Blood Glucose Monitoring

You need to regularly monitor your blood glucose to track your blood glucose levels. Over time your readings will provide you and your health professionals with the information required to determine the best management strategy for your diabetes. Maintaining good blood glucose control is your best defence to reduce the chances of developing complications from diabetes.

Regular monitoring of blood glucose levels doesn’t need to be a hassle and plays an important role in your ability to maintain a happy, enjoyable life.

In this Topic

Importance of Testing Blood
How to Test Blood
How Often to Test
Glucose Level Targets
Inconsistent Highs & Lows
Getting Accurate Results
Test Results that Don’t Seem Right
Caring for Strips
Glycated Haemoglobin (HbA1c) Test

Importance of Testing Blood Glucose Levels

Blood glucose monitoring is a valuable diabetes self management tool, which enables you to check your own blood glucose levels as often as you need to, as recommended by your doctor of Credentialled Diabetes Educator.

Blood glucose level pattern changes can alert you and your health professionals to a possible need for a change in how your diabetes is being managed.

Testing your blood glucose levels will help you to:

  • Develop confidence in looking after your diabetes
  • Better understand the relationship between your blood glucose levels and the exercise you do, the food you eat, other medication you may take and other lifestyle influences such as travel, stress and illness
  • Find out immediately if your blood glucose levels are too high (hyperglycaemia) or too low (hypoglycaemia)
  • Alert you to seek the advice of your diabetes team about adjusting your insulin, tablets, meal or in-between meal planning when blood glucose goals are not being met.

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    How to Test Blood Glucose Levels

    To test blood glucose levels you will need:

    • A blood glucose meter
    • A lancet device with lancets
    • Test strips.

    It is a simple procedure and the results are displayed within seconds.

    Blood glucose meters are usually sold as kits giving you all the equipment you need to start. There are many different types, offering different features and at different prices to meet individual needs. Most of these are available from Diabetes Australia in your state or territory, pharmacies and some diabetes centres.

    Your doctor or a Credentialled Diabetes Educator can help you choose the meter that’s best for you. It is important that you talk to your Credentialled Diabetes Educator about how to use your meter correctly so that you can be sure your results are accurate.

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    Frequency of Testing

    When you should test your blood glucose levels and how often you should test varies depending on each individual, the type of diabetes and the tablets and/or insulin being used. Your doctor or Credentialled Diabetes Educator will help you decide how many tests are needed and the levels to aim for. Possible times to test are:

    • Before breakfast (fasting)
    • Before lunch/dinner
    • Two hours after a meal
    • Before bed
    • Before rigorous exercise
    • When you are feeling unwell

    You may need to record all your tests. Even though your meter may have a memory, it is important to keep a record of your readings in a diary and to take this with you to all appointments with your diabetes team.

    Testing four times a day is usually recommended for people with type 1 diabetes. People using an insulin pump may need to test more often.

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    Times to Test More Often

    There will be times when you need to test more often, however you should first discuss this with your doctor or Credentialled Diabetes Educator. Example of these times include when you are:

    • Being more physically active or less physically active
    • Sick or stressed
    • Experiencing changes in routine or eating habits, e.g. travelling
    • Changing or adjusting your insulin or medication
    • Experiencing symptoms of hypoglycaemia
    • Experiencing symptoms of hyperglycaemia
    • Experiencing night sweats or morning headaches
    • A female planning pregnancy or are pregnant.
    • Pre/post minor surgical day procedures
    • Post dental procedures

    Your Credentialled Diabetes Educator can help you work out a testing plan especially for you.

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    Glucose Level Targets

    Blood glucose levels are measured in millimoles per litre of blood (mmol/L). The 'normal' range for blood glucose is about 4 to 6 mmol/L (fasting).

    The ranges will vary depending on the individual and an individual’s circumstances. While it is important to keep your blood glucose levels as close to a normal or non-diabetic state as possible to prevent complications, it is equally important to check with your doctor or Credentialled Diabetes Educator for the range of blood glucose levels that are right and safe for you. 

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    Inconsistent Highs & Lows

    Sometimes you may get a lower or higher blood glucose reading than usual and you may not be able to figure out the reason. When you are sick with a virus or flu, your blood glucose levels will nearly always go up and you may need to contact your doctor.
    There are a number of other common causes for blood glucose levels to increase or decrease. These include:

    • Food – time eaten, type and amount of carbohydrate for example: bread, pasta, cereals, vegetables, fruit and milk
    • Exercise or physical activity
    • Illness and pain
    • Diabetes medication
    • Alcohol
    • Emotional stress
    • Other medications
    • Testing techniques.

    Contact your doctor or Credentialled Diabetes Educator if you notice that your blood glucose patters change or are consistently higher or lower than usual.

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    Getting Accurate Results

    There are many reasons why your test results could be inaccurate. The best defence against this is to see a Credentialled Diabetes Educator to learn how to use your meter, prepare your lancing site and how to maintain your meter and equipment.
    It is impossible to tell whether or not a meter is working by looking at it. The only way to be sure that your meter is working correctly is to test it with a control solution. The control solution has a known level of glucose so you can check the measurement on your meter to ensure it is accurate.

    Common reasons for incorrect results include:

    • Using the wrong strip for the machine
    • Using strips that have expired or have been stored incorrectly
    • Using the machine incorrectly
    • Not washing hands before testing (handling sweet foods such as jam or fruit can give higher results)
    • Incorrect calibration/set-up

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    Test Results that Don’t Seem Right

    If you’re not convinced that a result is correct, here’s a suggested check list:

    • Have the strips expired?
    • Is the strip the right one for the meter?
    • Is there enough blood on the strip?
    • Has the strip been put into the meter the right way?
    • Have the strips been affected by climate, heat or light?
    • Did you wash and thoroughly dry your hands before doing the test?
    • Is the meter clean?
    • Is the meter too hot or too cold?
    • Is the calibration code correct?
    • Is the battery low or flat?

    All meters will give a slightly different result with a different drop of blood. As long as there is not a big difference there is not usually cause for concern. If you are concerned, you can arrange to have your meter checked with a control solution. Your Credentialled Diabetes Educator or pharmacist can help you with this.

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    Caring for Strips

    It is important to care for your strips so that you get an accurate reading. To do this, refer to the manufacturer’s instructions. It will include recommendations like:

    • Storing them in a dry place
    • Replacing the cap immediately after use
    • Checking the expiry date is valid.

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    Glycated Haemoglobin (HbA1c) Test

    The HbA1c test shows an average of your blood glucose level over the previous 10-12 weeks. The test doesn’t show the highs and lows that your home testing shows. Therefore it does not replace the tests you do yourself but is an added tool in giving the overall picture of your blood glucose management.

    The goal for most people with diabetes will be ≤7% however this may need to be higher for some people including children and the elderly. Your doctor or Credentialled Diabetes Educator can help you decide on a target that is both appropriate and realistic for your individual circumstances.

    You should arrange this test with your doctor every 3-6 months.

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