Think DIY blood-sugar measuring. With this handy-dandy contraption, easily track and monitor blood-sugar levels to supplement doctor’s-office readings. All meters have memory and some can track readings over time to identify patterns to better guide doctors in personalizing diabetes treatment. “Try checking various times throughout the day, to spot trends,” says Marilyn Miller, RN, nurse and certified diabetes educator at Nebraska Medical Center. “Measuring will involve some kind of a pin prick, but needles are tiny–you’ll just feel a pinch.”

Tips

Always wash your hands before taking a blood-sugar reading. Stick with plain-old, and highly effective, soap and water to keep your hands spiffy. Using hand sanitizers may negatively impact readings. Never store glucometers in hot temperatures, which may damage them. Keep instead in cool, dry places. Typically, you poke your fingertip, but some meters are approved for testing at the palm and even the forearm. However, at these alternate sites, readings may be delayed such as, for example, if blood-sugar levels are changing rapidly.

Timing

Miller recommends her patients who take insulin for diabetes to measure blood sugar four times daily, before meals and at bedtime. For those taking diabetes medications, she recommends twice daily, usually a combination of before meals, two hours after meals or at bedtime, alternating the times to get an accurate overall sampling. Check with your doctor and health insurance to see how many test strips are covered daily.

Which To Buy?

When glucometer shopping, always ensure the display is easily readable. You do not need extras, stresses Miller, for your meter to be effective. Insurance companies each have preferred meters, so that should be the starting point.  If you don’t have insurance, she recommends looking at WalMart, Walgreens, and Target, to find meters ranging from $9 to $15. If you prefer high-tech, look for the One Touch Verio or iBGStar models. Also consider the monthly cost of test strips.

Finding

Think this will be an ideal gift for a loved one living with diabetes? Not quite–we don’t want you wasting your hard-earned money. Often, says Miller, a person’s health insurance will cover the cost or patients can get sample meters from their doctor’s office. Insurance usually offers some sort of reimbursement for the purchase of test strips which will need to be refilled every 30-90 days. So before purchasing a meter, work with the doctor and insurance company to sort out the best model and price.

Have You tried a glucometer at home to measure your blood-sugar?