Monday, 3 August 2009

Meter-ology


Technology is great, and really helps people with diabetes to control their blood sugar, improve their blood pressure and drastically reduce the possibility of developing diabetic complications in the years to come. Probably the best aid to good control recently developed is the blood glucose meter, which allows us to discover in a few seconds, from a tiny drop of blood taken from a finger prick, what our blood glucose level is at that particular moment.

The meters are accurate to within 10%, and the technology is so widely used and reliable these days that it can be trusted…most of the time, at least! There can be occasions when the reading taken does not seem to coincide with expectations – for example a high reading when the person expects to see a low one. There are often reasons for these ‘rogue’ readings, rather than the meter itself failing. The finger from which the reading was taken may have been contaminated with traces of sugar from an earlier meal, so it is important to ensure the fingers are clean before taking the blood sample.

In much of the world, blood glucose is measured in millimoles per litre (mmol/l). The US is out of step in this regard, using units of milligrams per decalitre (mg/dl). So, in the UK a normal ‘target’ range for a person to aim for pre-meal is between 4 and 7 mmol/l. For the US multiplying this by 18 gives the equivalent in mg/dl (between approx 70 and 125 mg/dl). Levels will be higher after a meal, so the aim is to keep that rise as slow and gradual as possible, avoiding ‘peaks’ which may be harmful.

Before these meters became widely available, results from other testing methods were less reliable and much more time-consuming, so I am fortunate to have been diagnosed at a time that technology is available to help me stay healthy with the minimum of fuss and inconvenience. In the UK, blood glucose meters are often supplied free of charge – this is because the meter companies make a considerable amount of money from the proprietary testing strips which can only be used with one company’s meters.

Welcome to the forecast,
Let’s predict the day ahead…
We hope it will be fine and bright
As you rise from your bed!

The meter said this morning
It’s a settled day in store,
With figures neither high nor low
Maximum 7, minimum 4.

No clouds on the horizon,
No stormy, restless skies,
But a day that’s calm and pleasant
To greet your waking eyes!

If we maintain these numbers
As we go throughout the week,
Your mood will lift with nature’s gift,
And your strength will reach its peak!

So why not don your running shoes,
Go out - enjoy the day!
Look to the future, that’s what counts,
And not to yesterday…

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