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All your blood glucose testing questions, answered

We all know we should be testing our blood glucose regularly, but we don’t always know exactly how to do it… Let’s take a look at some of the questions we get from our South Africans with Diabetes community, and answer them.

When is the best time to test blood glucose?

Your doctor will let you know how often to check your blood sugar. It changes depending on the type of diabetes you have and your treatment plan.

If you have Type 1 diabetes, your doctor may recommend checking your blood sugar 4 to 10 times a day – depending how many strips you are given, or can afford. It’s important to check any time you take insulin, so that you know how much to dose, as well as before bedtime, if you are feeling sick, or if you suspect your blood sugar might be low or high. That can add up quickly!

If you have Type 2 diabetes and you take insulin, you might need to check your blood sugar several times a day, depending on the type and amount of insulin you use. It’s usually a good idea to check your blood sugar before breakfast and sometimes before dinner or at bedtime. If you manage Type 2 diabetes with tablets, or with diet and exercise alone, you may only need to test your blood sugar once a day.

Community feedback on blood glucose testing

Here’s what our community has to say about the best time to check your blood glucose:

I would always test first thing in the morning before breakfast or tea or coffee and then before every meal. There are apps that you can put on your phone for free that will help you to record your readings so your medical team can help you to manage your diabetes better.

Kim Andersen

We recommend the Contour Diabetes app for those using the Contour family of glucometers.

I have Type 1 diabetes, for 20 odd years now – I test first thing in the morning, before I go to bed at night and before every meal (and sometimes in-between). I had to fight my medical aid to get them to approve enough testing strips but I persevered and won. I feel it’s important to know where my sugar levels are at so that I can react accordingly. I truly don’t think I would cope with only testing once or twice a day.

Linda Oates Robinson

How often should you check your blood glucose?

That depends on your lifestyle, diet, and medications. It also depends how many strips you have access to.

Here’s how often our South Africans with Diabetes community checks their blood sugar:

Personally I think it’s best to vary the times when you test. One day test on waking, next day test before lunch, then before supper and bed time. Also test occasionally between meals. You then get a good idea of what’s happening in a week.

Adele Jossel

If you can afford to test, a minimum of 3 a day is advisable. Before every meal.

Sarah Tiedt

I test myself 2 hours after every meal, so three times a day

Mandy Gill Blom

What happens if you don’t get enough blood on the strip?

Usually, if you don’t get enough blood on the strip there’s an error message and you have to throw the strip away (the worst! What a waste!) But the Contour Plus Elite glucometer has a feature that allows for Second-Chance sampling. This means that you if didn’t add enough blood to the test strip the first try, you now have a second chance to add more blood to the same test strip. This can save a lot of strips!

What numbers should you be aiming for?

The goal for people with diabetes is 4mmol/l to 7mmol/l.

Lower than 4mmol/l (and particularly lower than 3mmol/l) is low (hypoglycemia). Between 7mmol/l and 10mmol/l is also a good zone, although some doctors and other people living with diabetes like to keep tighter control and don’t go higher than 9mmol/l.

But if you are experiencing a low or a high these numbers might be a bit confusing, which is why Contour Plus Elite’s smart-light feature is so helpful. If it flashes red, that means you’re below target, green indicates within target and yellow/amber means above target. It’s a very helpful way to know in an instant how your blood sugar is doing.

Is it possible to see trends with blood glucose testing?

I have Type 2 diabetes and when I was newly diagnosed, my doctor encouraged me to test first thing in the morning, again two hours after breakfast, after lunch as well and then again later before supper and two hours after supper. I did a whole lot of testing: my doctor’s explanation was that I needed to keep records of my tests in order for me to see and know if I’m reacting positively to the prescribed medication and most importantly to be able to identify which food spike my sugars because some food might start affecting my glucose levels negatively.

Moore Raphela

We all know that the trick to easier diabetes management is finding solutions for self-management that work for you every day. But each of us is different, so the tools we choose to manage our diabetes need to be different too. The Contour Diabetes app offers easy tracking of your diabetes data. The colour coding helps you identify trends and patterns in your blood sugar levels to support better management of your diabetes.

At the beginning, I was completely overwhelmed. But keeping track of your blood sugar trends really helps you to know your body. My doctor suggested that I test first thing in the morning and then just before each meal and 1 hour after each meal. I also write down everything that I ate. This way I am able to see which foods to avoid because they spiked my sugar.

Steff Hughes

When your blood glucose is well managed, is it necessary to check every day?

We all know that diabetes can change from one day to the next! The main goal of diabetes treatment is to keep glucose levels in the target range, and testing blood glucose is one of the best ways to know how well your diabetes treatment plan is working.

The Contour Plus Elite glucometer.

Find out more about the Contour Plus Elite glucometer on https://www.diabetes.ascensia.co.za/ or follow them on Facebook.

What to read next?

What are diabetes complications? A helpful list of symptoms: Diabetes complications are one of those things none of us wants to think about… Having diabetes can be stressful enough without worrying about complications.

Time in target: what it is, why it’s important, and how it can help: Understand the new measure that’s more helpful than the HbA1c.

Exercise, a little every day: your guide to exactly how to exercise with diabetes: We all know we should exercise every day… But it’s not always that easy to do. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to exactly how to exercise with diabetes, so that you can choose how you want to get active – and understand why.

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Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.