Medically Reviewed by Dr. Mary Kellis
According to the CDC, regularly monitoring your blood sugar is the most important thing you can do to manage pre-diabetes, type 1 and type 2 diabetes. As humans, our blood glucose levels fluctuate throughout the day. Factors such as diet, exercise, hydration, medication, illness, and sleep directly impact our blood sugar levels and the amount of insulin our bodies produce in response. As a prediabetic or diabetic, it’s crucial to understand where your blood sugar is throughout the day so you can properly (and safely) manage your condition.
Once you start tracking your blood sugar levels, you’ll be able to not only identify what causes your blood sugar spikes and crashes, but also begin understanding the patterns of why. For example, if you start to see a pattern in which your blood sugar levels drop after a workout class, you can be prepared with a snack to help the dip. The more you know and understand, the more you can do to plan ahead and minimize blood sugar roller coasters.
How to Track Your Blood Sugar
You can’t track if you can’t measure. In the case of a diabetic, you need to measure your blood glucose levels. You get an assessment of a number expressed in mg/dL. mg/dL, or milligrams per deciliter, which indicates the amount of a particular substance (such as glucose) in a specific amount of blood (webmd) and you need to measure throughout particular times of the day to stay aware and on track. Most people find it helpful to have a log or journal to input date, time, diet, activities and the corresponding blood sugar levels. This type of journaling provides context of your blood sugar reading beyond the number, offering clarity and helping you plan a healthier tomorrow based on today’s learnings.
In addition to daily monitoring of your blood sugar levels, you’ll want to test your A1C levels at least 4 times per year. This way, you receive a 3 month average measurement (meaning you’ll know what your blood sugar average was for the previous 3 months). This lab test is important because you may feel fine day to day, but unregulated glucose levels can quickly lead to undiagnosed pre/type 2 diabetes.
According to the American Diabetes Association, the A1C test—also known as the hemoglobin A1C or HbA1c test—is a simple blood test that measures your average blood sugar levels over the past 3 months. This is important because it gives you a big picture understanding of your average blood sugar over time. As far as a target range to hit, there isn’t one. Everyone’s A1C target is different, but for adults with diabetes, the goal is to stay below 6.5%.
For those who require or want a continuous, down-to-the-minute understanding of what’s happening with your blood sugar, Continuous Blood Glucose Monitoring systems (CGMs) are available by prescription. These monitors empower you with real time data about how your blood sugar responds to daily choices, stressors, and more, giving you the ability to set a healthy range for your blood sugar and alerts if it ever spikes or dips out of that range.
How to Interpret What You Track
So you’ve been tracking your numbers, but what do you do with all this data? We put this chart together (with data and help from the CDC) as a quick reference to see what range your blood glucose levels are in.
With 1.5 million Americans newly diagnosed with diabetes every year and 1 in 3 Americans with prediabetes, it’s important to know what the data actually means. For those with prediabetes, if you can get your blood glucose levels down, you can actually prevent your diagnosis from becoming diabetes and requiring insulin management. “Always remember to make sure your fingers are clean before checking your blood glucose,” says Dr. Mary Kells, board certified endocrinologist and medical advisor for Sugarbreak “Sometimes you can get a false blood glucose reading from leftover food residue on your fingertips.”
No matter your numbers or diagnosis, the great news is you can take control of your blood sugar by making daily lifestyle changes. Modifying your diet, incorporating exercise and making conscious shifts to your daily routine can lower your risk of diabetes while improving your overall health. Long story short, the data is in the numbers but you can still write your own story.