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Dear Diabetes: Tracking Blood Glucose

Tips for keeping a blood sugar log

Being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or adding a new medication like insulin therapy to your routine may seem overwhelming. You might feel lost and confused, unsure of what even things like eating breakfast might do to blood sugar levels. One way to help regain a sense of control may be to keep a diabetes log.

A diabetes log is a chart or notebook in which you record variables that might affect your blood sugar. These include your blood glucose readings, insulin injections, oral medications, meals, exercise, mood, stress, sickness, menstrual cycles and irregular sleep patterns (such as those associated with shift work). Keeping a diabetes logbook may help you and your care team identify patterns in your blood glucose levels. If you can figure out how your blood sugar reacts to certain situations – such as your favorite breakfast – you and your diabetes caregivers may be able to adjust your activity and medications to keep your blood glucose in a range that’s better for you. And keeping your blood sugar at your targeted level may support your overall diabetes management.

Keeping a log may be especially important if you are taking oral medications or insulin. Insulin lowers blood sugar levels, and its effectiveness can change depending on variables ranging from mood and stress to physical activity and certain medications you may start taking. Having a record may help your healthcare team recommend how much insulin you may need.

Tips for keeping a diabetes log:

• Don’t do it alone. “You want the information to be useful, but if you don’t have enough experience and knowledge, how are you going to make any sense of the log?” asks Marjorie Cypress, PhD, CNP, CDE*, 2014 President of Healthcare and Education for the American Diabetes Association. “Work with a health professional who specializes in diabetes, such as a certified diabetes educator, a dietitian or an endocrinologist. They can help you make sense of the numbers.”

 Get or make a good logbook. Look for a book with enough blank space to make additional comments. Blood glucose meter manufacturers often offer free logbooks; you can also you can also download a simple, free logbook here.

• Find the best times to test your blood sugar. Your diabetes caregiver can help you determine when may be best for you. Useful times may include when you wake up, before and one to two hours after eating, before and after exercise, before bed and the middle of the night.

• If you don’t know, ask your doctor. Questions may include: your target blood sugar and what to do if your results are higher or lower than your target range. (Read more about hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia.)

• Be kind to yourself. Blood glucose levels may vary from one day to another – even when you’re doing or eating the same things. Sometimes these fluctuations won’t seem to make sense. Try to remember that, by testing your blood glucose and keeping a record, you may be helping to keep your blood sugar at your target level.

While logging may feel tedious at times, its benefits outweigh its hassles, says Cypress. “I can tell someone guidelines for eating,” she says, “but it’s only when they actually see how their blood sugar reacts to different meals that they really begin to understand how their bodies function and what behavior change like exercise can do.”

Catherine Price is a freelance journalist and type 1 diabetic who has written for The New York Times, Slate, Popular Science and O Magazine, among others. Her newest book, Vitamania: Our Obsessive Quest for Nutritional Perfection, is available February 24 from Penguin Press. She blogs about diabetes at asweetlife.org and you can follow her on Twitter @Catherine_Price. Price is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor and interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.

*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.

© 2015 The DX: The Diabetes Experience

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