How to Test Your Blood Sugar Level


The first thing you have to do is start lowering your blood glucose levels. The most important aspect of diabetes care is keeping your blood glucose levels within a normal range for diabetics: 80-140 mg/dl fasting or 100-180 mg/dl one or two hours after meals. For nondiabetics, the numbers should be slightly lower: 75-115 mg/dl fasting and below 140 mg/dl after meals.

Everyone’s blood glucose (diabetics and nondiabetics alike) fluctuates a good deal during the day, depending on how long it’s been since you’ve eaten, what you ate for your last meal or snack, what medications you are taking, how much stress you’re experi­encing, how physically active you are during the day, and whether you have an illness such as a cold or the flu. The best way to keep your blood glucose on an even keel and within nor­mal limits is to keep all these factors in balance. There are three general steps in the process: testing your blood glucose, adjusting what you eat and drink and how much exercise you get, and retesting your blood to see how you are doing.

Test Blood

Testing Your Blood

No, you don’t have to become a laboratory technician, and you don’t have to wrap a tourniquet around your arm and stick a needle into your vein. Testing your own blood couldn’t be any easier, and it’s all practically automatic. Although a needle (often called a lancet) does prick your finger, you don’t have to do the jabbing; all you do is press a button and the needle shoots out of the spring-loaded stylus automatically, and it’s all over before you have a chance to get anxious. In fact, in a very short time, you will become so used to testing your own blood that you probably won’t think of it as being pricked by a needle.

Your doctor or other health care provider (a diabetes educa­tor or nurse practitioner) will have you buy a self blood glucose monitor (SBGM), which you can find in large drugstores and some supermarkets and discount stores. They come with a supply of test strips and needles, which you will have to replenish from time to time. There are a number of brands on the market. Al­though the design of the case varies from brand to brand, most function in about the same way and their inner workings and costs are similar. Many have rebate offers, so make sure you look at all the brands before you buy. Mine ended up costing only fif­teen dollars after the rebate.

Just as you can spend more for a car if you want lots of op­tions, you can spend more for a monitor that has a variety of bells and whistles. You can buy expensive laser technology or a more costly monitor with a reusable instead of disposable tests strips. Some work by electrical signal instead of a chemically treated test strip, and others even have a voice that tells you what your blood glucose level is. All monitors have a memory that tells you what your last test was, but more expensive models have long-term memory and written printouts. Others have the finger-piercing device built into the machine, rather than having to use a separate instrument. One costly system, called the DIVA, has a memory that stores up to three thousand events, including blood glu­cose, insulin dose, food intake, and exercise. The choice is up to you. You have to test your blood glucose, and you need a good, serviceable monitor to do it. Your monitor (at least a basic one) and all blood glucose testing supplies are tax deductible, so keep your receipts.

Your doctor will tell you how often to test your blood, but in the beginning, it will be several times a day at about the same hours. Yes, it’s a bit of a nuisance at first, but again, you will quickly become used to the routine and will find that you have in­corporated it into your life in much the same way as you brush your teeth or wash your face in the morning. You do it without thinking much about it.

Each time you test your blood glucose, write down the result, along with how long it has been since you ate and any other little notes you think are pertinent, such as the fact that you just fin­ished exercising or that you had a fight with someone that morn­ing. Your monitor will come with a booklet for this purpose, so keep the booklet with the machine and you won’t feel as though you have added another paperwork chore to your life. The record gives you an opportunity to keep track of how you are doing with diabetes control, and it helps you correlate your diet and physical activity with your blood glucose level. You should bring the book­let with you each time you visit your physician so it can be checked.

It is extremely important to read the directions carefully be­fore you begin using your SBGM. Read every word and keep the instruction booklet with the monitor. In general, however, this is the procedure:

1. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Warm wa­ter will increase the blood flow to your finger. Don’t swab your skin with alcohol because it can interfere with the accuracy of the test. If your hands are cold, rub them together briskly to warm them.

2. Turn on the monitor and do what it tells you. First it will give you the reading from your last test, then it will tell you to insert the test strip in the appropriate slot and to apply the drop of blood.

3. While the monitor is doing its thing, get your drop of blood ready by inserting a fresh needle into the stylus, activating the mechanism that pops the needle into the pad of your finger, and squeezing to draw out a large drop of blood (the monitor will tell you if you have placed too small a drop on the test strip). Change the finger you use each time you test so they don’t get sore.

4. Put the drop on the test strip and let the monitor do the rest. In forty-five to sixty seconds (you can watch the readout display count down), the machine will beep and you have your result. Write the number in your booklet.

5. Clean off your finger, take the needle out of the stylus and the strip out of the monitor, discard them safely in a place where children and pets can’t get at them, and you’re done. The whole thing takes two to three minutes.

Test Blood

In the beginning, if you feel nervous about doing this yourself, or if you’re not sure you’re doing it correctly (you probably are if you are following the manufacturer’s directions step-by-step), ask a friend or family member to walk you through it the first time or two. You can take the monitor to your physician or nurse practi­tioner to teach you how to use it, but you’ll be charged for an of­fice visit.

Even though you may feel slightly intimidated at first, a SBGM is one of the simplest devices you will ever use. It’s no more complicated than setting a digital alarm clock, and it’s a thousand times easier than programming your VCR!

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About the Author: Andrew Reinert is a health care professional who loves to share different tips on health and personal care. He is a regular contributor to MegaHowTo and lives in Canada.

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