If you have diabetes, keeping your blood sugar (glucose) level within your target range can help you feel good today and stay healthy in the future.
There are two ways to measure blood sugar:
- The A1C test is a laboratory test that measures the average blood sugar level during the last 2 to 3 months. This test shows if your blood sugar level stayed close to your target range most of the time or if it was too high or too low.
- Self-control tests are checks of the level of blood sugar that you do yourself. These tests will show you what your blood glucose level is at the time you are tested.
Both tests help you, and your health care team see if your diabetes care plan is working well.
The A1C test
Why should I have the A1C test?
The A1C test lets you and your health care team know if your diabetes care plan has been working well for the past 2 to 3 months. It will also help them decide what type and quantity of medications you need.
What should be my target range of the A1C test?
For many people with diabetes, the goal of the A1C analysis is less than 7. You and your health care team will decide what your target A1C range should be. If your A1C level stays too high, it may increase the chance that you have problems with your eyes, kidneys, nerves and heart.
How often should I have the A1C test?
You must have the A1C test at least twice a year. You should do it more often if your results are too high, if you change your diabetes treatment or if you want to get pregnant.
What happens if I want to get pregnant?
Talk to your health care team before you get pregnant. Your doctor can help you reach a target range of A1C that allows your baby to develop well. If you are already pregnant, visit your doctor immediately.
Blood sugar self-control tests
Why should I have the self-control tests?
Self-control tests will let you know if certain things (such as physical activity, stress, medications, and food) raise or lower your blood sugar level. These tests give you the information you need to be able to make the right decisions that help you better control diabetes.
Keep a record of your results. Be alert to see when your blood sugar level goes up or down a lot. At each visit, talk with your health care team about the results of your self-control tests. Ask them what you can do when your blood sugar level is not within your target range.
How do I check my blood sugar level?
Blood sugar meters use a small drop of blood to tell you how much sugar you have in your blood at that time. Ask your health care team how you can get the supplies you need. They can also teach you how to use them.
What is a good target range for my self-control tests?
Many people with diabetes try to keep their blood sugar levels between 80 and 130 before meals. About two hours after you started eating, the range should be below 180. The target range of your blood sugar level could be different if you are an older person (if you are over 65 years of age) and has had diabetes a long time ago. It could be different if you have other health problems such as heart disease or if your blood sugar level is often too low. Ask your health care team what the best range for you is.
Can my blood sugar level get too low?
Yes, it can. If you have tremors, sweating or hunger, check your blood sugar to see if it is below your target range. Always carry something sweet with you, such as four hard candies or sugar tablets. If your blood sugar level is too low, take sugar tablets or candies. If this happens to you often, tell your health care team, and ask what you can do to prevent this from happening.
How often should I measure my blood sugar level?
Usually, self-control tests are done before and after meals and at bedtime. People who need insulin should regulate their blood sugar more often than people who do not take insulin. Check with your health care team about your schedule for self-control tests.
What are other tests necessary for reasonable diabetes control?
You should measure your blood pressure and cholesterol (a type of blood fat). Your health care team can also tell you what the goals you should have for these two levels. Keeping these levels within your target range will help decrease the chance of having a heart attack or a brain attack.
How do I pay for these exams?
Medicare and most medical insurance cover the costs of the A1C test and cholesterol test, as well as some supplies for self-control tests. Find out what your health insurance plan includes or ask your health care team to help you see how you can consist of these expenses. For more information about Medicare, visit the www.medicare.gov External link.
What is the use of so much effort?
It can be challenging to find the time to get tested for blood sugar self-control. It can also be challenging to make so many efforts to control your diabetes and see that your sugar levels do not stay in the target range. Remember that the results of the self-control and A1C tests are to help you, not to judge you.
For many people, getting tested for self-control and using these results to manage their diabetes can give them good results. It is easier for these people to take control of their diabetes to feel good today and stay healthy in the future.
Juan visits his health care team
Juan and his health care team review all the results of their tests to get a better idea of how their diabetes care plan is working.
On each visit, Juan and his team:
- They review the results of their A1C, cholesterol and blood pressure tests, as well as their record of the results of the blood sugar self-control tests.
- They check if you are achieving your goals.
In Juan’s visit with the doctor today, they notice that his A1C test is very high. He talks with his health care team to see what he can do to make his levels closer to his target range.
Together they decide that Juan:
- You will increase your daily walk after dinner to 30 minutes.
- The self-check will be done at bedtime to see if more exercise is helping you lower your blood sugar.
- You will call your doctor within a month. The doctor may change or adjust medications if the results of your self-control tests are still outside your target range.
The National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) of the United States Department of Health and Human Services is a joint program of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC ), with the support of more than 200 partner organizations.