Living with diabetes - Monitoring your blood glucose levels
Many people with diabetes live long and healthy lives. While there is no cure for diabetes, it can be managed by:
- having a healthy diet;
- exercising regularly; and
- monitoring and recording your blood glucose (sugar) levels [PDF | 228 KB].
Why do I need to test my blood glucose levels?
Home blood glucose testing will provide you with information to help manage your diabetes. It will help you to determine how well your meal planning, physical activity and medication (pills and/or insulin) are doing to keep your blood glucose levels in the normal range.
What do I need to test my blood glucose at home?
You will need:
- a blood glucose machine;
- blood glucose test strips;
- a lancet device;
- a sharps container; and
- a daily log book.
How often will I need to test my blood glucose levels?
How often you check your blood glucose levels at home should be discussed with your diabetes health care team. For example, if you are taking insulin you would check more often than someone who manages their diabetes with a meal plan alone.
You will have to check your levels at least once per day at alternating times. Record any notes as they may help your doctor or diabetes health care team make any adjustments to your treatment.
What if I am a shift worker?
Speak with your diabetes health care team about your job. They can help create a diabetes management plan. It will be important for you to share your plan with your employer.
While at work, you will probably need to make changes to your diet and medication for each of the different shifts you work. Be sure to keep track of your blood glucose levels [PDF | 55 KB].
Will I ever need to increase how often I monitor my blood glucose?
You should increase the frequency of checking your home blood glucose levels when:
- there has been a change in food intake;
- there has been a change in physical activity (time, type, duration);
- there has been a change in medication or other health conditions;
- you are pregnant or planning pregnancy;
- your blood glucose levels are not in the target range (4-7 mmol/L before meals and 5-10 mmol/L 1-2 hours after meals);
- you have an illness or your stress level has changed (positive or negative stress); and
- you are traveling through time zones.
What are the steps for monitoring my blood glucose levels?
- Wash your hands with warm water and dry well.
- Place your blood glucose test strip into the blood glucose machine.
- Load the lancet device with lancet.
- Massage your finger from base to tip.
- Choose a spot on the side of your fingertip and poke it with the lancet device.
- Hold your hand below your heart and wait 5-10 seconds. Gently squeeze your finger to obtain a drop of blood.
- Place the drop of blood on the test strip. Wait until the amount of blood has been drawn into the test strip.
- Use gauze or a tissue to clean your fingertip. Keep it on the area until the bleeding has stopped.
- Record your blood glucose level [PDF | 228 KB].
- Remove lancet and dispose in a sharps container. Keep the container out of the reach of children and pets.
- The used blood glucose test strip can be placed in the waste.
Can I test my blood glucose using an alternate site other than my fingers or thumbs?
There may be times when you will want to test your blood glucose without using your fingers or thumbs. Alternate sites can include such areas as the arm, thigh, calf, palm of the hand, etc. However, using an alternate site may produce different results and ‘lag’ time. The rate of blood flow to the finger is 3-5 times faster than to the arm.
- Never perform only alternate site testing;
- Never perform alternate site testing after a meal (within 2 hours); and
- Never perform alternate site testing if you think you are having a low blood glucose.
How do I ensure my blood glucose meter is working accurately?
To ensure your blood glucose meter is working accurately, you can compare your own blood glucose test with a laboratory test. This test should be done at least once a year.
- Obtain a blood work requisition from your doctor or diabetes health care team for a fasting glucose test.
- Bring your blood glucose meter and supplies with you when you get your blood work completed.
- Within 5 minutes of having your blood tested from your arm, you must prick your own finger and test your blood glucose level with your meter.
- Record your blood glucose results [PDF | 228 KB] and note that it was the lab/meter comparison.
- Compare the labs blood glucose test results with your own. Results that are within 20 per cent of the lab reading are considered accurate.