Why is it Important to Monitor Blood Glucose Levels?
For patients who have recently been diagnosed with diabetes, it is important to work with a diabetes care team to develop a diabetes management plan. This can include elements like a meal plan, exercise plan, medication regimen, regular blood glucose monitoring, and in some cases, insulin therapy.
According to the American Diabetes Association, self-monitoring of blood glucose is an essential part of any diabetes treatment. Blood glucose monitoring can help patients and doctor(s) better understand the body’s reaction to environmental factors, track the results of a patient’s treatment plan, and most importantly, identify hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemic (high blood sugar) events.
The most common way of checking blood glucose levels is by using a glucometer, with a small sample of blood obtained from a finger prick. Patients may also use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), a glucometer that is attached to the body to track real-time blood glucose readings throughout the day and night. For patients requiring insulin therapy, a touchscreen insulin pump with integrated CGM can combine insulin delivery and CGM features into one simple-to-use device.
Understanding Reactions to Environmental Factors
When your body has a hard time using or producing insulin, certain environmental factors can greatly affect your blood sugar levels. However, each individual body is different. Some of the most widely-recognized influencers of blood glucose are:
Exercise – Patients with diabetes should pay close attention to the duration, intensity, and frequency of exercise they perform. Exercise can decrease blood sugar levels suddenly, so it may be necessary to test blood glucose levels before and after physical activity to prevent a dangerous low blood sugar (hypoglycemic) event. Testing can help better understand what measures to take to ensure blood sugar levels stay consistent before, during, and after exercise.
Diet – The types of food a person consumes directly affects the amount of sugar in the blood. Diabetes patients often benefit from developing a schedule of testing before and after meals so that they can better monitor how certain foods affect blood glucose levels.
Medications – Certain medications can affect the way that the body uses insulin, so it is important for patients to test blood sugar levels regularly when following a prescription regimen, and especially when starting a new medication.
Stress – Some studies indicate that external emotional factors and mental pressures can affect the way the body metabolizes sugars. If a person with diabetes experiences uncommon levels of stress, it can be helpful to monitor blood sugar levels to determine if the stress is causing levels to fluctuate.
Illness – Illnesses can affect the way the body uses sugars, too. It is important to record and monitor blood sugar levels when dealing with other ailments in order to better understand how these conditions can affect the body’s use of insulin. Doctors may recommend changes to a patient’s diet or insulin routine during illness.
Along with accurate record-keeping , blood glucose monitoring can help patients and their doctor(s) better understand how each of the above components affect blood sugar levels. Once a patient and their doctors are able to better understand how a patient’s body reacts to certain influencers, a diabetes care team to help plan activities and treatment better.
Tracking the Results of a Diabetes Treatment Plan
It is important for patients to closely track blood glucose levels with their diabetes care team in order to evaluate the effectiveness of their personal diabetes care plan to determine if they are meeting treatment goals. Using tools like a CGM and integrated insulin pump can make tracking easier so that patients and their care team can accurately examine blood glucose levels and draw conclusions about treatment.
Identifying Hypoglycemic and Hyperglycemic Events
One of the most important reasons for monitoring blood sugar is to identify periods of significantly low blood sugar (hypoglycemic events) and significantly high blood sugar (hyperglycemic events). After testing, if a patient finds that their blood sugar level is outside the recommended range, actions like eating a small snack or taking additional insulin may be needed.
In addition to helping develop a diabetes care plan, a doctor can help patients understand how and when to test blood glucose levels, what testing methods are best, what blood sugar levels are normal or dangerous, and what environmental factors to look out for.