But, there are also some proven ways to manage your blood sugar that, if applied on a regular basis, can significantly help you keep your blood sugar in an acceptable range most of the time. Here are three tips toward that end.
Tip 1: Set a goal for your average blood sugar level.
This is best measured by the hemoglobin A1c test (also referred to as A1c). This test measures your three-month average blood glucose level and is usually performed at your doctor’s office or a lab. The American Diabetes Association advises that your A1c level should be below 7% to reduce the risk of long-term complications associated with diabetes.
If your most recent A1c test result is 7% or higher, set a goal to reduce it by at least one-half percent before the next test. If it is significantly higher than 7% your goal might be to bring it down more than 1% by the next test.
Having a target number in mind can be a great source of motivation. But motivation needs to be grounded in a goal that is both measurable and achievable. Work with your diabetes team to create that realistic and measurable set of behavioral goals that will enable you to achieve a tighter control over your blood glucose.
Tip 2: Test your blood sugar frequently.
When you have type 1 diabetes you should be testing your blood sugar at least before every meal and dose of insulin. For tighter control test every two to three hours or about six to eight times day. That may sound like a lot of finger pricking, but testing is the only sure way of knowing what your blood glucose levels are at any time. It is also recommended that you occasionally test yourself in the middle of the night, especially if you begin to see your morning glucose reading running unusually high or low.
Many people with type 1 diabetes don’t test as often as they should because they are under the impression that they can "feel it" when they need to take insulin or food. Though there are some noticeable symptoms associated with high and low blood sugar, you should not get into a habit of depending on your ability to "sense" the symptoms. Some people lose the ability to sense these symptoms (called low blood sugar unawareness), which makes testing your blood all the more important.
Tip 3: Track your blood glucose readings.
Most glucose meters have an internal memory that will give you an average of the most recent blood tests. But you can take this further by using the computer software that often comes with the glucose meter. This software will enable you to make charts and graphs of your glucose checks to get a much broader and richer understanding of trends that might be developing.
For example, say you run a report from the last 30 days and have it graphed out. You might notice that you have continually high glucose readings at lunchtime. You might have known this but it didn’t strike you as a trend until you saw the numbers side by side. Not only does it heighten your awareness for problem solving, but you can also take this data to your next doctor’s visit to assess changes in your diabetes management routine that may help correct any wayward trends that may need to be address.
It is important to add that food intake, exercise and insulin therapy each play a vital role in managing your blood sugar. But, it is your commitment to set realistic A1c goals, check your blood sugar frequently and being proactive to spot problematic trends that will enable you to know where you stand with your glucose control and enable you to manage your diabetes well.
American Diabetes Association. "Checking Your Blood Glucose.”