Several recent studies have shown that people taking only pills to manage their diabetes do not get much benefit from checking their blood glucose levels at home. Their A1C levels are about the same as people who do not monitor very often or at all.
That may seem surprising, but it makes sense. After all, you would not expect people who weigh themselves every day to lose more weight than people who did not weigh themselves, if they did not also make changes in their eating or exercise habits. Knowing how much you weigh doesn’t change the results.
The same is true for checking your blood glucose. If you are monitoring just to show your doctor or because you were told to, then it may not be worth the effort. But, if you are using the information to make choices about your eating or exercise habits, then you may find it to be very worthwhile.
What can you learn from checking your blood glucose levels?
One of the keys to managing diabetes is keeping everything in balance — your food, your activity, your medicines and your stress levels. Monitoring helps you and your healthcare provider decide when you need a change in medicine. It also helps you see how all of your hard work is paying off, which can keep you motivated.
Many people who check their blood glucose levels start by checking a fasting level before breakfast. If your blood glucose level is high when you first get up, you may decide to eat fewer carbohydrates (carbs) at breakfast or go for a walk during the morning to bring it back into the target range. If your blood glucose level is high in the mornings, try checking before you go to bed and then again when you wake up. Your bedtime and fasting glucose levels should be about the same. If not, you may need a change in your medicines.
Other times to check your blood glucose are before lunch and dinner, two hours after you start your meals, and at bedtime. Checking your blood glucose before and after a meal helps you understand how your body handled the carbohydrates you ate. Checking your blood glucose before bedtime also gives you the peace of mind that you won’t have a low blood glucose problem during the night.
How important is keeping track of your blood glucose levels?
A recent study showed that checking blood glucose levels was helpful for people taking pills for their diabetes if they had high A1C levels. In that study, people only checked their blood glucose levels five times a day for the three days before their provider visits. They wrote their results in a log book and also made a graph so they could see when their blood glucose level was in their target ranges. They also rated their energy level so they could see how their blood glucose levels affected how they felt.
The people in the study then took this information with them to their visit and talked about it with their provider. They were able to bring down their A1C levels significantly when they and their providers had that information.