Tips for Successful Blood Sugar Monitoring

Here are some useful tips to help you choose a meter that’s right for you – and continue to use it successfully.

Features to Consider When Choosing Your Meter

Size of meter

If you carry your meter with you, consider a smaller meter and carrying case.

Size and location of buttons

Larger buttons may be easier for you if you have trouble using your hands or fingers.

Size and packaging of test strips

You must be able to open the foil wrapped or vial of strips. You also need to be able to pick up the strip to place it into the meter.

Blood sample size

If you test your blood sugar frequently, have trouble getting enough blood, or like to use sites other than fingers, consider a meter with strips that require 1 micro-liter of blood or less.

Meter memory

Memory features differ from meter to meter. Some meters store the result of one blood sugar test; others store up to 3000 tests.

Some meters can give you averages of blood sugar tests done in the past 7, 14, 30, or more days. Many meters have computer download capabilities and can display charts or graphs of your blood sugar results. Some meters even have the ability to keep track of food eaten, exercise, and medication, if you are willing to enter the information.


Some meters use batteries that are easy to find (AA, AAA) at local stores. Other meters use batteries that need to be purchased at electronic stores such as Radio Shack. One simple solution is to carry a spare battery with you at all times. The battery life of most meters is about 2000 blood sugar tests.

Comparing meter features

Refer to the “Blood Glucose Monitors Reference Guide” from Diabetes Health.

Testing Blood Glucose With Your Meter

Preparing the site

If you can, wash your hands with soap and warm water. This will clean the site and help you get enough blood for a sample. Food remaining on your fingers can cause an inaccurate blood sugar result.

Alcohol should not be used to clean the test site because it is very drying to the skin and can cause an inaccurate test result if not allowed to dry.

Milk the finger first, by gently massaging the hand to the tip of the finger to increase the blood flow. If using an alternative site, rub the area for a few seconds till warm.


For less pain and more blood, use either side of your fingers. Avoid the center (tip), as this area is more sensitive.

To avoid developing calluses, move around and use both sides of all ten fingers.

Alternative site testing

Blood can also be obtained from the forearm, belly, palm, thigh, or calf.

Check your meter manual to see which sites are recommended.

Because of the difference in blood flow to various alternative sites, there may be a lag time (delay) in the blood sugar when the sugar is rising or falling quickly.

To increase blood flow to the area, rub the alternative site until it’s warm before getting the blood sample. This will help reduce the difference.

It is best to use the finger whenever the blood sugar is rapidly rising or falling, such as after meals and if you think you have low blood sugar. The finger is certain to tell you what your sugar is, with no delay.

Finger-stick device

To reduce trauma to the finger or alternative testing site, always use a lancet device when obtaining the blood sample.

Most lancet devices have a dial that can be adjusted to set the depth of the puncture. Try different settings to find which setting will give you the right amount of blood with the most comfort. You need a deeper setting for alternative site testing.


Many lancets are universal and fit in most lancing devices. Check your meter manual for the recommended lancets.

Lancets come in different thicknesses and lengths. For increased comfort, try a shorter, thinner lancet.

If using alternative sites, the thinner lancets may not give you an enough blood for a sample.

Change your lancet at least once per day. If you choose to re-use your lancets, keep in mind that the more times you re-use them, the duller their needle becomes. This can cause tissue irritation and increased pain.

When To Use Your Meter

When to check your blood sugar

If you are on pre-meal insulin:

Test before meals to see how much insulin you will need to correct elevated blood sugar or cover that meal, as directed by your health care provider.

Test two hours after the meal to see how well your insulin covered the elevated blood sugar and carbohydrates you ate for that meal.

If you are on pills for your diabetes:

Test your blood sugar in pairs (before and after the same meal) two days in a row. This way you can see if your medicine is covering the carbohydrates you are eating at that time of day. By the end of the week, you should have blood sugar numbers before and after two breakfast, two lunch, and two dinner meals.

If you choose to test less frequently, check before and two hours after at least one breakfast, one lunch, and one dinner per week.

Blood sugar goals

Ideal blood sugar goals are:

  • Pre meal: 70-120 mg/dl
  • Two hours after the start of the meal: less than 140 mg/dl

Achieving these goals will reduce your risk of developing serious complications from your diabetes. If your blood sugar reading is higher than the goals, keep working with your health care provider to identify lifestyle and/or medication changes that will help you reach these goals.

Recording your results/meter memory

It is important to write down your numbers in the logbook. List your numbers in separate columns that indicate before and after meal times, so you can identify patterns of highs and lows at different times of the day. Scrolling through the memory to retrieve your numbers (especially at the time of your visit with your health care provider) is time consuming and makes it difficult to identify trends.

Some meters will calculate overall averages and/or mealtime averages of stored results. Ask your health care provider which memory features you should try and how you can use the information.

It is important to be sure that the clock in your meter is accurate. Refer to the meter manual for instructions on how to change the time, or call the customer service number on the back of your meter for help. Customer service representatives are available 24/7, and translators are available.

Paying For and Traveling With Your Meter and Supplies


You do not need a prescription to purchase test strips and lancets. To be reimbursed, however, you need a prescription from your health care provider. Call your insurance carrier to find out the procedure for reimbursement of supplies. Some insurance providers may only cover specific brands of strips or ask for a higher co-pay if you don’t use the preferred brand.

Many insurance carriers allow you to mail in prescriptions for a 90-day supply and then pay the same co-pay as you would for a prescription written for 30 days if filled at a neighborhood pharmacy.

If your insurance carrier limits the number of strips you can use each month (i.e. Medicaid and Medicare), your health care provider can write a letter stating why you need to test more often. Some reasons to test more often are: a high A1c, adjustment of insulin according to blood sugar levels, frequent episodes of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), hypoglycemia unawareness (unable to feel symptoms of low blood sugar), and fluctuating blood glucose levels.


Traveling away from home for long weekends or vacations can be stressful if you do not have supplies with you to keep your diabetes under control. Planning ahead can help prevent the unexpected from occurring. Follow these simple tips to be prepared:

  • All diabetes supplies should be carried on your person. It is not uncommon for luggage to be lost after being checked at the airport.
  • Besides loss, you must guard against environmental changes that could damage your supplies. Avoid storing your meter and testing supplies where the temperature may vary. The accuracy of your test strips will be affected by extreme temperature changes and moisture.
  • Carry an empty test strip or pill bottle with you to store used lancets and test strips.
  • Take extra test strips, lancets and batteries with you anytime you are traveling away from home. Some people carry an extra meter for extra insurance.

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