Make Tracking Routine
Checking your blood sugar levels is an important part of managing your diabetes. Checking blood sugar levels is especially important for people who take diabetes medicines. Yet many people find it hard to make testing a routine part of their lives.
Useful tips for tracking your blood sugar
- Blood sugar readings are just numbers. Think of your results as a blood sugar check—not a test. They are not a measure of who you are as a person. There may be times when your blood sugar levels won’t be in your target range, no matter how well you’ve been following your diabetes care plan. Your blood sugar results are simply tools you can use to see how well your diabetes care plan is working. You and your diabetes care team can use the results to adjust your care plan, if needed.
- Understand your plan. Your diabetes care plan is designed especially for you. You and your health care provider will work together to set your blood sugar goals and the range of blood sugar levels that is right for you.
- Use what you know to manage your blood sugar. Knowing your blood sugar level isn’t enough. You need to use that knowledge to manage your diabetes every day. Don’t simply assume numbers that are too high mean your diabetes care plan isn’t working. Instead, work with your diabetes care team to make small changes to help you meet your blood sugar goals.
Below you’ll see some common issues that people like you face when making blood sugar testing part of their everyday lives. Also, you’ll see a list of suggestions to help you overcome these issues.
- Self-checking my blood sugar costs too much money
- I’m too busy
- It’s too inconvenient to check my blood sugar
- Checking my blood sugar is painful
- I don’t know what to do with the results
- I don’t understand how daily testing relates to my A1C results
- It’s too hard to use the meter
- I am embarrassed to check my blood sugar when I’m away from home
- I just forget to do it
- I’m feeling frustrated and burned out
"Self-checking my blood sugar costs too much money."
Some meters can be expensive. And the ongoing cost of buying test strips can be a challenge. But there are different meters with a range of features and prices. Some are very inexpensive. Your diabetes care team can help you choose a meter that works for you and your budget, and show you how to use it. If you have health insurance, call the Member Services department to see what your plan covers.
"I’m too busy."
People whose lives are busy may find it hard to test several times a day. Most people have a daily routine—things they do at about the same time every day. All you need to do is add blood sugar checking to that daily routine. Many people find that it makes it easier when they connect the times they check their blood sugar to something they already do regularly. For example, you can connect taking your fasting blood sugar with making coffee in the morning. Perhaps you can set the alarm on your cell phone to remind you to check your after-meal blood sugar 2 hours after you’ve eaten.
"It’s too inconvenient to check my blood sugar."
Finding the right place to test can sometimes be a challenge. Or you may not want to have to worry about carrying supplies with you when you are away from home. Where do you keep your supplies and meter? If you keep all of the supplies you need to check your blood sugar together and in one place, it will make it easier to check your blood sugar. So try keeping everything you need in one kit.
If you are trying to check your blood sugar a few times a day, you probably need to take your supplies with you when you leave the house. Meters are small, and they require limited blood and little time to get your results. That makes it easy to check your levels wherever you are. Put all of your supplies into a case that’s small enough to pack in a purse, briefcase, or backpack so you can use them at home or away from home.
You may want to get more than one meter so you can keep one where you eat, one in the bedroom, and one at work. Meters may be available free or at low cost when you buy strips in quantity.
Also, don’t run out of supplies. Be sure to reorder when you have a week’s worth of supplies left.
"Checking my blood sugar is painful."
Thinner needles are available that may help make checking blood sugar more comfortable. Talk to your health care provider about the size of your needle. Here are a few tips for how you might be able to make checking more comfortable:
- Wash your hands in warm, soapy water or use an alcohol swab/pad
- To increase bloodflow to your fingertip, you may want to wash your hands in warm water for a few moments right before pricking your finger. (Be sure to dry them thoroughly, though, so you don’t dilute the drop of blood)
- To increase bloodflow, shake your arms briskly at your sides before using the lancet
- Prick the sides of your fingertip quickly and firmly. (Going slowly and gently can actually be more painful)
- Change where you take your sample. With 10 fingers, each having 2 sides and a pad, you won’t need to use the same area more than once every few days
- Alternating sites gives you more options. Some meters can use blood samples from the upper arm, forearm, base of the thumb, or thigh. However, these readings may not be as accurate as readings from the fingertips
- Check with your diabetes care team about changing sites to check your blood sugar levels
"I don’t know what to do with the results."
Taking blood and keeping records can give you and your diabetes care team information about how well your treatment plan is working. Speak with your diabetes care team to make sure you know how often and when to test and how to act on your results. Should you change the amount of insulin or diabetes medicines that you take? When should you change what you eat, and what should you change? Should you increase or decrease your physical activity for the day? Your diabetes care team can answer these and other questions.
Also, keep a written record of your results using a Blood Sugar Tracker. Your tracker will help you see what is happening with your blood sugar levels over time. When you and your diabetes care team see patterns, you will start to understand what is happening in your body and how your diabetes care plan affects your blood sugar.
"I don’t understand how daily testing relates to my A1C results."
Checking your blood sugar may help you keep your levels in your target range on a day-to-day basis. The A1C test measures your estimated average blood sugar level over the past 2 to 3 months. It’s like a “memory” of your blood sugar levels. It shows how well you’re controlling your blood sugar levels over time.
Lowering your A1C to below 7% may reduce your risk of diabetes-related problems. Your health care provider will let you know when you should get an A1C test. It may be 2 to 4 times a year.
If your blood sugar results do not line up with the results of your A1C test, you may need to look at what time of day you test, how often you test, and how you are managing your blood sugar. Here are a few tips on how to test as accurately as you can:
- Store your meter and test strips in the right containers. If you are not sure about how to do this, ask your diabetes care team
- Use a larger drop of blood on the test strip
- Check your strips from time to time to make sure they are not outdated
- Set up your meter as needed. Check the directions and ask your diabetes care team if you don’t know how often you should do this
- Keep the screen that reads your test strip clean and dust-free
- Contact the maker of your meter for more information on how to use it properly
"It’s too hard to use the meter."
If you are having a hard time using your meter, it could be time to find a meter that is easier to use. Your diabetes care team can help you choose a meter and show you how to use it. You can also ask other people with diabetes which meters they use.
Maybe the meter is right for you, but the instructions are hard to follow. Ask your diabetes care team to show you how to use your meter, watch you use it, and give you advice.
If your vision or coordination makes it hard to test correctly, then you may need to ask a family member or friend to help or to do the checking for you. Ask your diabetes care team to teach your care partner or helper how to check.
"I am embarrassed to check my blood sugar when I’m away from home."
It’s natural to want some privacy when checking your blood sugar. Some of the newer meters are small, quick, and silent. You may be able to check your blood sugar in a quiet corner. Most people probably won’t even know what you’re doing.
"I just forget to do it."
Try to connect checking your blood sugar with another activity you do each day. For example, you can connect taking your fasting blood sugar with making coffee in the morning. Write notes to remind yourself to check your blood sugar levels, and place them where you will see them at the right time—for example, where you prepare food, such as the kitchen or dining area.
"I’m feeling frustrated and burned out."
You are not alone in feeling this way. But it is important to learn to find healthy ways to cope with these feelings. Many people have found ways to balance managing their diabetes with their daily lives. Speak with your diabetes care team for more tips that can help.