Diabetics – Know Your Numbers!

If you have diabetes, you’ve probably experienced high blood sugar a time or two. You’ve also probably experience low blood sugar. You may be experiencing high or low blood sugar and not even know it. And if you aren’t checking your blood sugar then you don’t know your blood sugar. The importance of checking one’s blood sugar is often overlooked. It’s something dietitian’s and diabetes educators often find themselves almost begging their diabetic patient’s to do. Yes it’s a pain, it can be inconvenient at times, and sometimes we would rather not know, but it will serve as a useful guide to managing your diabetes.

It’s important for your doctor and diabetes care team to know your blood sugar trends in order to better dose and adjust your medications. It’s valuable information for your dietitian or diabetes educator to better guide you on the timing and choices of food intake. But most of all, it helps you to learn your own blood sugar trends to prevent unnecessary highs and lows and improve you overall diabetes health.

Discuss with your doctor and diabetes care team what your blood sugar goals are and establish some parameters. Blood sugars goals often need to be individualized based on several different factors. Some factors include, how long you’ve had diabetes, age and life expectancy, and any other conditions that may require more or less control of your blood sugar. However, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) does suggest the following targets for non-pregnant adults with diabetes.

 Glycemic Recommendations for Non-Pregnant Adults with Diabetes

A1C 7%
Preprandial plasma glucose (before a meal) 70–130 mg/dl
Postprandial plasma glucose (after a meal)* <180 mg/dl

Consistency is key when monitoring your blood sugar. The ADA recommends that those on multiple insulin injections per day or using an insulin pump should check their blood sugar three or more times per day. This typically means checking your blood sugar first thing in the morning, after meals, and before bedtime. For those using less frequent insulin injections, those on oral medications, or no medications at all, checking your blood sugar as often is typically not necessary but monitoring regularly is still just as important. Therefore checking your blood sugar once or twice a day such as first thing in the morning and then after a meal can be beneficial. However, always check with your doctor or diabetes care team as to how often you should be checking.

So what are these numbers telling you? When you are monitoring and recording your blood sugar consistently, you may start to see a pattern. You may see that your blood sugar is always high in the morning. Or that your blood sugar is always high after meals or maybe just after certain foods that you eat. Or perhaps its always low after you exercise. Knowing these types of patterns will increase your awareness of your blood sugar’s usual response to different situations.

Knowing what your glucose response is to things such as food and exercise will give you the opportunity to treat and adjust your blood sugar accordingly. It will help you to better plan out your day and prevent fluctuations in your blood sugar. Prevention is the most important strategy when it comes to your diabetes health. And the best way to prevent any unwanted blood sugars is to understand when and why they are occurring through frequent and consistent monitoring.

By: Alyssa Werner MS, RD, LD, CDE


American Diabetes Association. Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes-2012. Diabetes Care.2012; 35:S11-S25.

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