this is. Testing can enable you to better control your diabetes. Information is essential. Don’t fly blind! Also remember that it’s just a number; a number that can help you make informed decisions about your health. It isn’t a judgment or a “test”. It’s just a smart way for you to be in control.