Knowledge about blood glucose levels empowers people with diabetes to take action for their health

 Grant Leeder knows that it is important to test his blood sugar when he is going to exert higher energy – such as when he takes his dog Luna for a walk. supplied

Grant Leeder knows that it is important to test his blood sugar when he is going to exert higher energy – such as when he takes his dog Luna for a walk. supplied

Grant Leeder understands that knowledge is power when it comes to living a healthy life with type 1 diabetes.

It starts with knowledge about his blood glucose (sugar) levels, the vital information that guides him to take action to keep his levels within their target range.

“I test my blood sugar at least four times a day. I check when I wake up, before lunch, before dinner and before bed, and any other time when I’m going to exert more energy, such as going for a run or walking my dog,” he says. “I check, and if my blood sugar is high or low, I treat myself to get back in balance.”

At times, Mr. Leeder gets physical signals that lead him to test his blood sugar. When he starts to perspire and feel shaky, he checks to confirm if his blood sugar is too low and, if yes, consumes sugar or carbohydrates. If he feels groggy or has blurred vision, he checks to confirm if his blood sugar levels are too high, requiring him to increase insulin through his pump.

Keeping healthy requires “troubleshooting and problem solving” on a daily basis, says Mr. Leeder. He didn’t always have those skills; he recalls struggling to figure everything out when he was first diagnosed 10 years ago, at age 15.

That year, Mr. Leeder was able to learn about diabetes self-management at Camp Huronda in Huntsville, Ontario – one of the Canadian Diabetes Association’s (CDA’s) D-Camps for children and youth living with type 1 diabetes, along with their families.

“The biggest thing for me, as someone living with diabetes and who works with parents and their kids with diabetes, is how critical it is for people to have information,“ he says. “D-Camps and other support networks help provide knowledge, and it’s also great that much of the new diabetes technology gives people better information to make informed decisions about managing their health.”  

Dr. Jean Garon, an endocrinologist in Gatineau, Quebec, focuses on giving his patients the information and, where possible, the technology tools to better monitor their blood sugar levels and understand what they mean.    

It is critical that people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes taking hypoglycemic drugs implement a strong testing regime so he can support them with the right treatment, he says. “If a patient who doesn’t regularly do blood sugar testing comes into my office, it would be very difficult for me to adjust treatment, whether lifestyle, insulin, oral diabetes drugs or a combination. We cannot gamble with medication,” says Dr. Garon.

Dr. Garon is participating in a pilot project to test new technology that provides much richer information on blood sugar fluctuations – the OneTouch Reveal mobile app, which wirelessly connects with the OneTouch Verio Flex meter.

“One of the major challenges is that patients often come in and say they have been monitoring, but they forget to bring in their logbook with their readings.

“With this new tool, patients do the blood test with the meter, and the results are transferred to their smart-phone or tablet and then online. So I have the results on my computer when they come in, all the information we need to adjust medication or take other measures,” he says.

“And patients always have their results with them and it’s much easier. Now all they have to do is open the app and they can see their readings and trends,” he adds.

Patients and their physicians can access detailed reports, including overviews of testing results over 14, 30 and 90 days, and patterns showing when blood sugar has repeatedly been out of range. This knowledge helps both patient and physician consider new strategies for managing levels.

Providing better information and new tools to people with diabetes is critical, he explains.

“A lot of studies confirm that if we control blood sugar better over the long term, we can prevent complications, such as damage to the eyes, kidneys and nerves,” says Dr. Garon. “In recent years, evidence has shown that better control also helps prevent heart disease.

“In my practice, I am trying to empower my patients to fully understand what’s happening with their disease and how to adjust the medication by themselves.

 “The more information we can put in their hands, the greater control they have over their long-term health.”