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How to make sense of blood sugar numbers

I don’t understand what my blood sugar range means!

If you live with diabetes, you have probably been asked to check your blood sugar a lot. But what are you supposed to be checking? How do you make sense of the numbers you see? Managing your diabetes is easier when you know what the numbers mean and what you are trying to accomplish.

What is the normal blood sugar range?

Your doctor is the best person to ask what your blood sugar goals should be. Since everyone is different and unique, your goals may be different from the standard ranges. Things like age, your health, how long you’ve had diabetes, pregnancy, might change what the doctor wants you to aim for.

The top two blood sugar ranges or “targets” are:

  • Fasting or before blood sugar – This is your blood sugar number before a meal. It is usually your lowest number. It is best between 4.0 and 7.0 mmol/L
  • After meal blood sugar – This is your blood sugar number two hours after a meal. It is usually your highest number. It is best between 5.0 and 10.0 mmol/L

No one is perfect and in range all the time. But if your numbers are too high, that is called Hyperglycemia. If your numbers are too low, that is called Hypoglycemia. In both situations, your doctor will want to know how you are feeling to make sure you are alright and tell you how to get back into range.

What is the A1c number?

There is another number that your doctor might mention. It is called your A1c (or HbA1c). It is the average percent of your blood over the last two to three months that has sugar attached to it. Usually, the goal is 7% or less. If the percent is higher than that, the doctor will want to work with you to lower it so you can avoid long term harm to your body. Your doctor can help you better understand how the A1c can be used to manage diabetes.

When is the right time to check my blood sugar?

When should you check your blood sugar? You can check your blood sugar level at any time you want. It is best to ask your doctor how often and when to check it. We suggest checking enough to see how it changes through the day.

If you are not using insulin, you might check your blood sugar level:

  • When you wake up (before you eat),
  • before each meal,
  • and two hours after each meal.

If you are using insulin, you might check your blood sugar level:

  • When you wake up (before you eat),
  • before each meal,
  • before each injection,
  • and before going to sleep.

If you have a cold or are feeling stressed, you might want to check your blood sugar a bit more often.

How to keep your blood sugar numbers handy?

It is hard to remember anything if it isn’t written down. So, we suggest that you keep track of your numbers using the mySugr app or with a logbook. Most blood sugar meters keep track of the numbers in the meter’s memory. Using an app, like mySugr, can help make sense of all your numbers and track things like meals, snacks, and exercise, etc.

Why should I care about my blood sugar numbers?

Your health and happiness are important. Having diabetes is challenging but knowing how your body and blood sugar change through the day and what your blood sugar targets are can really help you avoid major ups and downs. Your doctor can give you tips on what to do in those up and down times.

The whole point is to get to know yourself better. That can help you live healthier and happier.

Want to know more?

If you want to read more about blood sugar numbers or “targets”, check out these other sources:

Canadian Diabetes Association – Managing your blood glucose https://www.diabetes.ca/managing-my-diabetes/tools---resources/managing-your-blood-sugar

American Diabetes Association, “Checking Your Blood Glucose”: http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/blood-gl.... Accessed February 8, 2017.

Canadian Diabetes Association, “Managing your blood glucose”: http://guidelines.diabetes.ca/CDACPG/media/documents/patient-resources/m.... Accessed February 8, 2017.

Canadian Diabetes Association, “Managing your blood sugar”: https://www.diabetes.ca/diabetes-and-you/healthy-living-resources/blood-.... Accessed February 8, 2017.

Diabetes Canada, “Targets for Glycemic Control”: http://guidelines.diabetes.ca/executivesummary/ch8. Accessed February 17, 2017.

Diabetes Québec, “Self-Monitoring of Blood Glucose”: http://www.diabete.qc.ca/en/living-with-diabetes/care-and-treatment/self.... Accessed February 8, 2017.

Diabetes Québec, “Target blood glucose levels”: http://www.diabete.qc.ca/en/living-with-diabetes/care-and-treatment/self.... Accessed February 8, 2017.

Fédération Française des Diabétiques, “L’HbA1c ou hémoglobine glyquée”: https://www.federationdesdiabetiques.org/information/glycemie/HbA1c. Accessed January 27, 2017.

Roche Diagnostics Belgium, “Contrôler soi-même sa glycémie : simple comme bonjour!”: https://www1.accu-chek.be/multimedia/docs/Controler_soi-meme_sa_glycemie.... Accessed February 10, 2017.

WebMD, “Blood Glucose”: https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/type-2-diabetes-guide/diagnosing-type-2-d.... Accessed February 8, 2017.

Sélection.ca, “Comment interpréter les données du glucomètre”: https://www.selection.ca/sante/diabete/comment-interpreter-les-donnees-d.... Accessed February 8, 2017

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