If you are one of the millions of Americans with diabetes, testing your blood sugar levels has likely become a common part of life. Monitoring sugar (glucose) is a crucial element in assessing your diabetes care plan and staying on top of your condition.
Whether you’re deciding how to exercise or what to eat, you need to know where your glucose levels stand. The question is, how often should you check your glucose levels?
This might seem like a straightforward query, but the answer isn’t. Accurate blood sugar monitoring depends heavily on an individual’s circumstances and conditions, which means every patient may need to test at different times or frequencies.
To help you understand when you should check your glucose levels, let’s dive a bit deeper.
Importance of Blood Glucose Monitoring
First and foremost, we want to make it exceedingly clear why glucose monitoring matters. This isn’t a supplemental aspect of diabetes management – it’s a cornerstone.
Glucose is the primary source of energy for our bodies’ cells. When we have too little or too much of it in our blood, serious health complications can occur, as can symptoms such as…
- Impaired vision
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
These symptoms are your body’s way of telling you that your levels are not within your target blood sugar range. Unfortunately, this is a common issue in people with diabetes.
If you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or fails to use it properly. Insulin is what helps blood sugar enter your body’s cells so it can be used for energy. It’s also what signals the liver to store blood sugar for later.
So, if your body has too little insulin or doesn’t use it well, your glucose levels can rise to an unsafe level. On the flip side, if you’re taking medications to compensate for your insulin issues, you may also deal with too little sugar in the bloodstream.
That’s why glucose monitoring is essential.
Regular blood sugar testing helps determine if you are meeting your glucose targets and avoiding health complications. It’s not that you’re checking for “good” or “bad” numbers. Rather, you’re arming yourself with information to make smart decisions for your body and diabetes management.
Remember: these blood glucose readings aren’t just for your benefit. Your healthcare provider will also want to see them so that they can take an informed approach to your diabetes care.
How Often Should You Check Your Glucose Levels?
The frequency of glucose monitoring depends on several factors, including the type of diabetes a person has. Let’s take a look at how often people with different kinds of diabetes need to check their blood sugar.
1) Type 1 Diabetes
If you are living with type 1 diabetes, your healthcare provider will likely recommend conducting sugar tests four to ten times a day. This includes…
- Before meals and snacks
- Occasionally after meals
- Before and after physical activity
- Before bedtime
You’ll also want to test your blood glucose levels if you start to feel unwell or are experiencing any signs of low or high blood sugar.
2) Type 2 Diabetes
People with type 2 diabetes who are taking insulin usually need to test their blood sugar three or more times a day. Of course, the precise number will depend on the specifics of your treatment plan.
On the other hand, if you’re managing type 2 diabetes through non-insulin medications or lifestyle modifications, you might not need to test as frequently. Ask your healthcare provider for customized glucose testing procedures based on your condition.
3) Gestational Diabetes
According to the American Diabetes Association, up to 10% of pregnancies in the U.S. are affected by gestational diabetes every year. In these situations, women’s metabolisms and hormones can change significantly, resulting in blood sugar level changes.
If you’re pregnant and have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, your healthcare provider will likely recommend testing your blood glucose four to five times a day. Once you have delivered your baby, the diabetes may go away.
Factors That Can Affect Your Blood Glucose Level
Blood sugar monitoring helps you understand all of the factors that affect your blood sugar levels. The more you can predict the impact of certain activities, the easier it will be to manage your diabetes and its symptoms.
Situations That Can Cause High Blood Glucose Levels
- Eating carbohydrates
- Not taking enough diabetes medication/insulin
- Consistent lack of exercise
- Getting less activity than you usually do
- Taking steroid medications
- Illness, surgery, or stress
Situations That Can Cause Low Blood Glucose Levels
- Taking too much diabetes medication or insulin
- Missing or skipping meals
- Engaging in strenuous physical activity
If you have diabetes, you should always be prepared to avoid letting your blood sugar level drop to an unsafe level. Whether you’re at home or traveling, keep some type of rapid carbohydrate on hand to help raise your blood sugar, as well as your glucose tablets.
Situations That Might Do Either
Different bodies react differently to certain circumstances. There are some situations that might raise or lower your blood glucose levels, including…
- The timing of your meals
- When you take your medication or insulin
- Periods (menstruation)
- Drinking alcoholic beverages
Because there are so many factors that can influence glucose levels in the body, regular monitoring is the only way to fully understand your circumstances.
Test as often as necessary so that you and your healthcare provider have accurate blood sugar readings to use when fine-tuning your treatment plan. You should also talk to your local pharmacist about keeping the proper supplements (like glucose tablets) and medications on hand to ensure your blood sugar levels stay at an appropriate level.
Using a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM)
Many people with diabetes, particularly those with type 1 diabetes, choose to use CGMs. These continuous glucose monitoring devices automatically measure blood glucose levels every few minutes using a tiny sensor that’s inserted under the skin, usually for up to three months at a time.
A transmitter worn on the body sends blood glucose level information wirelessly from the sensor to a smartphone app. In some cases, you can even connect your CGM to your smartwatch or smartphone. This allows you to set up an alert every time your blood sugar dips or rises too dramatically.
Most of these devices still require fingertip samples to calibrate the machine. Check your device’s user’s guide to learn if you need to check, and if so, how often you need to do it.
One of the best-selling CGMs is the Dexcom G6, a system that sends your glucose numbers directly to your smart device every five minutes without any fingersticks or scanning. You get real-time readings without the pain, so you can stay on top of your glucose levels at all times.
If you’re interested in switching to a CGM for glucose testing, or if you have questions about these smart devices, contact a healthcare professional.
Your Diabetes Treatment Plan
Ultimately, the intensity of your blood glucose monitoring routine depends on your specific condition and the nature of your treatment plan. If you’re starting a new medication or changing your insulin dosage, you might need to test your blood glucose more frequently until your levels stabilize.
In addition, if you’re experiencing frequent episodes of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), more regular testing can be beneficial. Make sure you’re continuously updating your healthcare provider on your symptoms so that they can advise you accordingly.
Klingensmith’s Helps You Monitor Your Diabetes
At Klingensmith’s Drug Store, we’re here to assist with diabetes treatment – and to save you money. Our patient-friendly, low-cost diabetes care center will help you and your loved ones obtain everything you need for your treatment plan.
From test strips to glucose tablets, we have everything you need to help prevent diabetes complications and measure your glucose levels. Managing diabetes isn’t always easy – but we’re here to simplify the process and give you all of the tools you need.
In the near future, we also plan to offer DIabetes Education Services, which will likely be covered by many insurance plans.