Education about diabetes and everything that entails is very important especially when the diagnosis is new. Since the condition is challenging and can affect several different parts of one’s life, it can quickly get very intimidating when a newly diagnosed individual has to listen to multiple medical terms being thrown around casually in conversation. Not only this but the fact that they would have to make numerous large-scale changes in their lives to maintain optimum functioning of their health and blood sugar levels.
Among the several questions that a newly diagnosed person with diabetes may have, one of them would be about the frequency and how often should you check blood glucose? One of the biggest things that the doctor would stress after the diagnosis of type 1 or type 2 diabetes would be optimal control of blood sugars. It is not as simple as it sounds. Effectively managing and keeping the sugar levels in the optimal range is vital but tedious as it is affected by multiple factors.
The awareness of what can make your sugar levels fluctuate and how stress, food, sleep, exercise, etc might affect your body is something that you will have to learn on the go. There is no strict rule as to how the body might respond to these various factors. However, for you to manage and complete a proper sugar level check, you will have to be in tune with the responses of your body regarding certain basic, but potent elements.
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Whether you are newly diagnosed or if you are moving to a new treatment regimen, having an answer to this question would help you reach your goals faster. However, there is no ONE right answer to the frequency at which you should be checking your blood sugar. Individual circumstances, your routine, the type of diagnosis, etc would be determining factors to help answer this question. A dilemma that many young people with diabetes seem to face is the cost of testing sugar levels regularly. Even though they would like to be appraised of their levels, the testing strips are expensive and might deter them from being able to keep up with a regular sugar level check.
In such cases, understanding why it is vital to keep monitoring these levels at certain intervals is important:
To answer the question of when to check blood sugar, in the initial stages this would be more frequent as you are still getting to know the signals of your body during the different levels of sugar. Being as regular as possible in this respect would be helpful.
Several different types of directions and guidelines have been put forth by different bodies and experts on diabetes regarding the frequency of checking blood sugar levels. NICE, in 2015, instructed people with diabetes to check their blood sugar levels as many as 4 times a day. Before meals and before bed are the most prominent times.
In case you have been recently diagnosed and are still getting the hang of this condition, here are a few instances wherein you can make sure to check these levels to be safe:
These are just a few instances where it can be helpful to understand when to check blood sugar levels.
Just as blood sugars need to be checked, another construct that needs to be checked would be HbA1c. Since type 1 diabetes is a condition where the immune system is compromised to a great extent damaging the production of insulin, it is recommended that they check the A1c every 3 months. The HbA1c would determine an average of your blood sugar readings over the last 3 months. This value will help understand how well your diabetes management plan is working and if a change is needed. Aim to keep your HbA1c level below 6 or 6.5% as that range would determine proper control.
Other types of diabetes like type 2 diabetes also require routine checks regarding blood sugar levels using the glucometer at home and also the blood tests like HbA1c. There is no best time for the HbA1c test, however, it is advised to have regular check-ups done around once in 3-4 months.
As for daily blood sugar readings, a person with T2D can also engage in frequent testing in the initial days of diagnosis. Just getting to know the symptoms of diabetes and how your body reacts to different stimuli would be vital. Slowly, over time, you can choose to check these at your discretion depending on any changes or personal circumstances.
Two possible ways in which blood sugars can be tested would be – the daily levels and the three-monthly levels.
Daily levels – Questions like when to test blood sugar after eating would be answered in the context of daily levels.
HbA1c – The best time for the HbA1c test would be every 3 months. This is a blood test wherein the lab technicians will draw blood from the veins in the arm and will check it for average 3-month glucose levels. No fasting or other kinds of preparation is required for this test.
Ideally, there is a set schedule that most people can follow to check their sugars at regular intervals –
Pre and post-breakfast, pre and post-lunch, pre and post-dinner, 3 am, and random levels. Checking the levels at these intervals would help you identify the dose of insulin required and to check if the dose is correct even after a few months. These readings help the doctors to see if the management plan is working well.
In case the question is “how long after taking insulin should I check blood sugar?” The answer would be around 15-30 minutes as that is how much time it takes for the short-acting insulin to take effect.
Checking blood sugar levels almost becomes second nature to a person with diabetes because of the frequency that they have to do it. It is one of the key aspects to maintain a healthy life by keeping this range to the best and most optimal level. Use your glucometer as much as you would like – the more frequent the testing, the better.
How often to check blood sugar for non-diabetic would be twice a year in the form of an HbA1c test. They may not feel the need to check daily levels as it would be unnecessary. However, a routine check-up to ensure that no symptoms of diabetes have emerged can be done once every 6 months.
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