Many people think that their blood glucose meters are some sort of sophisticated electronic toy. Believe it or not, however, the numbers you see on them after you check your blood actually mean something.
Consider the other way to check your glucose…
In the U.S. those numbers are a measure of how much glucose is in your blood. A normal fasting level is below 100 milligrams of glucose per deciliter of plasma, usually abbreviated to 100 mg/dl. The rest of the world measures millimoles per liter or mmol/l. To convert mg/dl of glucose to mmol/l divide by 18.
If you dislike pricking your finger to give the meter a drop of your blood, you might consider how we checked our levels before blood glucose meters were invented. Checking your urine wasn’t nearly as accurate, a bit unpleasant, and certainly not something you would do in public.
Your meter really becomes your friend whenever you something in your life changes:
10. If you think that your blood glucose might be too low, your meter will be glad to check it for you. If the number is 70 mg/dl or less, you have low blood glucose. You will usually — but not always — have some symptoms. If your number is low, you need to treat it right away by taking some glucose tablets or eating some fast-acting carbohydrates.
9. You may not even suspect that your blood glucose is too high until your meter tells you. In the short term you might or might not have any symptoms. The long-term results of high blood glucose are any number of diabetic complications. Exercise and fast-acting insulin will quickly bring down your level. But people with type 1 diabetes should avoid exercise if their fasting glucose levels are more than 250 mg/dl and ketosis is present or if their glucose levels are over 300 in any case.
8. Your meter will be glad to give you an education in how meals, physical activity, and medicine affect your blood glucose level.
7. If you have a job in which poor control could cause safety problems, your meter is a friend who can document how well your blood glucose is controlled.
6. Your meter is your designated tester. It will help you decide if it is safe to drive or perform other tasks that require concentration, if you are taking insulin or have had low blood glucose.
5. If you change your diabetes or other medicine, your diet, exercise routine, or activity level, your meter is ready on a moment’s notice to report back to you.
4. If your level of stress increases, you can ask your meter for biofeedback on your blood glucose level.
3. If you are sick, your blood glucose level might go way up. But only your meter knows for sure.
2. Your meter can even help you socially. If you are at a dinner party and they serve you something you really hate, you can test and then exclaim, "Oh, guess I can’t eat that!"
1. If you are nervous, your friendly meter will give you something to do with your fingers.
This article originally appeared in Diabetes Health, July 2004, pp. 50, 56.
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