Blood Glucose Monitoring for People with Diabetes

By Dr. Stephen McMurray

Overview of diabetes mellitus

Diabetes mellitus (DM, sometimes referred to as sugar diabetes) is a disease that affects many Americans. Over the last several decades the number of people with DM has increased dramatically. At the end of 2010, more than 25 million Americans over the age of 20 had DM— that is 11.6 percent of the population. The most common cause of DM is Type 2 diabetes. It accounts for 90-95 percent of all new cases of DM. People can develop Type 2 diabetes at any age, and being overweight and inactive increases the chances of developing this disease. This form of diabetes usually begins with insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body’s cells use glucose, a type of sugar that comes from carbohydrates. Insulin resistance happens when cells that normally respond to insulin don’t use the insulin that is produced effectively. The body initially produces more insulin, but over time it can’t keep up and a person’s blood glucose elevates.

It is important that people with DM have a physician educate them about the disease, along with the doctor helping the patient manage blood sugar and prevent other potential complications, such as kidney disease. The physician usually has a team to help you manage and understand your DM. The team typically includes a nurse, dietitian and pharmacist.

Blood glucose control and diabetes

You’ll want to know how well you’re taking care of your diabetes and monitoring blood glucose is an important step in doing so. One way to find out if your DM is under control is to check the amount of sugar in your blood. If your blood has too much or too little glucose, you may need a change in diet, physical activity plan or medicines. Your doctor may suggest checking your blood sugar on multiple occasions throughout the day, for example, before or after meals and at bedtime. You and your doctor should work together to determine what is the best testing schedule for you, as well as what your blood sugar goals should be. To stay organized, keep a record of the time, date and results when you check your blood sugar. You should take that report with you for all your doctor visits.

Blood glucose tests

The technology for measuring blood glucose is rapidly improving the standards of care for people with DM. Here are a couple of ways to check blood glucose control for people with DM:

A blood glucose meter (glucometer)is an electronic device for measuring blood sugar levels. By placing a small drop of blood on a disposable test strip, it communicates with a digital meter to determine your blood sugar level. Within a few seconds, the blood sugar level will be displayed on the device’s screen. Many devices save the results to the machine and can be downloaded to your computer or to your doctor’s computer.

A1C test is another assessment tool for determining blood sugar level.It shows what your average blood glucose was for the past 2-3 months. The doctor performs this test to see what your blood glucose is over that time. You should have this test done 2-4 times a year depending on how well-managed your blood sugar is. A result of below 7.0 usually means that your diabetes treatment is working well and your blood glucose is under control. If your A1C is higher, your blood glucose may be too high. Talk with your doctor about what your target should be and what you need to do in order to reach it.

Conclusion

In the past decade, the number of people in the U.S. who have been affected by diabetes has grown at a rapid rate. The most common occurrence of diabetes is diabetes mellitus (DM). If you’re diagnosed with DM, monitoring your blood glucose is a key step in managing this health condition. Work with your healthcare team so that you stay within the blood glucose target they set for you. The better your blood glucose is controlled, the healthier you will be.

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