Amy Tenderich was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in May of 2003. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Diabetes Mine and co-authored the book Know Your Numbers, Outlive Your Diabetes. You will frequently find her speaking at diabetes, health, and social media events across the country.

Everyone with diabetes should get used to the phrase "blood glucose," sometimes called "blood sugar." Your blood sugar numbers inform you on the state of your body and what decisions you need to make about your insulin injections.

The numbers

Your blood sugar will go up any time you eat anything containing carbohydrates. Carbs include foods either made up primarily of sugar or those that convert to sugar in your system, such as starches like potatoes and pasta.

The ideal, healthy range for blood glucose levels is between 70 and 120 mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter—the American measure). The blood sugar target range for those with diabetes is generally considered to be less than 130 mg/dl before meals and less than 180 mg/dl after meals.

These ideal daily numbers are sometimes misnamed as “targets.” They’re better viewed as “normal” readings that people without diabetes experience almost all the time. Don't stress out if you find you are sometimes at 140 before lunch or 210 two hours after dinner.

Using the numbers

Let's be honest: if all you’re doing is logging reams of numbers in hopes of showing them to your doctor in a few weeks (or months), then you're not getting much value from your daily testing efforts.

While it is useful to keep long-term records that let you and your doctor identify trends over time, you can (and should) be using the numbers you see on your glucose meter every day to make small adjustments and better eating choices.

Learning from your numbers

If you notice that you regularly get very high readings after breakfast (over 180 mg/dL), consider changing your breakfast menu and/or schedule your exercise mid-day to bring your glucose levels down. Or, if you notice that you are rather low (close to or under 70 mg/dL) after long walks or workouts, eat a small snack of about 15 grams of carbohydrate right before that activity next time around.

Addressing these “problem areas” will improve your blood glucose control over time. This in turn will bring down your overall A1c level—that laboratory test that is the “gold standard” of your diabetes management over time.

This is the most important reason to test your blood glucose regularly: to see if you are hitting your general targets and obtain early warning about changes in your glucose control—before your A1c goes out of range.

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