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Diabetes: Testing Your Blood Glucose

Blood Glucose Meters

To help control your diabetes, you need to check your blood glucose level. The best way is with a blood glucose meter. These devices are small machines that work like a computer. Your blood glucose level shows as a number on a screen, like on a pocket calculator.

Many types of meters are available on the market. Your diabetes educator can help you choose the best meter for you. Check with your insurance company to learn which models your plan covers.

When to Test Your Blood Glucose

You need to test your blood glucose at different times of the day. It’s helpful to check your blood glucose level each morning as soon as you wake up, before you eat or take your medicine. It is also helpful to check your blood glucose before each meal and at bedtime. Once in a while, you should check your blood glucose 1 to 2 hours after a meal. Many people with diabetes test their blood glucose 2 to 4 times a day before meals.

When you start or change an exercise program, you should test your blood glucose levels. Exercise can help to lower your blood glucose. Check your blood glucose before you exercise and about 1 hour after. You should also test when you feel the symptoms of low blood glucose.

Test more often when you are sick. See the UPMC Patient Education page Diabetes: Short-Term Problems. Ask your doctor or diabetes educator to help you decide on the test schedule that’s best for you.

Keeping a Record

A record of blood glucose levels is very important. Write down your blood glucose level each time you test. Write down the date, time, and what you do before or after the test. Be sure to note changes in your routine. This record will show you and your doctor how food, medicines, and exercise affect your blood glucose levels.

Recommended Goals

It has been shown that if you keep most of your blood glucose readings within these recommended ranges, you can lower your risk of long term problems.

Before meals: 70 to 130 mg/dl

After meals: no higher than 180 mg/dl

Goals may very from person to person. Talk to you doctor or diabetes educator about what goals are best for you.

Sample Daily Record

Blood Glucose Numbers: Week Starting __________________________________

Day Breakfast Lunch Dinner Other Notes




A1c Test

In time, you will want to know how well you control your diabetes. To get a good idea, your doctor will order a test to measure your blood sugar levels over a period of time. You should have this blood test at least twice a year. The test is the A1c (read “A-one-C”) test.

This test measures the amount of hemoglobin in your blood with sugar attached. The test results tell how well you controlled your diabetes over 3 months. The light areas on the chart show the recommended target range for A1c. The A1c is measured in percent. The chart shows how this compares to your blood glucose readings (estimated average blood glucose).

Normal A1c is under 5.7 percent. When you have diabetes, recommended goal is 7 percent or less.

Goals may vary from person to person. Talk to your doctor or diabetes educator about the goal that is best for you.

If You Have Questions

If you have any questions, call a member of your diabetes health care team.

Reviewed July 2013​

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