Living with diabetes means staying in touch with your health and making it a priority. Eating a healthy diet, staying active, taking insulin or other medications, and monitoring blood glucose levels are all essential aspects of diabetes management. Getting regular blood tests for diabetes and other important health checks is another vital part of managing your diabetes.
Learning what these tests are, the value they provide you and your healthcare team, and how often to get them can help you properly manage your diabetes not only day to day but also month to month and year to year.
Regular Blood Tests for Diabetes: Periodic ChecksWhile day-to-day diabetes self-care is essential, there are also certain tests and screenings you should be getting done periodically to help protect your health in the years to come. Getting regular blood tests for diabetes helps you ensure you’re reaching your target numbers.
If you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, your risk of experiencing serious health conditions, such as heart, eye, and kidney disease, is increased compared to those without diabetes. Making sure you know and adhere to your annual care cycle is important for monitoring your health and identifying any potential concerns. Throughout your annual care cycle, your healthcare team will likely want to check the health of your heart, kidneys, feet, teeth/mouth, and eyes.
These tests may be done via blood tests, urine tests, and physical examinations. The frequency of these tests, as well as your target numbers for these tests, should be determined with the guidance of your healthcare team. Here are three of the most important regular blood tests for diabetes.
A1C (Glycated Hemoglobin or Estimated Average Glucose)
The what: An A1C test, also known as an HbA1c test, is a blood test that measures your average blood glucose levels over the past two to three months. The A1C test is commonly used to diagnose prediabetes and diabetes; however, it’s also an important test for those who’ve already been diagnosed with diabetes.
The why: The A1C test is used to monitor how well your diabetes treatment plan is working over time. An elevated A1C value can indicate frequent high blood glucose levels and is associated with an increased risk of complications, such as kidney disease, nerve damage, and vision impairment.
The when: How often you should get an A1C test depends on how your treatment journey is going. If your last A1C value was in your target range, you may need to get it done only every six months. If it wasn’t in your target range or your doctor has changed your medications, you may need to get it done every three months.
The target A1C value for many people is less than 7% (or eAG below 154 mg/dL); however, A1C is often personalized. This means that depending on your treatment plan and needs, your healthcare team may set a more or less stringent target number.
Lipid Panel (Cholesterol and Triglycerides Test)
The what: A lipid profile test, or complete cholesterol test, is a blood test that measures the amount of cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood. The results are typically broken down into the following categories:
- Total cholesterol
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol)
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (“good” cholesterol)
The why: Diabetes is associated with an increased risk of high LDL cholesterol and high triglycerides, which are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
The when: How often you should get a lipid panel test depends on your age and several other factors. Consult with your healthcare team to determine how often to get this test done.
The what: Blood pressure tests aren’t technically blood tests, but they’re an essential part of your annual diabetes care cycle. Blood pressure is a measurement of the force that your heart uses to pump blood through your body.
The why: Diabetes is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, and high blood pressure increases your risk of stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, and vision loss.
The when: Typically, it’s recommended that your blood pressure be checked at every visit with your healthcare team.
Regular Blood Tests for Diabetes: Daily Checks
In addition to periodic health checks, your healthcare team will also likely recommend daily blood glucose checks.
The what: Self-monitoring of blood glucose (SMBG) is one of the most important regular blood tests for diabetes. One of the most common ways to monitor blood glucose at home is with a blood glucose monitor (BGM). Standard BGMs involve several pieces of equipment and a multistep process. Test kits typically contain the BGM device, a lancing device and lancets, test strips, and batteries.
The why: Daily SMBG is just as important as getting routine A1C tests. Checking and tracking your blood glucose levels provides you with insights into how well your treatment plan is working in between A1C tests at your doctor’s office. It also allows you to determine whether your blood glucose levels are in your target range at a given time, which is key for preventing and detecting hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia. If you keep a detailed log of your blood glucose measurements over time, you can gain insights into how medication, diet, exercise, stress, and other factors affect your blood glucose levels.
The when: The frequency at which blood glucose levels should be checked each day varies from person to person. Consult with your healthcare team to determine how often to check your blood glucose levels.
Your target blood glucose range should be determined with the guidance of your healthcare team; however, the American Diabetes Association recommends the following targets for non-pregnant adults living with diabetes:
|Timing of Blood Glucose Measurement||Recommended Target Range|
|Before a meal||80–120 mg/dL|
|One to two hours after the beginning of a meal||<180 mg/dL|
Reimagining SMBG With the POGO Automatic® Blood Glucose Monitoring (ABGM) System
SMBG is a key component of diabetes management for many—but the clunky, multistep process required by some BGM test kits can make glucose monitoring feel like the most cumbersome part of your daily management routine. The POGO Automatic Monitor offers a fast, easy, and discreet way to stay on track with SMBG and make the most of your results.
POGO Automatic is the first FDA-cleared, all-in-one blood glucose monitor with 10-test technology that automatically lances and collects blood in one step. The lancets and test strips are built into 10-test cartridges, meaning there’s only one thing to carry once you’ve loaded the cartridge into the monitor. You don't need to find a private place to test, keep track of multiple components, or track down a sharps container to dispose of materials. Instead, you can simply press the test port with your finger and you’re good to Pogo.
The POGO Automatic Monitor syncs with the Patterns® for POGO Automatic app via Bluetooth to ensure that you have your results at your fingertips anytime and anywhere. Patterns lets you see your blood glucose trends, correlate your glucose levels with lifestyle variables, and share insights with your healthcare team.
Regular blood tests for diabetes are an essential part of diabetes management. Understanding the what, why, and when of these tests and adhering to your annual and daily care regimens can help you stay in touch with your health now and in the years to come.
Jaclyn Owens is a product director specializing in diabetes management tools. She is committed to using technology to empower people with diabetes and help them take control of their health.
All content on this website is for educational purposes only and does not replace the guidance of your healthcare practitioner. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new healthcare regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
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