Controlling your blood sugar is crucial to staying healthy and avoiding diabetes complications. Don’t let a little finger prick dampen your efforts at managing diabetes. Try these ten tips to make blood sugar testing an easy part of your plan.
Diet, exercise, and often medications are the tools you need to reach your goal, but the only way to know if you’re successfully managing your diabetes is to test your blood sugar regularly, typically with a handheld device called a blood glucose meter.
Although your doctor or diabetes educator can show you how to test your blood sugar by pricking a finger, placing a blood sample on a test strip, and “feeding the meter,” it’s up to you to make it a regular part of managing your diabetes every day. These 10 tips can help you make blood sugar testing become second nature to you:
Determine the best time to test.
Talk to your doctor about when and how often you should be monitoring your blood sugar. Your doctor will recommend a frequency based on what medicines you’re taking and how well you’re controlling your blood sugar.
“Your doctor may suggest blood sugar testing when you wake up in the morning before eating breakfast, before or after you eat lunch and dinner, before you exercise or after, before bed, and possibly during the night if needed,” says Susan Weiner, RD, MS, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator in New York and author of The Complete Diabetes Organizer: Your Guide to a Less Stressful and More Manageable Diabetes Life.
Follow your doctor’s testing recommendations for the best results, and remember that your targets will be higher if you test after eating.
Be consistent. A good way to make blood sugar testing part of your daily routine is to do it at the same times every day.
Barbara Iglesias, an Elmont, N.Y., resident in her sixties, tests her blood sugar three days a week — on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Testing on the same three days every week helps keep her on track, she says. When she travels, she takes her meter with her so she’s never off schedule.
Set an alarm. If everyday life provides too many distractions, create reminders for yourself.
Many people use alarms on their watches, smartphones, or computers to remind themselves to test, Weiner says. Even a low-tech sticky note on the bathroom mirror may work for you — “you’ll see it first thing in the morning,” she says. Iglesias says the simple act of circling blood-sugar testing days on her calendar works best for her.
Adjust to the situation. Your blood sugar levels can change when you’re under stress or feeling sick, you change your diet or exercise routine, or you switch your medications.
In any of these circumstances, get into the habit of checking your blood sugar levels more often than normal. Keep checking until you have maintained your usual blood sugar levels for at least a week.
Making recordkeeping a priority. If you track your blood sugar results, you have valuable information you and your doctor can use.
Some people prefer to keep their records on paper, some on the computer, and some on smartphone apps. Find what you’re most comfortable with and stick to it — the act of recording your numbers will help make testing second nature to you.
Keep supplies handy. If you have to go looking for your blood-sugar testing supplies, you might be apt to say, “Forget it.”
Store your supplies in the same place and regularly check to see that you’re well-stocked, both of which can help make testing easier.
If you travel, be sure to take your supplies with you and always keep them in your carry-on bag. Keep track of medication expiration dates and toss any supplies that are past their prime.
Check your meter, too. Take your meter with you to your doctor’s appointments.
Compare your results with those done in the medical office to be sure your meter is accurate and working properly. Keep your meter clean and periodically check that the battery is working properly.
Minimize pain. You’re more likely to stick to your blood-sugar testing routine if sticking in the lancet doesn’t hurt. Try these tips for reducing the pain of testing:
Run your hands under warm water or let your arms drop down to your sides and shake them to increase blood flow to your hands. Lance your finger quickly — if you do it slowly, it will hurt more.
Test on the sides of your fingers, where you have fewer nerve endings, and rotate the fingers you test each time you test.
You can also test your forearm, thigh, or the fleshy part of your hand. For the best results, ask your doctor about where to test.
Don’t sweat it if you forget it – but don’t make it a habit, either.
If you forget once in awhile, it’s okay — but don’t make forgetfulness a habit.“Figure out something that will remind you to test the next time,” Weiner says.
Share your results with your doctor to provide more motivation to test and record your results.
Knowing you need to share your results with your doctor at your regular checkups, even if they’re within normal range, can give you just the motivation you need to actually do it.
If they’re too high or too low, work with your doctor to determine whether you need changes in your diet, medications, exercise routine, or all three.
If your fasting blood sugar level is out of range, your doctor may adjust your medicine or recommend long-acting insulin.
If your blood sugar levels are off before you eat, your doctor may suggest changes to your medications or your diet.