The goal is to keep blood sugar levels within a target range, as recommended by your doctor. Typical target ranges for diabetics are:
Your target range may differ from the above. Factors that can influence your target range include your age, whether you are pregnant, and whether you have any other health conditions or complications (whether diabetes-related or not).
A wide variety of blood glucose monitors, or glucometers, are available. Most require that you prick your fingertip for a blood sample, although there are some that allow you to use a different site for your blood sample. Look for ease of use, cost (of both the monitor and the test strips), and extra features (such as a verbal reading of the results, or a history of your past readings).
Your diabetes educator may have demo models of monitors available for you to look at. Be aware that insurance may only pay for some types of blood glucose meters. No matter what type of glucometer you choose, make sure you know how to use it properly. This is important so that you get accurate readings. Read more in Basic Information for Glucometers.
Your doctor will advise you how often you should be monitoring your blood sugar levels. Depending on your diabetes treatment plan, the frequency of monitoring may be as little as once every few days, or you may need to check it once a day or more.
You may also need to check blood sugar levels before and after exercising; after meals or snacks that you don't normally have; after larger-than-usual (or smaller-than-usual) meals or snacks; or if you miss a dose of medication or insulin.
Awareness of the signs of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) will let you recognize when you need to take steps to return your blood sugar to your target range. Both high and low blood sugar can be serious if left untreated.
Keep a written log of your blood glucose readings (even if your blood glucose meter keeps a history). Mark any readings that are outside of your target range and add any notes about why it might have occured, such as missing an exercise routine or eating a larger meal.
If you find that your blood sugar isn't kept within the target range on your current treatment plan, then talk to your doctor about making changes. Medication or insulin dosages may need adjustment. Diabetes monitoring includes both self-care at home and regular consultations with your doctor so that you can feel your best.