If you’re living with diabetes, you may find that one of your biggest challenges is keeping your blood glucose levels in check.
Regularly checking your levels with a blood glucose monitor can help you manage your diabetes and can also determine whether you are within your target range, regardless of whether or not you use insulin.
Diabetes WA credentialled diabetes educator Nyaree Lawler says a blood glucose monitor can also help you understand the effect that food, physical activity, stress and illness has on your blood glucose levels (BGL), which in turn may influence some of your decisions on how you will manage your diabetes.
Monitoring your BGLs can also prompt you to seek support from your healthcare team, whether it means asking for advice on how to make better food choices, adjusting your insulin or medication, or changing your physical activity levels.
How do I know what’s right for me?
While all blood glucose monitors offer the same basic function – to produce a blood glucose reading – how do you choose one that suits your needs?
“Choosing the right monitor for you is a bit like buying a car,” Nyaree says. “Some important things to consider are cost, warranty and the availability of the strips for the monitor under
the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS).
“Other more personal considerations include the size of the monitor, your dexterity and capability of getting a strip for the monitor out of its container/foil, the size of the numbers on the screen or whether it has a back light – especially if you have poor eyesight – Bluetooth capability to a phone, availability of alarms or to mark the BGL results for future reference, such as whether it was taken before or after food.”
Monitors can be purchased from a pharmacy or online either via
the Diabetes WA online shop or from the monitor company directly, with prices starting from $20 up to more than $70.
It’s also worth checking whether the cost of the monitor is covered by your private health fund or DVA card.
How often should I check my blood glucose levels?
So you’ve got your hands on a blood glucose monitor, but how often should you be checking your BGL?
Some common times people check their blood glucose levels include:
- Before breakfast (fasting)
- Two hours after a meal
- Before and two hours after a meal
- Before bed
- Before driving and during a driving trip that is longer than two hours
- Before, during and/or after exercise
- Any time you have symptoms that may be due to hypoglycaemia or hyperglycaemia
If your BGL is out of target at around the same time of day or situation on two or more days, Nyaree says this may indicate that changes need to be made to your medication or insulin doses.
“Usually we look for a pattern of out of target blood glucose levels before making changes to medications or insulin doses,” she says.
“Talk to your health care team about the ideal target BGL range for you, as this will vary depending on your age, how long you have had diabetes for, what medications you are taking, and any other health conditions.”
Things to consider when choosing a blood glucose monitor:
- The cost – it’s not only worth considering the cost of the monitor upfront but how much it will cost in the long run.
- Are the strips subsidised through the NDSS scheme?
- How long is the warranty?
- Can I see the numbers and written information on the screen?
- How easy is it to use?
- Can I easily get the strips out of their bottle/foil?
- Do I want to be able to access my readings on my phone?
- Do I want alarms?
If you have any questions or concerns, speak to one of our credentialled diabetes educators via the Helpline on 1300 001 880 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.