Glucoseis a type of sugar found in the blood, and the primary source of energy in the body. We obtain it from the food we consume, primarily carbohydrates such as rice, potatoes, beans and pasta. After we eat, food is digested, broken down and absorbed, partly as glucose. It then enters the blood stream raising our blood glucose levels.
A glucose monitor is an electronic device for measuring blood glucose levels. This enables diabetics to ensure that their levels are within the normal range and allows them to adjust insulin dosage and eating plan accordingly. This helps to prevent emergencies and the long-term, serious complications of diabetes. To test oneself a small sample of blood, often taken from a fingertip, is placed on a disposable test strip. This is then read by the electronic sensor in the meter. Within a few seconds, the level of blood glucose is indicated on the digital display.
The liver also produces glucose to maintain levels constant, dependant on hormonal and nutrient levels in the blood. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that aids in the regulation of glucose in the body. It is released into the blood stream when glucose levels rise, and enables the cells in our bodies to process the glucose and function. Without this vital role, the body would be deprived of energy for movement, growth and repair. When glucose levels in the bloodstream are not properly regulated, one can develop a serious disorder such as diabetes.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a disorder in which the blood glucose levels remain too high, and affects you for your whole life. Diabetics no longer produce insulin, or do not produce sufficient amounts, so glucose cannot be converted into energy. Glucose levels therefore remain high in the blood stream, which can lead to damage to your eyes, kidneys, nerves, and blood vessels.
GI, or glycaemic index, is a term that has gained popularity with relation to diet and the foods we consume. This uses a ranking that measures the effect of a food on your blood glucose levels over the two hours after you have eaten. A low GI food is 55 or less, a medium GI food is 56-69, and a high GI food is 70 or more. A high GI food will see the blood glucose level rise and fall sharply, while a lower GI food will see a slower, steadier rise in blood glucose levels. Very high glucose levels after a meal is damaging to the arteries and blood vessels as they cause an excess of insulin in the body.
Choosing a Glucose Monitor
Use the following checklist to evaluate your glucose monitor before purchase:
- Ease of use - make sure you can operate the model easily
- Amount of blood needed for each test - the less the better
- Accuracy - the consistency of readings is important
- Testing speed - newer models take 5 seconds or less
- Overall size - compact models allow ease of transport
- Size of the screen - an oversize screen would be beneficial to sight impaired users
- Memory - an ability to store test results in memory and recall blood glucose readings
- Data - some models allow one to download the data to a computer. One can then track your levels and monitor trends
- Alarm - to remind one when to test again
- Cost of the meter - newer models with more features inevitably cost more
- Cost of the test strips used - these vary by manufacturer
- Battery life and type of batteries required - this is significant if you intend to transport it regularly
- Features - some models have automatic timing, error codes and signals, with spoken instructions for people with visual impairments. There is also a trend toward more compact models, especially for younger users
If you are considering purchasing a glucose monitor consult a reputable supplier. If you have diabetes consult a doctor or dietician about your current diet.