Managing diabetes can be complicated, frustrating, and overwhelming. No break from it.
While diabetes is challenging, managing it is becoming easier as new medications and methods to check blood glucose (also referred to as blood sugar) are available. Whether you have type 1 diabetes and are on insulin, or you have type 2 diabetes and need insulin, knowing your blood glucose numbers is key to keeping yourself healthy. Even if you are not on insulin checking your blood glucose numbers is important.
Blood glucose refers to the glucose or sugar circulating in your blood. The hormone insulin, produced by the pancreas, supports moving glucose into our cells for energy.
The most common method for checking blood glucose is a blood glucose monitor that requires a finger stick drop of blood to measure your current blood glucose level. Using the monitor has been key to helping people make decisions about food choices, exercise, and taking medications, especially insulin.
However newer, advanced technology is changing the game for checking blood glucose. Now we have the option of a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to track blood glucose throughout the day and night that allow quick checks as frequently as every 5 minutes. People with diabetes are calling their CGM a “game changer” as A1c levels drop, and hypoglycemic events are avoided with tighter, safer blood glucose control. The sensor can set an alarm to notify the wearer of hypoglycemic or hyperglycemia or when blood glucose is out of range.
How CGMs Work
An applicator painlessly inserts a small, unobtrusive sensor that connects beneath the skin either on your arm or tummy.
The sensor continuously measures glucose levels.
Blood glucose data is sent via the sensor transmitter to your phone or reader device that displays real time data. Past data is available to compare with the current data. Data can be shared with your health care provider or others. Shareable data is especially good with children on insulin who have type 1 diabetes.
Sensors are replaced at 10 to 14 days depending on the brand.
Some brands can be used in tandem with insulin pumps.
How Do I Get One?
Talk to your doctor or diabetes care team about acquiring a CGM. You may be able to try a sample to see if you are comfortable using the system. Usually, a prescription from your physician is required. Also check with your insurance plan to determine coverage. Commercial plans and Medicare provide coverage. Your plan may require a co-pay.
How Do CGMs Help?
CGMs provide real time data showing glucose direction and rate of change measuring the effect of-
- Food: Carbohydrates can cause BG to spike quickly. Having a CGM helps the wearer recognize foods that cause a jump in blood glucose. For example, people often see a dramatic rise when eating rice or having a dessert. The CGM helps the wearer discern what foods to limit and/or how to manage insulin.
- Physical Activity: Exercise uses up circulating blood glucose. A GCM provides important feedback for athletes on insulin and helps people understand the positive role physical activity plays in reducing blood glucose. Since data is real time, you can check BG before a walk and after a walk and see how exercise can lower BG.
- Stress: Stress, chronic or transitory, can raise blood glucose. Stress management is an important factor in maintaining healthy levels.
- Illness: Raises BG and knowing numbers helps with insulin adjustment.
Having your CGM data gives you power to make healthy decisions that in the past may have been missed. Knowing your blood glucose levels is key to feeling well and reducing other health risks.
Tip for Managing Carbs
Carbohydrate foods digest more quickly than protein foods or fat. When eating a meal, have your protein and any fats first followed by your carb foods. This slows down the digestion of your carbs and keeps blood glucose from spiking.
Written by: Mimi Cunningham, Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist, Diabetes Educator
Mimi Cunningham is a dietitian-nutritionist living in Eagle, Idaho. Her nutrition specialty is diabetes education and management. She loves writing about embracing healthy eating as fun plus a route to good health. She serves as a member of the Idaho Foodbank board of directors addressing food insecurity as a challenge to good health for Idaho children and adults.
On behalf of Smart Strategies for Successful Living, our sincerest appreciation goes to Mimi Cunningham for her contribution to our community website and commitment to healthy living and aging.
Continuous Glucose Monitoring: CLICK HERE
Source: National Institute of diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Glucose: How CGM is Revolutionizing Sports: CLICK HERE
Eating Often to Test Your Blood Glucose: CLICK HERE
The Big Picture: Checking Your Blood Glucose: CLICK HERE
Source: American Diabetes Association