What You Need to Know About Blood-Sugar Tests

Keeping glucose (blood sugar) numbers in a target range can help diabetics feel better and stay healthier. If you have diabetes, keeping your blood sugar (glucose) numbers in your target range can help you feel good today and stay healthy in the future.

Here, from experts at the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP), a division of the National Institutes of Health, is what you need to know about this essential element of diabetes management:

There are two ways to measure blood sugar.

The NDEP experts explain that one method, the A1C, is a lab test that measures your average blood sugar level during the past two to three months. Has your blood sugar stayed close to its goal level, or has it been too high or too low? Test results will reveal that.

Self-tests, blood sugar checks you do yourself, will show what your glucose level is at the moment of testing.

Both ways, according to the NDEP experts, will help the patient and his or her health care practitioners get a good picture of how your diabetes is being managed.

Additionally, the A1C test, the NDEP says, will help decide what kind of diabetes medicine is best for you, and how much you should take

The A1C target number is below 7, although yours may differ. The health-care team can decide on what number is appropriate for you.

Having a good number is essential: the NDEP says that without one, you may have an increased risk of  eye, kidney, nerve, and heart problems.

You need an A1C at least twice a year, the NDEP experts say – more often if it is too high, if your treatment plan changes or if you plan to become pregnant.

Self-tests, the NDEP says, can help you learn what factors control your blood sugar levels, including being active, undergoing stress, taking medicines and eating food. Keeping that feedback in mind can help you make good choices in daily life.

For the best management, the NDEP recommends keeping a record of your daily self-test results. Ask your health care practitioner what you can do to avoid your sugar being outside your target range.

According to the NDEP, many diabietics have a goal of a blood sugar level of between 70 and 130 before meals. They aim for less than 180 about two hours after a meal. Target ranges can differ if you’re over 65 or have additional health problems such as heart illness.

And there is such a thing as a blood sugar level that’s too low. The NDEP experts say it’s signaled by feeling sweaty, shaky or hungry, and they suggest doing a check.

To treat excessively low glucose levels, experts recommend carrying something sweet with you at all times, such as four hard candies or glucose tablets. Eating the candy or the tablets will help stabilize you. Let your health care team know if this happens often.

Self-tests are usually done before meals, after meals and at bedtime According to the NDEP experts, diabetics who take insulin need more self-tests than those who don’t. Make sure you are following the self-test schedule your health care practitioners recommend.

Doing these daily tests may be hard, the NDEP experts say, when your sugar levels don’t seem to reflect the work you’re doing to manage your diabetes. But ultimately, taking the tests and using the information in diabetes management will pay off.

For more information on health issues related to diabetes, visit the NDEP’s website, http://www.ndep.nih.gov/index.aspx.



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