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How to make sense of blood sugar values

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 interpret the values you see? Managing your diabetes is easier when you know what the values 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 been living with diabetes, pregnancy, might change what the doctor wants you to aim for.

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

  • Fasting or before meal blood sugar – This is your blood sugar value before a meal. It is usually your lowest value. It is best between 4.0 and 7.0 mmol/L.
  • After meal blood sugar – This is your blood sugar value two hours after a meal. It is usually your highest value. 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 value 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, your 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 values handy?

It is hard to remember anything if it isn’t written down. So, we suggest that you keep track of your values 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 values and track things like meals, snacks, physical activity, etc.

Why should I care about my blood sugar values?

Your health and happiness are important. Living with 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:

American Diabetes Association (n.d). The Big Picture: Checking Your Blood Glucose. Retrieved from: http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/blood-gl.... Accessed September 21 2021.

Diabetes Canada (2020). Managing your blood sugar. Retrieved from: https://www.diabetes.ca/diabetes-and-you/healthy-living-resources/blood-.... Accessed September 21 2021.

Diabetes Canada (2018). Managing your blood sugar. Retrieved from: https://www.diabetes.ca/DiabetesCanadaWebsite/media/Managing-My-Diabetes/Tools%20and%20Resources/managing-your-blood-sugar.pdf?ext=.pdf. Accessed September 21 2021.

Diabetes Quebec (2017). Self-Monitoring of Blood Glucose. Retrieved from: http://www.diabete.qc.ca/en/living-with-diabetes/care-and-treatment/self.... Accessed September 21 2021.

Diabetes Quebec (2018). Target blood glucose levels. Retrieved from: http://www.diabete.qc.ca/en/living-with-diabetes/care-and-treatment/self-control/target-blood-glucose-levels. Accessed September 21 2021.

WebMD (2021). Diabetes Testing. Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/diagnosing-type-2-diabetes. Accessed September 21 2021. 

 

 

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