By Alicia Kaluza, MS, RD, LN
November 14th is World Diabetes Day – a campaign that draws awareness to the escalating health threat posed by diabetes. The number of people with diabetes has nearly quadrupled since 1980. Prevalence is increasing worldwide, due in part to increases in the number of people who are overweight, and in a widespread lack of physical activity.
If you’re one of the many people who have been diagnosed with diabetes, you may begin a process of checking blood sugars. If this is the case, your doctor may go over a lot of information, including why you should check your blood sugar, and how often. This can be overwhelming, leading to forgetting what was said. Consider bringing someone with you to the appointment, or take notes.
Checking and understanding your blood sugar level is especially important for understanding what is happening in your body. Your blood sugar levels tell you how certain foods affect your blood sugar, how well your diabetes is being managed, if there is a problem, and whether or not your current treatment is working. This simple task of checking blood sugar provides a lot of valuable information, which is why it is so important.
Poorly managed diabetes can lead to problems with your feet, hands, kidneys and eyes. Uncontrolled diabetes also increases your risk for heart disease. This is why the one action of checking your blood sugar can help provide you with the information to manage your diabetes successfully.
Here are five tips to follow to develop good habits with checking blood sugar levels and maintaining good diabetes self-care:
- Talk to a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) – they are a great resource for answering questions, teaching you how to check blood sugars, and helping navigate the overall diabetes care process. All hospitals and clinics have CDE’s on staff, as does Take Control.
- Create a Habit. Set alarms, place sticky notes, whatever you need to do to remember to check your blood sugar. Some people only need to check 1-2 times daily, while others may need to it check more often, such as 4-6 times per day. Whatever your doctor recommends will be based on your medications, and overall care plan. Regardless of how often you check, remember to make it a priority.
- Track Your Numbers. Keep a notebook, spreadsheet, app, or other form of tracking accessible to track your numbers. People who are diligent about tracking are able to modify their approach with diet and lifestyle, as well as medication if needed to ensure good control.
- Use Good Procedure. Rotate your testing sites and use good technique. Instead of poking the same finger in the same spot, use different fingers. Line up on the side of the finger versus the fingertip – there are less nerve endings in the side, which causes discomfort. Rotate the site to prevent less development of scar tissue, which can occur from frequent pokes in the same spot. By using the right technique you can lessen the pain and fear of checking blood sugar levels.
- Build a Supportive Network. Include your doctor, CDE, family, and whomever else can help you stay accountable and on track. Having diabetes is not easy, but having people to support you makes the challenges easier.
In the end, choose the methods that work for you, and you will find more success overall. If you are unsure about whether or not you should be checking your blood sugar level at all, then discuss it with your doctor. They will be able to re-evaluate your needs and help you make adjustments to your care plan as needed.