Should you check your blood glucose levels?
Friday, 29 March 2019
People living with type 2 diabetes (who don’t use insulin) frequently question whether they need to check their blood glucose levels (BGLs).
Sometimes people check their BGLs three times a day, others are advised by health professionals not to check at all. This confuses people with type 2 diabetes about if or how often they should measure their BGLs at home.
Clinically, unless a person with type 2 is using the blood glucose result as a guide to improve their BGLs, then pricking their fingers may just be a painful procedure presenting a number on a meter, without giving any real benefit to the person taking the measurement.
Research has found limited evidence to the benefit and effectiveness of regular blood glucose tests in people with type 2 not using insulin. Research has shown that ongoing blood glucose checking may present little health related benefits and cause unnecessary stress.
The most common way a health professional measures a person’s blood glucose is by a blood test known as a glycosylated haemoglobin test. It’s also referred to as the HbA1c test. This blood test measures a person’s average blood glucose level over the previous two to three months.
Your doctor will determine how often this pathology test needs to occur. It’s often measured by GPs every three to six months.
It’s important to note that the HbA1c test is an average. It will not report fluctuations in low and high blood glucose readings. Two people can present with the same average HbA1c results and yet have vastly different daily blood glucose results. As shown by the graph, both results show an average HbA1c of 7%. But the daily resulting blood glucose readings are very different.
There are circumstances where your health professional will consider it beneficial for you to check your BGLs at home with a blood glucose meter.
They may recommend you don’t need to check BGLs at home if you’re not taking insulin, are stabilised on oral tablets for diabetes, or may present a low risk of hypoglycaemia.
Guidelines generally recommend an individualised approach. For more information about what is right for you, speak to your health care professional or ring the NDSS Helpline on 1300 136 588 to discuss your options.