Diabetes and self-monitoring of blood glucose

If you’re diabetic, it is extremely important that you measure your blood sugar level regularly to avoid serious health problems.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that is becoming increasingly commonplace among Canadians, affecting between 5% and 7% of the population. It is estimated that an additional 3% to 5% of Canadians unknowingly suffer from diabetes. There is every evidence that these numbers will grow in the coming years. Thus, diabetes is becoming a serious public health problem in Canada.

The human body is made up of billions of cells that need fuel to function. The fuel is glucose, the sugar found within the bloodstream. Blood sugar comes mainly from the food we eat, but part of it is produced by the liver. Diabetes is the effect of a disorder in which the body can no longer properly utilize the glucose in the blood. Insulin is the hormone that enables the body to use glucose. People suffering from diabetes either do not produce enough insulin, or the insulin that they do produce does not function properly.

What is glycemia?

It is the medical term for the level of glucose in the blood. Glucose accumulates in the blood because the cells are not able to “consume” it. This condition is called hyperglycemia. Because hyperglycemia leads to medical problems, people suffering from diabetes must avoid it at all costs. The higher a person’s levels of hyperglycemia are, the greater risk they run of being affected by the effects of diabetes.

Why do we have to treat diabetes?

Treating diabetes is important for two reasons. First, a person who is in a hyperglycemic state may experience immediate symptoms, some of which can be very serious. The second reason is that the longer someone remains in a hyperglycemic state, the greater their chances are of having serious medical complications. The organs most affected by diabetes are the heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys. The risk of death from a cardiovascular disease (CVD), such as a myocardial infarction (heart attack), is significantly higher in people suffering from diabetes, and this is only one example of the medical problems a person may face if their diabetes is poorly managed.

How can it be treated?

Treating diabetes starts with a healthy diet and exercise. Making lifestyle changes in these two areas is beneficial for most diabetics and helps to lower their glycemia. Medication, including oral antidiabetic drugs (drugs taken orally to reduce blood sugar levels) and insulin, complement the positive effects of lifestyle changes, and play an essential role.

What is self-monitoring of blood glucose?

Persons, living with diabetes, especially those using insulin, must closely monitor their blood sugar level
to make sure it always remains within the target range. Self-monitoring of blood glucose (SMBG) means measuring and checking your own blood sugar levels with a blood glucose meter. The technique is simple: all you need to do is prick the tip of your finger (or an alternate site on your body), draw a drop of blood and set it on a reactive strip inserted in the blood glucose meter. Results will appear within a few seconds.

SMBG allows you to keep track of variations in your blood glucose and to evaluate how certain factors affect it. Factors that can cause blood glucose variations include diet, alcohol consumption, exercise, illness (e.g. an infection), changes to medication and intense stress. Remember to keep a record (glycemia diary) of all your results, including the date, time of day and other details such as factors that might have influenced the values obtained on the meter.

Monitoring your blood sugar levels will allow you to make the necessary adjustments to get back on target.

How often should I check my blood sugar?

That depends on each person and on his or her type of diabetes. It is crucial that you and your doctor have a very clear understanding of the blood sugar goals you need to attain (blood sugar level targets) and how often you need to perform monitoring tests. These instructions should be followed to the letter.

What type of meter should I use?

Because you will be using it every day, choosing the right blood glucose meter is essential. Therefore, you should choose one that you like and that is easy for you to use. These are the two most important selection criteria. You should also consider your abilities, your lifestyle and, especially, your needs. For example, if you use rapid-acting insulin at mealtime, choose a blood glucose meter that can calculate your insulin doses for you, according to the blood glucose result that was obtained. Using a device such as FreeStyle InsuLinx will simplify your life and allow you to avoid calculation errors and the resulting consequences. Many people will stop SMBG because their device does not suit them. SMBG requires motivation and discipline, so you should choose your meter carefully. Products such as Freestyle, FreeStyle Lite, FreeStyle Freedom Lite and Precision Xtra are known to combine simplicity, convenience and technological innovation. Each one has its own characteristics, advantages and disadvantages. To make the right choice, you should become very familiar with these. Your pharmacist or a member of the team of lab technicians at Jean Coutu can help you make the right choice and give you information on how to get optimal use of these devices.

Is it difficult to self-monitor my blood glucose?

The most difficult aspect of SMBG is probably to incorporate it into your daily routine, and not forget it! Once you become comfortable with the meter, you will notice that it is not very complicated. As soon as you obtain your device, however, you must receive complete training from a professional. Make sure you fully understand each step to follow and ask as many questions as you need to. Blood glucose meter manufacturers provide very clear instructions for use, which you can refer to at any time. They provide a toll free phone number for immediate assistance in case you have trouble with your device.

Self-monitoring of your blood glucose is a key element of diabetes management. You must strictly follow your doctor’s instructions in this matter. This is an excellent way for you to take control of your diabetes.

For more information on self-monitoring of blood glucose, talk to your doctor or your pharmacist.

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Diabetes and self-monitoring of blood glucose

If you’re diabetic, it is extremely important that you measure your blood sugar level regularly to avoid serious health problems.