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June 25, 2019 Managing your blood sugar

If you have diabetes, you should try to keep your blood glucose (sugar) as close to target range as possible. This will help to delay or prevent complications related to diabetes.

Know your blood sugar 

Blood sugar is the amount of sugar in your blood at a given time. It's important to check your blood sugar level, because it will:

  • determine if you have a high or low blood sugar level at a given time
  • show you how your lifestyle and medication affect your blood sugar levels
  • help you and your diabetes health-care team make lifestyle and medication changes to improve your blood sugar levels

How to check

blood glucose meter is used to check your blood sugar at home. You can get these meters at most pharmacies or from your diabetes educator. Talk with your diabetes educator or pharmacist about which one is right for you.

Before using your meter, make sure you're trained on how to use it. Ask your health-care provider about:

  • how and where to get a blood sample
  • how to use and dispose of lancets (the device that punctures your skin)
  • the size of the drop of blood needed
  • the type of blood glucose strips to use
  • how to clean the meter
  • how to check if the meter is accurate
  • how to code your meter (if needed)

flash glucose meter (FGM) is a newer type of device that uses sensors to measure blood sugar and doesn’t require finger pricks. Instead, a sensor is inserted just underneath your skin (usually the upper arm) and measures your blood sugar levels. You use a hand-held scanner that you swipe over the sensor to read your blood sugar levels

continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is a device that checks blood sugar level continuously throughout the day  and also uses a sensor inserted under your skin. CGM, however, has continuous display of blood sugar and provides alarms for alerting the user of low and high blood sugar and integrates with insulin pump devices.

How to stay in target

Eating healthy, exercising and taking medication, if necessary, will help you keep your blood sugar levels within their target range. Target ranges for blood sugar can vary depending on your age, medical condition and other risk factors.

Targets are different for pregnant women, older adults and children 12 years of age and under.

Recommended blood sugar targets for most people with diabetes*

Your targets may not be the same as the examples in this chart. Your targets are important and should be specific to you.

A1C** Fasting blood glucose (sugar)/ blood sugar before meals (mmol/L) Blood sugar two hours after eating (mmol/L)
Target for most people with diabetes 7.0% or less 4.0 to 7.0 5.0 to 10.0 (5.0 – 8.0 if A1C** targets not being met)

* This information is based on the Diabetes Canada 2018 Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Diabetes in Canada and is a guide.
** A1C is a measurement of your average blood sugar control for the last two to three months and approximately 50 per cent of the value comes from the last 30 days.

Identifying your targets

Talk to your health-care provider to determine your own blood sugar target ranges.

You should have your A1C measured every three months, when your blood sugar is not in target or when you are making changes to your diabetes management.

A1C and blood sugar levels (before meal and after meal) are all important measurements of your diabetes control.

Managing blood sugar when you’re ill

When you get sick, your blood sugar levels may fluctuate and become unpredictable.

If you're sick, it's very important that you:

  • drink plenty of water or sugar-free fluids (avoid caffeinated drinks that can lead to dehydration)
  • check your blood sugar levels more often than usual (e.g. every two to four hours)
  • take 15 grams of carbohydrate every hour if you are not able to follow your usual meal plan
  • replace food with fluids that contain sugar if you can't eat solid food
  • continue to take your insulin or other diabetes medication;
  • call your doctor or go to an emergency room if you vomit and/or have had diarrhea two times or more in four hours

If you have a cold or flu and want to use a cold remedy or cough syrup, ask your pharmacist to help you make a good choice. Many cold remedies and cough syrups contain sugar, so try to pick sugar-free products.

As an extra precaution, you should always check with your health-care team about guidelines for insulin adjustment or medication changes during an illness.

Lows & highs of blood sugar

When blood sugar levels are too high it is called hyperglycemia and low blood sugar is called hypoglycemia.

Lows and highs

Take charge of your health

Play the lead role in managing your diabetes with essential tips, tools and information from Diabetes Canada.