In the last article I spoke of the importance of testing our blood sugar, and it's very important indeed. There are three main uses for a blood sugar meter, and even though all of them involve our testing our blood sugar to obtain a reading, these three things differ as far as their purpose goes.
So the first thing we can call just checking to see how you are doing, and we're using this primarily to compare other readings, although we may also use this to check to see if we're not going too low, if we are on medications that risk us going low. If so, then we can take corrective action to raise our blood sugar back up to safe levels.
So staying on top of our blood sugar is certainly important, and aside from monitoring for hypos, which once again you really only get from medication, we will be using our readings as a measuring stick to just see how we're doing day to day.
Now you might be told that your A1C tests, which are generally done every three months, will provide you with feedback on your condition and your progress, and that is true, but that's more like a view from the sky, and we don't get this view that often, and in addition to that we need a better idea of what's going on if we are going to manage our treatment. There is no substitute for this by the way, at least until you've got everything figured out, and when you are starting treatment that's as far away as it could possibly be.
There are type 2 diabetics who aren't on meds, so no risk of hypoglycemia, who have been testing their blood sugar several times a day for many years, and plan on continuing to do so for the rest of their lives, and it's less important at this stage, it still provides us with some useful information, even if our blood sugar is very stable.
In addition to the individual readings, meters calculate various averages for you, like weekly, biweekly, monthly, and 90 day averages. Not all meters have all of these averages, but all do have some of these and they are useful.
In addition, most meters these days can be hooked up your computer, so you can download the data through a USB connection, and view the ongoing results through the software that is downloadable from the meter maker.
Some will download the data to your smart phone as well, and you can also get third party software on the internet, some free and some with a small subscription fee, which allow you to track not only your blood sugar, but what you eat, your weight, the amount of exercise you do, your blood pressure, etc.
The second purpose of testing is by far the most important, and also the most overlooked. As diabetics, a big part of our treatment is going to be monitoring how various foods affect our blood sugar and come up with an eating plan that is suitable.
This is what diabetics call "eating to your meter," and it is very important to do this, even though you may have been given a standard diet that isn't tailored to you, it's not tailored to diabetics at all in fact. I'll be talking quite a bit more about this as we go along, but for now, if they give you a sheet of paper with a so called diabetic diet on it, throw it away, it's worse than worthless, it's harmful.
In a nutshell, we are glucose intolerant, but the diet doesn't account for that, and most diabetics drive their blood sugar way too high on these diets. That's not what we want, to say the least. This diet in fact is based upon their so called healthy diet of lots of carbs, and low fat, and this diet isn't suited for man or beast actually.
So what how foods affect our blood sugar does matter, and matters a lot, so you need to test out everything you eat, by testing before the meal and two hours afterward. So what you do is compare foods, and what you want to be looking at here is the rise from the food, how much you go up from before to after.
Also, you do want to look at the sheer number you go up to, but this actually matters a lot less. You hear people saying don't go above this or that blood sugar level, but you might even be above that before you eat, so eating nothing may not even get you where they say you should be. Still though this number does matter, as do all the numbers, but when it comes to deciding the appropriateness of a certain meal, the only meaningful number is the extent of the spike.
The third thing that you want to do with blood sugar readings is to measure any change in your treatment other than diet, which may include prescriptions, supplements, exercise, or whatever other changes you may be making in your lifestyle. Without blood sugar readings, and a fair number of them, we'd have no idea what is going on.
So our blood glucose meter is our diagnostic tool, and an extremely valuable one, and whether we like it or not, this is one disease where at least a lot of it is on our shoulders, in terms of how well or poorly we do.
So next time I'll talk more about why this is the case, why you can't just let your so called health care providers completely run the show, unless you want to go down the path to getting worse and worse over time, as so many people do. This is way too big of a topic to deal with in one article but I'll touch on some of the reasons.