Diabetes: Know Your Blood Sugar Numbers

2 Tests to Measure Blood Sugar Control

To control your diabetes, you must know your blood sugar numbers. Testing your blood sugar is the only way to know whether your blood sugar is too high, too low, or just right.

Two different tests to measure your blood sugar:

1. The hemoglobin A1c test (pronounced he-me-glo-bin

A-one-C) measures your blood sugar control over the last 3

months. It is the best way to know if your blood sugar is under


2. A finger-stick test you do yourself using a blood glucose meter

measures your blood sugar at the time you test.

You need both tests to get a complete picture of your blood sugar control.

The Hemoglobin A1c Test: The Best Test for Blood Sugar Control

The hemoglobin A1c test is a simple lab test that shows the average amount of sugar that has been in your blood over the last 3 months. Your health care provider does the test by taking a small sample of your blood and sending it to a lab. The hemoglobin A1c test shows if your blood sugar is close to normal or too high. It is the best test for your health care provider to tell if your blood sugar is under control.

The Finger-Stick Test: Testing Your Own Blood Sugar Using a Blood Glucose Meter

A finger-stick test is a simple test you can do using a blood glucose meter to check changes in your own blood sugar. The finger-stick test tells you what your blood sugar is at the time you test.

Finger-stick testing using a blood glucose meter helps you see how food, physical activity, and diabetes medicine affect your blood sugar. The readings you get from these tests can help you manage your diabetes day by day or even hour by hour. Keep a record of your test results and review it with your health care provider.

Finger-Stick Testing Blood Sugar Goal

Ideal goals for most people with diabetes when finger-stick testing using a blood glucose meter are:

  • Before Meals 80-120 mg/dl
  • At Bedtime 100-140 mg/dl

Your blood sugar goals may be different from these ideal goals. Ask your health care provider what goals are best for you.

WebMD Public Information from the U.S. National Institutes of Health


SOURCE: NIDDK: "The Benefits of Controlling Diabetes for Life," May 2002.


National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) http://ndep.nih.gov
NIDDK, National Institutes of Health,
Bethesda MD