Type 2 Diabetes

Blood Sugar & A1C

What to know about testing and tracking your blood sugar

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Blood sugar testing 101

    Testing your blood sugar gives you important information about how well your type 2 diabetes management and treatment plan is working. It lets you see how factors such as food, exercise, and medication affect your blood sugar levels. 

    Keeping your blood sugar in your target range is the best way to manage diabetes and reduce your risk of complications.

    Bring your meter or a log of your results with you each time you see your doctor. This will help you and your doctor make decisions about your diabetes treatment.

    To test your blood sugar, you’ll use a blood sugar meter. This measures the amount of sugar in a small sample of blood you place on a test strip. 

    Your doctor or a certified diabetes care and education specialist can show you how to use your blood sugar meter. In general, you will:

    • Wash and dry your hands well.
    • Insert a test strip into your meter.
    • Use a small needle called a lancet to prick the side of your fingertip to get a drop of blood. With some meters, you may also be able to test from other sites, such as your forearm or palm.
    • Touch and hold the edge of the test strip to the drop of blood.
    • Wait for the reading to appear on your meter and log your result.
    • Throw away the lancet and test strip.

    Some people may use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), which uses a sensor placed under the skin to measure your blood sugar every few minutes. Your doctor can help you decide if a CGM may be right for you.

    When and how often you should test your blood sugar depends on a number of factors, such as:

    • which medications you take
    • if you’re pregnant
    • how well you’re meeting your blood sugar goals
    • if you experience low blood sugar without the usual warning signs

    Common times to test your blood sugar include:

    • before and after you eat
    • before and after you exercise
    • before you go to sleep
    • more often if you change your daily routine or your medication

    Your doctor or a certified diabetes care and education specialist can help you develop a testing routine that’s right for you.

    In general, target blood sugar ranges for someone with type 2 diabetes are:

    • 80–130 mg/dL before a meal
    • Less than 180 mg/dL 1–2 hours after beginning of the meal (postprandial plasma glucose)

    But your doctor may recommend different targets for you. Your specific blood sugar targets depend on a number of factors, such as:

    • your age
    • how long you’ve had type 2 diabetes
    • whether you have any diabetes complications
    • other conditions you may have
    • your overall health

    These tips can help make testing your blood sugar easier and ensure you get an accurate reading:

    • Read the user’s manual for your meter so you understand exactly how it works. Run quality-control checks as recommended.
    • Use only test strips designed for your meter and store strips properly. Don’t use expired test strips.
    • Wash your hands and let them dry completely before testing. Food, lotions, or other substances on your hands can affect your results.
    • Stick the side of your finger, not the pad. You should also vary the fingers you use to help avoid pain due to repeatedly sticking the same spot.
    • Know your testing routine and stick to it. Testing too soon after you eat, for example, could give you a falsely high reading. 

    There are many types of blood sugar meters available. How do you know which is right for you? Here are some factors you may want to consider:

    • How much does the meter and its test strips cost?
    • Which meters are covered by your insurance? 
    • How easy it is to use the meter and get your results?
    • How does the meter store and maintain your readings?
    • Does the meter have features that meet your needs, such as audio options, backlit screens, or Bluetooth connectivity?

Keys to hitting your blood sugar goals

  • STEP 1
    Make lifestyle changes
  • STEP 2
    Test your blood sugar regularly
  • STEP 3
    Take medications as prescribed

Frequently Asked Questions

The A1C test provides an average of your blood sugar over the past 2–3 months. It measures the amount of hemoglobin in your blood that has glucose attached to it.

Hemoglobin is a protein in your red blood cells that helps transport oxygen. When glucose enters your bloodstream, it attaches to hemoglobin. The more glucose attached to hemoglobin, the higher your A1C will be.

In general, the A1C goal for adults with type 2 diabetes is below 7%. Keeping your A1C below this level can help reduce your risk of diabetes complications, such as heart disease, eye problems, and kidney disease.

Your specific A1C goal depends on a number of factors, including your age and overall health. Speak with your doctor about what your target is and what you can do to help meet your goal.

Because the A1C test measures your average blood sugar over 2–3 months, it can take about that long to see a significant change in your result. Your blood sugar levels within the 30 days before you take the test have a greater impact on your A1C result than your levels in previous months. 

Your doctor or a certified diabetes care and education specialist can help you determine what steps you can take to help lower your A1C. You may need to make changes to your diet, exercise, or medication plans.

An A1C result of 5.7–-6.4% indicates prediabetes. Prediabetes is a condition in which your blood sugar levels are high, but not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes. 

Making lifestyle changes can help prevent prediabetes from developing into type 2 diabetes.