If you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes, you may be wondering whether you should test your blood sugar level at home. You do want to have your blood sugar levels tested by a lab at least twice a year. A hemoglobin A1c test is a simple lab test that shows your average blood sugar level for the past two to three months.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that you discuss whether glucose testing is right for you with your doctor.
You may benefit from checking your blood sugar levels at home if you are:
- taking insulin
- having trouble controlling blood sugar levels
- having low blood sugar
- having low blood sugar levels without the usual warning signs
- have ketones (substances usually made from fat) from high blood sugar levels
What are the benefits?
Tracking your blood sugar test results daily in a log will enable you to spot any major changes. By also tracking your food, diabetes medications, supplements and exercise you will see how they impact your blood glucose levels. For example, you can track which carbohydrates spike your blood sugar so you can avoid eating that food in the future.
You want to eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of high-quality protein (organic), healthy fats and unprocessed carbs such as fresh veggies and fruit. Since carbs have a direct impact on your blood sugar levels, you want to eat those carbs that rank low on the Glycemic Load scale.
How accurate are the test results?
The current standards set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) require 95 percent of all glucometer test results to be within 20 percent of the actual blood glucose level for results greater than 75 mg/dl and within 15 mg/dl for values below 75 mg/dl. So a blood glucose that in reality is 100 mg/dl could show on a meter as being between 80 and 120 mg/dl—and still be considered accurate.
How often should I test my blood sugar?
You may also want to discuss how often you should test with your doctor because it can vary depending on your treatment, how well your blood sugar is controlled and your resources. In general, four or more tests a day are recommended to maintain good blood sugar control. You should measure your fasting blood sugar before meals and/or your blood sugar at bedtime and two hours after meals, as needed. Your ultimate goal is to reach a normal blood sugar level that below 5.6 on the A1c or below 99 on the fasting glucose test) in a safe manner.
You can review your daily log to see how how food, activity and stress affect your blood sugar. You want to see if there is a pattern of having too high or low levels for several days in a row at about the same time. If that happens, you may want to change your prediabetes or type 2 diabetes care plan and consult your health care provider.
When any changes occur in diet, exercise, medications, illness, or travel, you should test more often. The ADA has these free log tools: Diabetes 24/7, a printable blood glucose log and a smaller version available for purchase.
Equipment and Costs
You can buy a glucose meter and strips to test your blood sugar levels at home. Read this helpful article with lots of tips for buying a home glucose monitoring kit. Participants in this diabetes forum discuss brands they like and use and how to get a good deal.
Check with your health insurance plan to see if they cover the costs of buying a glucose monitoring kit and strips. Some may cover one or the other.
How to Test Your Blood Sugar at Home
Before you begin testing, have your health care provider show you the best techniques. When testing be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions and these helpful suggestions:
- Wash your hands (anything on your hands can change the reading).
- Collect the amount of blood required.
- Test again if reading seems incorrect. Use another meter to double check.
- Clean your meter as often as required.
- Record and date/time your test results.
Here are some tips for accurate readings:
- Be sure to match the code on the meter or the meter’s code chip with the code on the strip container.
- Check the date on the strips for freshness.
- Store strips so they don’t deteriorate (protect from heat, light, and humidity)
- Check for low battery if results aren’t accurate
Be sure to keep a good record of all tests. Discuss blood glucose goal ranges with your health care provider and what your results mean for you. Discuss how and when to make changes to your diabetes care plan. Ask your doctor or nurse if you should report results out of a certain range at once by phone.