There is a lot to managing diabetes, for many people it is a life-time journey. Diabetes isn’t easy but it can be better. Too often there is a strong focus on food and medications; unfortunately, many people living with diabetes tend to gravitate to medications for optimal glucose levels. Medications are meant to be used in combination with healthy eating and being physically active. One of the most important aspects of managing self-care with diabetes is blood glucose testing.
After many years of clinical practice , a common theme I see is that glucose testing is passive. You test your blood as requested by your physician, you write your results down or have your results downloaded at the MD office. You wait for your A1C test and bam, you are not where your wanted to be.
So I ask you, would you cover up the speedometer in your car and wing it? After all, you have been driving for years and probably have a good idea if you are driving too fast or too slowly. Every client I ask looks at me with a puzzled look and says, “ Of course I wouldn’t cover up my speedometer.” So my question to anyone with diabetes, why do it with diabetes?
Frequent blood glucose testing lets you know how high or low you are on a daily basis and through-out the day and weeks. It tells you how you are responding to medications, stress, foods, and exercise and gives you the opportunity to make adjustment to spend more time in range. Spending more time in range means better glycemic (glucose) health. You need to know fasting blood sugar levels, 2-hour post meals results, or perhaps you want to know the effects of your various exercise activities. You want to know when you tend to run low or two high. Why? Lows and highs are basically not good for better health.
Checking blood glucose is inexpensive compared to cost of treating complications. Plus, you get to be in the ‘driver’s seat’. You don’t have to wait for your doctor telling you in 3 or 6 months how well you did- or didn’t do. Knowing your A1C is important, knowing what to do with the results for optional decision making is even more important. Just like B/P and cholesterol numbers are vital information. Often, I see patients who are overwhelmed that they are not getting the results they expected when they did everything, they thought they were told to do. Diabetes care and management gets better and easier when it is in real time- not history. Many health care professionals don’t spend enough time explaining the importance of blood glucose testing and what to do with the results. So, patients are left with a wait and let’s see attitude. There isn’t enough time in an office visit for sufficient education and training. Sometimes, there aren’t enough knowledgeable providers in this specialty area. This is the advantage of having a board-certified diabetes care and education specialist on your team.
We are fortunate that we have several avenues for the reducing the frequency of fingerstick and painful fingertips. There are different Continuous Glucose Meter (CGMS) now available and are becoming more affordable. CGMs provide immediate feedback, history, and time in range. You also get alerted to highs or lows so you can respond quicker. This technology is a tool for independence only when you do something with the results. CGMS are used by people with Type 1 as well as Type 2 diabetes.
It is important to look for trends of highs and lows. Treat lows first and then move on to discover when and what might be causing highs. You want to do this daily. It is not much different than getting in your car and paying attention to your speedometer. The quicker you are able to responsible, the less likely you will get pulled over or worse yet, get into an “accident”. For people with diabetes, the “accidents” can result in complications such as low vision, heart or kidney disease. More serious injuries can be death from blood sugars being too low or too high. Spend more time in range. You need to know what your fasting , before meals, and after meal target blood sugars goals are.
I love helping people learn more about blood glucose testing. It is one of my favorite areas and hopefully it will be one yours as well. Be mindful, be aware. Be awesome. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions.
(This material is educational and does not replace the advice of your medical care provider.)