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Living with Diabetes: How to Monitor Your Blood Sugar

More than 34 million Americans have diabetes, which means their bodies don’t produce insulin or can’t use it properly. (Insulin is a hormone that helps cells in our body absorb glucose [sugar] in our blood, which we use for energy.)

Over time, uncontrolled diabetes can lead to a host of serious health problems. It is therefore important for people with diabetes to keep their blood sugar levels within a healthy range, that is, not too low or too high. There are several ways to monitor blood sugar.

One method measures fasting blood sugar, which means testing your blood half an hour before eating. This can be done with a glucometer, a small machine that comes with small needles (to prick your finger to get a drop of blood) and test strips. Within seconds, the meter reveals your blood sugar, which should ideally be between 80 and 130 milligrams per deciliter.

If your blood sugar is low, that is, below 70, it means you are hypoglycemic, and Yale New Haven Hospital resident Carolyn Gonzalez, MD, recommends what we calls it the “15-15 rule”. This means taking in about 15 grams of carbs, which can be half a cup of juice, a few hard candies, or even a tablespoon of sugar, corn syrup, or honey. Then wait 15 minutes and test your blood sugar again. If it is still low, repeat the exercise.

“If you have consistently low blood sugar, it’s probably time to go to the hospital. If you have uncontrolled diabetes, there can be a lot of complications that can come with it,” says the Dr. said Gonzalez.

Another method of measuring blood sugar is called the hemoglobin A1C test, which measures your average blood sugar over a period of about three months. These tests are usually done in a doctor’s office two to four times a year.

“For most people, your hemoglobin A1C goal is below 7%, but sometimes if you’re elderly or have other medical conditions, an appropriate goal may be below 8%,” says the Dr. said Gonzalez.

In this video, Dr. Gonzalez and a colleague discuss additional points about monitoring your diabetes.

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