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Diabetes Health Center

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Smart Testing Can Help You Control Your Diabetes

By John Donovan
WebMD Feature

Testing your blood sugar is a basic part of life for most people with diabetes. The numbers tell you and your health care team if your condition is under control.

Still, for such a simple concept, it raises many questions. How often should you test? What time of the day should you do it? You and your doctors will work closely together to find the answers that will keep you healthy.

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Setting Goals

You’re shooting for an A1c level of 7% or less, which equals an average glucose (or eAG) of 154 mg/dL. Your doctor will give you an A1c test every 3-6 months.

When you should test and what goals you’re aiming for depend on:

  • Your personal preferences
  • How long you’ve had diabetes
  • If you’re pregnant
  • Your age
  • Other health problems you may have
  • Medicines you’re taking
  • If you have complications like retinopathy or neuropathy
  • If you have low blood sugar (your doctor may call this hypoglycemia) without warning signs

Testing Times

Once you and your doctors figure out where your levels should be and the best way to get there (through diet, exercise, or medications), you’ll decide when you should check your blood sugar.

A fasting blood glucose level (FBG), taken in the morning before you eat or drink anything, is the go-to test for many. Another test at bedtime is common.

But what about other times? Testing 1 to 2 hours after breakfast or before lunch gives a more complete picture of what’s going on, says Pamela Allweiss, MD, of the CDC.

The American Diabetes Association says testing right after a meal can provide your doctor with good info when your pre-meal blood-sugar levels are OK but you haven’t reached your A1c goal.

“Monitoring is really important, particularly if you take insulin or medicine that can cause hypoglycemia,” says David Goldstein MD, professor at the University of Missouri School of Medicine. And measuring both before and after meals is important in understanding what your blood-sugar patterns are and what to do about them.

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