Make Tracking Routine
Checking your blood sugar levels is an important part of managing your diabetes, especially since you take insulin. Yet many people find it hard to make testing a routine part of their lives.
Useful tips for tracking your blood sugar
- Understand your plan. Your diabetes care plan is designed especially for you. You, your caregiver (if you have one), and your health care provider will work together to set your own personal blood sugar goals and the range of blood sugar levels that is right for you
- Use what you know to manage your blood sugar. Knowing your blood sugar level isn’t enough. You or your caregiver need to use that knowledge to manage your diabetes every day. Don’t assume numbers that are too high mean your diabetes care plan isn’t working. Instead, you or your caregiver should work with your diabetes care team to fine-tune your diabetes care plan by adjusting your meal plan, your activity level, and/or your medicine to help you meet your blood sugar goals
- Remember, blood sugar readings are just numbers. Think of your results as a blood sugar check—not a test. They are not a measure of who you are as a person. There may be times when your blood sugar levels won’t be in your target range, no matter how well you’ve been following your diabetes care plan. Your blood sugar results are simply tools you can use to see how well your diabetes care plan is working. You or your caregiver and your diabetes care team can use the results to adjust your care plan, if needed
Below you’ll see some common issues that people like you face when making blood sugar testing part of their everyday lives. Also, you’ll see a list of suggestions to help you overcome these challenges.
- Self-checking my blood sugar costs too much money
- I’m too busy
- It’s too inconvenient to check my blood sugar
- Checking my blood sugar is painful
- I don’t know what to do with the results
- I don’t understand how daily testing relates to my A1C results
- It’s too hard to use the meter
- I am embarrassed to check my blood sugar when I’m away from home
- I just forget to do it
- I’m feeling frustrated and burned out
Some meters can be expensive. And the ongoing cost of buying test strips can be a challenge. But there are a number of different meters with a range of features and prices. Some are very economical. Your diabetes care team can help you choose a meter that works for you and your (or your parents’) budget, and show you how to use it. If you have health insurance, you or your caregiver should call the Member Services department to see what your plan covers.
People whose lives are busy sometimes find it hard to test several times a day. Most people have a daily routine—things they do at about the same time every day. All you or your caregiver needs to do is add blood sugar checking to that daily routine. Many people find that it makes it easier when they connect the times they check their blood sugar to something they already do regularly. For example, you can connect taking your fasting (morning before breakfast) blood sugar with taking your morning shower. Perhaps you can set the alarm on your cell phone to remind you to check your after-meal blood sugar 2 hours after you’ve eaten.
Finding a convenient place to do testing can sometimes be a challenge. Or you may not want to have to worry about carrying supplies with you when you are away from home. Where do you keep your supplies and meter? If you keep all of the supplies you need to check your blood sugar together and in one place, it will make it easier and less time consuming to check your blood sugar. So try keeping everything you need in one kit.
If you are trying to check your blood sugar a few times a day, you probably need to take your supplies with you when you leave the house. Most meters today are small, require a limited amount of blood, and take very little time to get you your results. That makes it easy to check your levels wherever you are. Put all of your supplies into a case that’s small enough to pack in a backpack, purse, or briefcase so you can use them at home or away from home.
You may want to get more than one meter so you can keep one where you eat, one in the bedroom, and one at school or work. Meters may be available free or at low cost when you buy strips in quantity.
Also, don’t let yourself run out of supplies. Be sure to reorder when you have a week’s worth of supplies left before you run out, or let your parents know when your supplies are running low so they can do it for you.
Here are a few tips that may help make blood sugar checks easier and less painful:
- To increase blood flow to your fingertip, you may want to wash your hands in warm water for a few moments right before pricking your finger. (Be sure to dry them thoroughly, though, so you don’t dilute the drop of blood.)
- To increase blood flow, shake your arms briskly at your sides before using the lancet. You can also hang your hand down and massage your hand from your palm out to your fingertip before pricking
- You might find it less painful to prick the side of your fingertip rather than the fleshy pad
- Change where you take your sample. With 10 fingers, each having 2 sides and a pad, you won’t need to use the same area more than once every few days
- Alternating sites gives you more options. Some meters can use blood samples from the upper arm, forearm, base of the thumb, or thigh. However, these readings may not be as accurate as readings from the fingertips
- Check with your diabetes care team about alternating sites to check your blood sugar levels
Doing blood sugar checks and keeping records (tracking) can be helpful because it can give you and your diabetes care team information about how well your treatment plan is working. Speak with your diabetes care team to make sure you (and/or your caregiver if you have one) know how often and when to check your blood sugar and how to act on your results.
