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Checking Your Blood Sugar Without a CGM

Many non-diabetic individuals ask about a CGM because they want to know their blood sugar. With this information, they hope to decide what to eat and what not to eat. But there is an easier way to monitor your blood sugars without a CGM.

For my patients, I often suggest a handheld glucometer, like the ones you can buy at a drugstore. They cost less than $50 and give accurate blood sugar results in under 10 seconds.

In this article I’ll talk about an alternative to using a CGM or continuous glucose monitoring blood sugars.

The Disadvantages of a CGM

Most people will need a prescription, and the sensors are quite expensive. They have to stay implanted under the skin and need to be changed regularly. They are comfortable to have on the arm when sleeping and exercising, and very high and very low numbers aren’t accurately reported from the interstitial fluid.

Very few of my patients continue wearing it after the first month. Similar to chest strap heart rate monitors, they are simply too cumbersome to have good compliance.

Handheld Glucometers

These are cheap devices used by most diabetics to check their blood sugar instantaneously. Unfortunately, it requires a fingerstick, which is done with a lancet. Fortunately, the needle of the lancet pricks your finger so quickly that most patients report almost no pain.

You can use less sensitive parts of the body to prick with a lancet. The thigh, arm, palm of the hand, foot, and trunk can all be used.

But if you want to know how your body is responding to exercise or a recent meal, you have to stick with your fingers. The other parts of the body lag behind 20-30 minutes, and sometimes, you’ll miss the fluctuations altogether.

I use the Accu-Chek Guide Me and the Softclix lancing device, which can be purchased together for under $20.

A pack of 50 test strips costs about $25. And that’s really a lot of strips. Sure, the first month you’re gonna easily go through 100 of them. But very quickly you’re only going to want to do a few test.

Most of my patients they’ll go through that 100 quickly. And then they’ll go through another 100 in 12 months.

Glucose Numbers Without a CGM – Tips and Tricks

Nothing I say here should be taken as medical advice. However, what I do for myself is use the same lancet without changing the lancet tips. Even though they are unbelievably cheap, there simply is no medical explanation I can come up with to justify changing the needle.

I keep a glucometer set on my desk and another one in my work bag. This allows me plenty of flexibility without having to fumble for my devices.

My hands are usually clean so it’s not difficult to stick whenever I feel the need to check.

I apply a little bit of pressure to the site after lancing or elevate the body part and the bleeding will stop. Before testing, a good shake of the hands and fingers gets plenty of blood to the site being lanced.

When to Check Your Sugars

I check my blood sugar first thing in the morning when waking up. Of course, these days, I only check when I feel off or if I ate late at night, woke up a bunch, had alcohol the night before, or had a recent cold.

I check also 30 minutes, 60 minutes, and 90 minutes after a meal. Usually when the sugar starts coming down I have an idea where it will be so I stop checking. But, some foods cause my sugar to go high and stay high for some time. Stress and poor sleep can do the same.

Certain foods make my blood sugar go up but when I go for a walk or do some meditation or exercises they don’t go up as much. That’s another good time to check sugars to see how certain actions affect blood sugars.

Don’t Change Your Habits The First Month

Good advice for my patients is not to change their lifestyle habits when they first start checking their blood sugar.

When you first start, it’s natural to want to eat well, get a lot of sleep, get plenty of exercise, etc. But that’s not reality. Do what you normally do and write down the numbers in a spreadsheet.

In fact, take your meter on your trips and vacations; that’s when it’s toughest for most of us to manage our lifestyles.

Don’t Stress About Numbers

You eat some fruit and your blood sugar is 181. Wow, that seems high. But, 30 minutes later and your BS is 118. So, is that really bad?

Next, you have a pizza and beer, and your blood sugar is 188. It takes 3 hours for it to come down to 120. Now what?

When you’re not a diabetic, the idea is to have a glucometer offer you some direction regarding how your body responds to your environment. Exercise will raise your blood sugar, and nobody should tell you not to exercise.

If you consistently get high blood sugars when eating dates, toast, or fruits, you can change what you eat with those things, change the serving size, or change the type of food you eat; there is a lot of wiggle room.

The goal isn’t perfection – that’s not a pleasant way to live. For our patients, the goal is to live a more sustainable lifestyle with a healthy balance of health and wellbeing.

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