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Testing your blood glucose

Testing your blood glucose

Testing your blood glucose

Testing your blood glucose, also known as Self-Monitoring of Blood Glucose (SMBG), is a method of checking how much glucose (sugar) is in the blood using a glucose meter -- anywhere, anytime.

Here, you'll learn some basics about:

  • Blood sugar targets for adults
  • How your doctor tests your blood
  • The importance of self-testing
  • When to test and what to look for
  • How to share results with your doctor

Blood glucose targets for non-pregnant adults*

Before meal After meal
80-120 mg/dL Less than 180 mg/dL

How your doctor tests your blood -- the A1C test

Your doctor uses what is called an A1C (Glycosylated Hemoglobin) test to see what your average blood glucose level has been over the last two to three months.

Used for both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, it gives you and your doctor an indication on how well you are responding to your treatment regimen, and if any adjustments are necessary. The goal is to keep your level below seven percent (7%).* The A1C test is sometimes referred to as the hemoglobin A1c, HbA1c or glycohemoglobin test.

The connection between A1C and average blood sugar levels.

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The importance of self-testing

Your A1C test result will not show the daily effects of food choices and your activity. A blood glucose meter is the best way to observe and track the immediate effects of food choices and activity on your blood glucose levels. This allows you to take immediate action to bring your glucose levels within range if needed. Your doctor will also rely upon your blood glucose meter results to assess and adjust your treatment regimen.

When to test and what to look for – a practical guide

Use this simple chart to remind you when to test and what to observe to help you manage your blood glucose level on a daily basis.

When to test What to look for
First thing in the morning, before you eat How did your body/medication regulate your blood glucose overnight?
Before every meal How is your choice of food and portion affecting your blood glucose?
How is your medication working to manage your blood glucose when you eat?
How should you adjust your food choices and portions going forward?
Two hours after meals Has your blood glucose returned to target after a meal?
Before physical activity Do you need a snack before engaging in an activity?
During and after physical activity How does physical activity affect your blood glucose?
Does your activity have any delayed effect on your blood glucose?
When you feel sick or stressed Is your illness or stress level affecting your blood glucose level?
Before going to bed Do you need a snack before bed?
As suggested by your healthcare professional How well is your medication working?
Before driving Is your blood sugar within a safe target to drive?

When to test your blood glucose more often:

  • When you feel any signs of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or hyperglycemia (high blood sugar); the signs and symptoms are indicated below
  • When you have new medicine prescribed
  • When your medication dosage is adjusted
  • If you include a new variety of food in your meals

Recording your blood glucose results:

  • Keep a log book handy, where you can manually record your blood glucose readings.
  • You can find log books at your doctor’s office, health care centers, and even online. You can download one here.
  • Always update your log book and take it with you to your doctor visits so that he and your health care team will have a clearer understanding of your blood glucose profile, which will help them in prescribing the proper treatment plan.

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*American Diabetes Association. (ADA) Glycemic Targets Sec. - In Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes - 2016.  Diabetes Care 2016; 39 (Suppl. 1): S43.

A1c/eAG – ADA Diabetes Advisor series www.diabetes.org – accessed April 4, 2016.

NACO/GEN/0417/0255