5 Tips for Improving Your Diabetes Management
Managing blood sugar levels
Blood sugar management and target goals are unique to each person. For those without diabetes blood sugar typically is <100mg/dl. With diabetes, most people’s recommended target range is around 70-180 mg/dL. When blood sugar is out of target range, the body is at risk for short-term complications and long-term complications like diabetes-related eye disease, kidney disease or nerve damage. By managing your blood sugar, you can help avoid small and large symptoms, making your life more comfortable, and in some circumstances, saving it.
Keep a good record of your blood sugar readings
Over time, little by little, your blood sugar control may be changing in ways you can’t see in just one or two days of checking it. By keeping a blood sugar diary, you can see patterns over time that can inform you and your diabetes care team on treatment changes needed to improve your management.
Here are a few tracking options to consider:
- Diabetes record books: One of the most popular ways to keep track of blood sugar levels is to use a small book to record blood sugar, food intake, insulin and activity.
- Smartphone applications: There are also apps designed for Android, iPhone and tablet devices that can help track your blood sugar and through Bluetooth connection, can automatically store readings.
- Computer software: Computer software can be a great way to look at highs and lows. Blood sugar monitor and insulin pump data can often be downloaded to a computer, allowing you to view your blood sugar and/or insulin history. Do a quick search of your pump or monitor manufacturer’s website to see what software it has available. Most software will allow you to see graphs and statistics that can be used to spot trends.
Review your blood sugar records regularly to look for patterns of highs/lows
Keeping a good record is the first step, but not the only one! Take time to look for patterns in your records. Remember that the more closely you track and review your sugar levels as well as your physical activity, exercise regimen and eating habits, the easier it will be for you to learn what causes patterns and issues in management. As you become more aware of how certain foods and activities affect your blood sugar, you will be able to better plan and make adjustments to your routine.
Work with your diabetes health provider to make adjustments and improve your management
Once you spot a consistent pattern, it’s time to delve deeper into what is causing it and how to manage it. But you don’t have to do that all on your own! You and your diabetes team can review your management history through your blood sugar log or device reports. Together, you can use these to adjust your diabetes management plan accordingly. Always err on the side of caution and ask your physician or diabetes educator for help when you need it.
Manage blood sugars based on your physician’s suggestions
In addition to checking your own blood sugar levels at home or using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), your physician or diabetes team will arrange for you to have a special blood test, known as hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), every two to three months. The A1c will provide your doctor with information on how your diabetes is being managed and recommend changes if any are needed. When you test your blood sugar level, you are measuring how much glucose is in your bloodstream at the time of monitoring. HbA1c, on the other hand, measures your overall blood sugar control for the preceding three months. Keeping your A1c at your individual target level (<7% in most adults) can help reduce the risk of long-term diabetes-related complications.
Don’t expect perfection! Just aim to get more of your readings within target
Diligently maintaining, reviewing and sharing your records makes a huge difference, but know that your readings will never be “perfect”. Remember to be kind to yourself and to seek out help when you need it — you are only doing the best you can.