It's important to consistently check your blood glucose levels if you have diabetes, especially around mealtimes.
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a woman checking her glucose levels
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Diabetes affects more than 1 in 10 Americans, yet it can still feel like an unclear and complicated illness to manage. One of the best ways to better understand your diabetes is by regularly checking your blood glucose levels. But what makes your blood glucose levels change? And when is the best time to check it especially around mealtimes? Here we answer those questions and more.

What causes your blood glucose to go up?

Blood glucose (also referred to as blood sugar) refers to the amount of glucose that is circulating through your blood, ideally headed to cells for energy. Insulin is the hormone that allows glucose into our cells, but those with type 1 diabetes don't produce insulin and those with type 2 diabetes are resistant to insulin and don't use it effectively.

Things that can make our blood glucose levels go up include food, stress and illness. Things can can cause our blood glucose levels to go down can include long periods of time without eating, taking too much medication (like insulin) and physical activity.

Each person, regardless of whether they have diabetes, has their own healthy blood sugar target range where their body functions as its best. If you have diabetes, it's important to identify what your range is, and how it compares to a range that would make you feel your best. Talk with your healthcare team about your current range as well as what the healthiest range for you would be.

When is the best time to check your blood glucose after a meal?

Measuring your blood glucose after a meal is important because that is typically when our blood glucose levels are at their highest. Food takes some time to be broken down into usable energy, but most of the food you consume will be digested and raise your blood glucose in one to two hours. To capture the peak level of your blood glucose, it is best to test one to two hours after you start eating.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends a target of below 180 mg/dL two hours after a meal. The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists recently updated their guidelines to match those of the ADA.

Post-meal blood glucose monitoring (and record-keeping) is important because it helps you see how your body responds to carbohydrates in general, and also how you respond to particular foods. Managing post-meal blood glucose can help reduce your risk of developing other complications associated with diabetes, such as heart and circulation problems.