Make the Most of Your Meter

Monitoring blood glucose levels lets you check how well -- or not -- your diabetes-care plan is working. Learn how to choose the right meter for you and get the most out of your readings.


When to Check Your Blood Glucose

If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes and take insulin or use an insulin pump, you should check your blood glucose three or more times a day for enough data to make decisions about insulin doses, according to the ADA. So you don't feel like a human pincushion, be strategic about when and how often you check your blood glucose. (For people using insulin less frequently, using other blood-glucose-lowering therapies, or following a healthful eating plan alone, the ADA suggests that blood glucose monitoring may be useful in your care but gives no specifics about the number of times a day to check.

Check at different times on different days, rather than at the same time every day. One day, check before and after breakfast; another day check before and after dinner. Over the course of a week, you'll get a good look at your level of control. "Get rid of the idea that results are scores that judge good or bad, win or lose," Brackenridge says. "This will keep you from checking at times you could learn the most." Childs says that her center suggests people with type 2 diabetes check four times a day at least three days a week, both when they're fasting and two hours after meals.

Check one to two hours after a meal. "This is the most effective time for people who do not take insulin to check," says Mayer Davidson, M.D., a past president of the ADA and professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine and Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science. "These numbers reflect how the type and amount of food you eat impacts blood glucose." The ADA supports this recommendation in its medical standards.

Geil concurs: "People are always surprised at how much a small amount of food can raise their blood glucose. They forget that, on average, blood glucose rises 50 mg/dl for every 15 grams of carbohydrate."

Check if you're experiencing symptoms of high or low blood glucose. You'll gain valuable feedback on what might trigger these results.

Check when you try something new, whether it's food, exercise, medication, or dosage. Use your blood glucose meter as a barometer of change. "Experiment and learn about your body's responses,”"Brackenridge says. "When you try something new -- food, restaurant, walking program, or medication change -- you learn. Don't look at your results as successes or failures. Regard them as feedback on your lifelong experiment. If you hit your target, store that experience in your memory. If not, try another strategy next time."

Take your blood glucose records on your visits to your provider. Be ready to discuss your observations and consider what part of your diabetes care, if any, you need to change. "To put your numbers into action, work with a provider who analyzes your records with you, provides guidelines for management, and suggests actions to improve your care," Davidson says.