When you have diabetes, it is important to test your blood sugar. In the past, testing blood sugar was advised before meals and bedtime. This helped people make sure they were taking the right amount of insulin. Now research has shown that testing blood sugar levels after eating is also an important part of diabetes care.
Why are after-meal glucose levels (also called postprandial levels) essential? It helps to know what the body’s response is after eating, and how diabetes can affect it. In people without diabetes, pre-meal blood sugar ranges are between 70 and 110 mg/dL. About 10 minutes after a person begins eating, blood sugar levels begin to rise. An hour after eating, blood sugar reaches it highest level (less than 140 mg/dL in people without diabetes). Blood sugar levels return to normal within three hours after eating, but the body continues to digest carbohydrates up to six hours after eating.
In people with diabetes, blood sugar levels can rise higher and stay high longer after eating. High post-meal blood sugar lead to:
• Problems with blood sugar control throughout the entire day.
• Diabetes complications. Keeping post-meal blood sugar levels under control can lower the risk for eye, nerve and kidney damage caused by diabetes.
* Heart attacks and stroke.
Who and How Often?
To determine whether high post-meal blood sugar levels are damaging your blood glucose control, try testing after meals once or twice weekly. The American Diabetes Association advises testing two hours after a meal. Blood sugar should be lower than 180 mg/dL. Testing after meals is especially important for:
• Pregnant women. • People whose A1c is higher than expected based on self-test results. • People who use carbohydrate-counting to adjust their insulin dose.
• People who use therapies that lower blood glucose after eating. Testing after meals can help you to gain a better picture of diabetes control and lower the risk of serious medical problems.