The results of your blood sugar checks can help your diabetes care team answer these and other questions about your treatment plan:
- Should you increase or decrease the amount of insulin or other diabetes medicines that you take?
- When should you change what you eat, and what should you change?
- Should you increase or decrease your daily level of physical activity?
Also, you or your caregiver should keep a written record of your results using a Blood Sugar Tracker. Your tracker will help you see what is happening with your blood sugar levels over time. When you, your caregiver, and your diabetes care team can see patterns, you will start to understand what is happening in your body and how your diabetes care plan affects your blood sugar levels. Some meters even include software that will track your readings for you. But however you do it, tracking your results is a must!
Checking your blood sugar may help you keep your levels in your target range on a day-to-day basis. The A1C test measures your estimated average blood sugar level over the past 2 to 3 months. It shows how well you’re controlling your blood sugar levels over a longer period of time.
How Your A1C Relates to Your Finger-stick Readings (eAG):
Estimated Average Glucose (mg/dL)
Adapted from the ADA Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes—2016.
According to the ADA, lowering your A1C to below 7% for adults (below 7.5% for children and teens) reduces your risk of diabetes-related problems. Your health care provider will let you or your caregiver know when you should get an A1C test—it may be 2 to 4 times a year.
If your self-checked blood sugar results do not line up with the results of your A1C test, you or your caregiver may need to look at what time of day you test, how often you test, and how you are managing your blood sugar. Here are a few tips on how to test as accurately as you can:
- Properly store your meter and test strips in the containers they came in. Try not to keep strips where they could get too moist (like in a bathroom that gets steamy from showers) or where they are exposed to too much light (like near a window)
- Try using a larger drop of blood on the test strip if the meter is showing an error. With some strips, once the drop is on the strip you can’t add more blood
- Check your strips from time to time to make sure they are not expired
- Calibrate and set up your meter as needed. Check the directions and ask your diabetes care team if you don’t know how often you should do this
- Keep it clean! The screen that reads your test strip should be kept clean and dust-free. You may find that a buildup of blood, dust, and lint can affect your readings
- Contact the manufacturer of your meter for more information on how to use it properly
If you are having a hard time using your meter, it could be time to find a meter that is easier to use. Your diabetes care team can help you or your caregiver choose a meter and show you how to use it. You can also ask other people you know with diabetes which meters they use. Some meters are so small you can just slip them into your pocket, backpack, or purse. But, if you have bigger hands or vision issues you may need something larger. In which case, larger meters are available. Don’t feel stuck with a meter you have difficulty with—there are many meter models to choose from!
Maybe the meter is right for you, but the instructions are hard to follow. Ask your diabetes care team to show you or your caregiver how to use your meter, watch you use it, and give you pointers. Sometimes your technique does make a difference. If your vision or coordination makes it hard to test correctly, then your caregiver may need to do the checking for you. Ask your diabetes care team to teach your caregiver how to check.
If you are newly diagnosed and aren’t used to the process, it can feel strange at first. And it’s natural to want some privacy when checking your blood sugar levels, especially if you are going to be around people who don’t yet know that you have type 1 diabetes. Some of the newer meters are small, quick, and silent. There are meters that can measure blood sugar seconds after a drop of blood lands on the strip! You or your caregiver may be able to check your blood sugar in a quiet corner. Most people probably won’t even realize what you’re doing.
You and/or your caregiver can try to connect checking your blood sugar with other activities you do each day. For example, you can connect taking your fasting (morning before breakfast) blood sugar with taking your morning shower. Write notes to remind yourself to check your blood sugar levels, and place them where you will see them at the right time—for example, where you prepare or eat food, such as the kitchen or dining area. You can also set up text reminders when you sign up for the Cornerstones4Care® Diabetes Health Coach. Remember that for many people with type 1 diabetes, tracking before and after meals is important.
You are not alone in feeling this way. But it is important to find healthy ways to cope with these feelings. Many people have found ways to balance managing their diabetes with their daily lives, but that doesn’t mean that it’s always easy or fun. If you are feeling overwhelmed or burned out, click here for some tips and advice. You or your caregiver can speak with your diabetes care team to find you more help if you need it.