Diabetes Testing: Steps to Do When Taking a Blood Sugar Reading

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Hemoglobin A1C and Glucose Testing: Why Check Blood Sugar Levels?

Both HbA1C and glucose testing, give an overall measurement of diabetes management. Generally taken once every few months, a phlebotomist typically draws the blood for the HbA1C test; results indicate how well blood sugars have been controlled over the past two to three months. For proper management, diabetics are encouraged to check their blood sugar levels at home in conjunction with the HbA1C test.

The type of diabetes, how and if it is controlled, determines the amount of daily blood testing that is required. For example, both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes may require testing three times daily, while type 2 diabetes controlled by diet, exercise and/or a diabetes medication may be required less often. Whatever is advised by the doctor, reviewing the results against a food diary will aid in determining which foods spike blood glucose levels (hyperglycemia), allowing oneself to limit its intake. By contrast, glucose levels that drop below 70 mg/dl, will induce low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) symptoms. Glucose meter testing can confirm this, thus, requiring prompt attention on his or her part.

Physicians will set a blood glucose target range for optimal health and prevention of diabetes complications. Ranges are not set in stone and may be changed accordingly. According to Mercy Hospital of Iowa City’s 2010 “Blood Glucose Target Ranges” handout, typical target and normal levels are as follows:

Before Meals:

  • 70-120 mg/dl (Target)
  • 70-100 mg/dl (Normal)

Two Hours Post Meals:

  • Below 160 mg/dl (Target)
  • Below 140 mg/dl (Normal)


  • 100-140 mg/dl (Target)
  • Below 120 mg/dl (Normal)

Hemoglobin A1C:

  • <6.5 (Target)
  • <5.9 (Normal)

Steps to Do When Taking a Blood Sugar Reading

Blood glucose meters differ from one another in size and features – small, large, coding, noncoding, date and time tracking, and so forth. The choices out there may seem overwhelming; therefore, the advice of a health care provider or diabetes educator may be required.

Each glucose meter provides its user with instructions on how to take a blood glucose test; however, the blood sugar testing process is generally the same amongst each other, so the following is a set of generic steps on how to take a reading:

Step 1:

Wash hands adequately with soapy water and dry them well. Cold fingers restrict blood flow and encourage a more painful prick; therefore, washing with warm water will aid with circulation and less pain.

Step 2:

Glucose meter preparation begins by removing a test strip from its container. Replace the lid on the container immediately to avoid damaging the remaining strips. Insert the test strip into the blood glucose monitor.

Step 3:

Place and prick the side of a fingertip – using a different finger than last – with a lancet and place the hand down, fingers pointing toward the ground. Gravity will assist in obtaining an adequate drop of blood. Once achieved, place the droplet on the test strip and await the results. Note: Some monitors give its users the option of testing at additional sites, such as the stomach, thighs and arms, as an alternative to the fingers.

Step 4:

The screen will display the blood sugar level within seconds.


Mercy Hospital of Iowa City, “Blood Glucose Target Ranges”.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Keeping Track of Your Blood Glucose”, https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/tcyd/ktrack.htm.

Mayo Clinic. “Blood Sugar Testing: Why, When and How”, https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/blood-sugar/DA00007/NSECTIONGROUP=2.