Blood glucose is the term used to describe the level of sugar in your bloodstream. Depending on when you last ate, your exercise and lifestyle habits and whether you have diabetes, your blood glucose levels will change throughout the day. You should have a balanced level of blood glucose, as this is the main source of fuel for your cells. Diabetes patients are familiar with self-monitoring but even if you do not have diabetes, have your doctor measure your blood glucose levels during your checkups.
During a general physical exam at your doctor’s office, checking blood glucose levels can be a measure of your overall wellness. Increased blood glucose could be a sign of prediabetes, meaning that you are risk of developing Type 2 or adult-onset diabetes. Getting a blood sugar and cholesterol levels test -- while you are fasting -- can be a good indicator of what’s going on inside your body, including your risk for heart disease and stroke. Ask the doctor for these tests, especially if you have any family history of cardiovascular diseases.
If you are pregnant, your doctor will recommend a blood glucose screening test during weeks 24 to 28 of pregnancy. This quick in-clinic blood sugar test identifies any potential for gestational diabetes, a high blood sugar condition that some women get while pregnant and usually returns to normal once the baby is born. Gestational diabetes can lead to high birth weight of the baby and health complications for the mother. According to the pregnancy care website Baby Center, only about one-third of women with positive results actually do have gestational diabetes, but anyone with abnormal results will be asked to return for a more definitive three-hour glucose tolerance test.
The MayoClinic.com recommends that people with diabetes or who are at risk of diabetes closely monitor their blood glucose levels up to several times a day. Monitoring will help you better understand how diet and exercise are affecting your treatment, how well your medication is working for you and whether your blood sugar levels are too high or too low. Uncontrolled blood glucose levels can lead to serious health complications including heart disease, nerve damage, blindness and coma. Your doctor will advise you what your target blood glucose levels are based on the type and severity of diabetes, your age, how long you’ve had diabetes and any other complications. Learn how to correctly monitor your blood glucose levels at home regularly to control and treat diabetes.
Checking Blood Glucose Levels
If you have diabetes, the best way to monitor your blood glucose levels is to use a blood meter kit. The American Diabetes Association notes that each meter is different and that you should carefully read the instruction manual. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to show you how to use it if you are uncertain. In most devices, you place a drop of blood from your fingertip onto a test strip and insert the strip into the meter, which displays the result. Keep a record for your monthly checkups. Your doctor will also check your blood glucose levels using more detailed lab tests to see how well your diabetes is controlled on a daily and long-term basis.
Nadia Haris is a registered radiation therapist who has been writing about nutrition for more than six years. She is completing her Master of Science in nutrition with a focus on the dietary needs of oncology patients.