May 16, 2017

Testing Blood Glucose at Home – Part 1

Home blood glucose testing is a safe and affordable way to detect diabetes before it becomes a health issue. Yes, this is very true and an excellent way to meet prediabetes head on before it becomes full-blown diabetes. Yet, many people refuse to even consider doing this. Diabetes, especially in the early stages, does not always cause symptoms. It still is wise to diagnose it early when you can control it and not let it control you.

For people already diagnosed with diabetes, a simple diabetes home test is vital in the management of blood sugar levels. It could even be lifesaving. A blood glucose test before breakfast will be the baseline for blood glucose levels for the rest of that day. Home blood glucose testing is designed to offer a picture of how the body is processing glucose.

A great doctor might recommend testing at three different times, and often over the course of several days:
  • Morning fasting reading: This provides information about blood glucose levels before eating or drinking anything. Morning blood glucose readings give a baseline number that offers clues about how the body processes glucose during the day.
  • Before a meal: Blood glucose before a meal tends to be low, so high blood glucose readings suggests difficulties managing blood sugar.
  • After a meal: Post meal testing gives a good idea about how your body reacts to food, and if glucose is able to efficiently get into the cells for use. Blood glucose readings after a meal can help diagnose gestational diabetes, which happens during pregnancy. Most doctors recommend testing about 2 hours after a meal.

Most doctors will tell you to not test as the American Diabetes Association generally recommends relying on the A1C results.

For the most accurate testing, people should log the food they eat, and notice trends in their blood glucose readings. Whether you consume a high or low carbohydrate meal, if your blood glucose reading is higher than normal afterwards, this suggests the body is having difficulty managing meals and lowering blood glucose.

After consulting a doctor about the right testing schedule and frequency, people should take the following steps:

  1. Wash with soap, water, and dry hands thoroughly.
  2. Cleanse the testing area with an alcohol swab only if you cannot wash with soap and water. Some glucose meters allow testing on the arm or another area of the body that is less sensitive.
  3. Read the manual for the blood glucose meter and read the instructions for the test strips. Test strips should be inserted into the meter immediately after removing it from the test strip container.
  4. If testing on the finger, test on the side of the finger, and use different fingers with each test. Most lancets allow the user to set how far it penetrates the skin. People with thicker or drier skin should set the penetration higher.
  5. Position the finger against a firm surface, before lancing.
  6. Squeeze the finger while holding it at chest level, and allow a drop of blood to flow onto the test strip.
  7. Note the blood glucose reading and record it.

Some people with diabetes use an alternative blood test for glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c). The testing procedure is largely the same, but will produce different readings. Sometimes known as A1c, this test provides a picture of blood sugar readings over 120 days.

For most people, blood glucose readings should be as follows:
Fasting (morning testing or before a meal)
  • Without diabetes: 70-99 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl).
  • Target for people with diabetes: 70-110 mg/dl.
Two hours after meals
  • Without diabetes: Below 120 mg/dl.
  • Target for people with diabetes: Below 140 mg/dl.
  • Without diabetes: 5.6 percent or lower.
  • Target for people with diabetes: 6.5 percent or lower.

Target numbers may vary from person to person and may change over time depending on health, age, weight, and other factors. Before beginning home testing, it is important to get clear guidelines about target figures from a doctor.
Diabetes cannot be diagnosed solely by home testing. People with unusual readings will need further testing by a doctor.

Tests might include fasting tests, plasma glucose test, tests following consumption of a glucose solution (or oral glucose tolerance test-OGTT), HbA1c tests, or a combination of these. 

Part 1 of 3 parts

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