Skip to content

    Diabetes Health Center

    Font Size

    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.

    Recommended Related to Diabetes

    Hypoglycemia: How Low Can You Go?

    If you have diabetes, you probably know the warning signs of low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia. "It's been described best as a little like the feeling you get when you're sliding on ice in a car: panic, rapid heart rate, [and] sort of a sense of doom," says John Buse, MD, PhD, professor of medicine, chief of the division of endocrinology, and executive associate dean for clinical research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine. You also probably know that hypoglycemia...

    Read the Hypoglycemia: How Low Can You Go? article > >

    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.

    Today on WebMD

    Diabetic tools
    Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
    woman flexing muscles
    10 strength training exercises.
    Blood sugar test
    12 practical tips.
    Tom Hanks
    Stars living with type 1 or type 2.
    kenneth fujioka, md
    Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
    Middle aged person
    jennie brand miller

    Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
    type 2 diabetes
    food fitness planner