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How to Use Blood Glucose Readings

Having the capacity to get an accurate reading of your own blood glucose level in a few seconds, at home, was a significant advance in diabetes care, and undoubtedly has literally saved lives among people with type 1 diabetes. But, the tremendous increase in cases of type 2 and the associated costs in medical care has some questioning the cost of testing supplies for type 2 diabetes.

(There’s generally no debate about the critical role of blood glucose testing when low blood glucose is a risk as with anyone with type 1 diabetes, or with type 2 diabetes and taking insulin, or any of the oral medications that stimulate insulin secretion.)

The argument is that people don’t use the information from blood glucose testing to make changes, so why test? Evidence tends to back up that statement, but evidence also shows that when people with diabetes receive instruction on how to recognize and respond to patterns, blood glucose control improves.

It’s probably fair to say that people who haven’t been shown how to use the information aren’t highly motivated to do the testing even once or twice a day.

Learning to use blood glucose test information gives you important insights into what effects your blood glucose levels negatively and allows you to make changes. The information gained from targeted testing is especially useful if your diabetes is not in good control. If you test after meals, for example, you can identify specific foods that spike your blood glucose and what spikes yours may not affect others the same way.

If your diabetes is not under good control, your doctor can order a continuous glucose monitoring test. This test involves you wearing a small sensor for 3 days that reads blood glucose levels every few minutes, 24 hours a day. These particular sensors generally don’t display the information for you to see like the ones some people with type 1 diabetes wear.

Instead, your diabetes educator can download the data and display the ups and downs of your levels over the three-day period and compare the timeline with a record you keep of food, exercise, and medication.

Blood glucose levels can be influenced by your actions, but unless you collect the information and look for patterns you can’t know what action to take. It’s not possible to estimate your blood glucose level based on how you feel, so make a pledge to take advantage of this tool that is still, for the most part, available as a covered expense.

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