How To Test for Prediabetes at Home: Monitoring Blood Sugar
Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
Prediabetes is a precursor to type 2 diabetes.
Most people who have prediabetes don’t know they have it.
You can test your blood sugar levels at home to determine if your blood glucose measures are in an unhealthy range.
Prediabetes is a condition that the American Diabetes Association considers fully reversible. This means if you have it, you can take steps to reduce your high blood sugar levels and reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
You can only find out if you are prediabetic by having a blood test and diagnosis from your healthcare provider, but you can test your blood glucose levels at home to determine if your levels are higher than normal.
What Is Blood Sugar?
When we eat food like carbohydrates, the body breaks it down into small, usable packets called glucose. Glucose is essential for proper cellular function, but it needs a way to get from the bloodstream to the cells.
Insulin is the hormone your body uses as a glucose vehicle, removing glucose from the bloodstream and taking it to the cells that need it. When blood sugar levels rise after a meal, the pancreas receives the message and produces insulin.
If a person has diabetes, the pancreas may not be able to make enough insulin to keep up with the amount of glucose in the blood, resulting in high blood sugar levels. Additionally, cells that need glucose may have developed a condition called insulin resistance, which means they don’t take up the glucose they need.
In some cases, both scenarios may be true.
Types of Diabetes
A person might develop several different types of diabetes during their lifetimes. We will cover the three types of diabetes and prediabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes
A person with type 1 diabetes has an autoimmune disorder that prevents the pancreas from making insulin. This means they are insulin dependent and need daily injections to stay healthy.
There’s no cure for type 1 diabetes, but with new advances in insulin ports and continuous glucose monitors, people with type 1 diabetes can enjoy a healthy, stress-free life.
Pregnant women who have never been diagnosed with diabetes may develop gestational diabetes while pregnant. Thought to be caused by hormones secreted by the placenta during pregnancy, this condition usually goes away after the pregnancy is over.
A glucose tolerance test is usually administered in the second or early third trimester of pregnancy to determine if a pregnant woman has gestational diabetes.
Having gestational diabetes, however, increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. It also makes it more likely that a person will develop gestational diabetes during another pregnancy.
Type 2 Diabetes
Unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes takes years to develop. Most of the time, type 2 diabetes is diagnosed in adulthood, but the CDC reports that the occurrence of type 2 diabetes among children is rising.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes and places you at higher risk of developing other health conditions like:
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Unhealthy cholesterol levels
- High blood pressure
Having prediabetes places you at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
What Is Prediabetes?
A prediabetic is someone with blood sugar levels higher than normal but not considered diabetic. As many as one-third of Americans have prediabetes, and many don’t know it.
Two tests can tell your healthcare professional you are prediabetic.
- A fasting plasma glucose test that reads between 100-125 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter)
- An A1C test that falls between 5.7% and 6.4% mg/dL
These screening tests can lead to a diagnosis of prediabetes. If you’re concerned your levels may be high and haven’t yet plucked up the courage to see your doctor, you can measure your blood sugar levels at home.
Can I Test My Blood Sugar at Home?
Only your healthcare provider can diagnose you with prediabetes, but you can get a good idea of your blood sugar readings by taking an at-home test. You’ll need a blood sugar meter and testing strips to perform a blood sugar test.
It’s best to take a blood glucose test before breakfast or when you’ve fasted for at least eight hours.
After washing your hands, follow the instructions on the test kit to carefully prick your fingertip with the provided lancet and collect a drop of blood on the test strip. The glucose meter will provide your blood sugar measurement.
If you’re squeamish, you can head to the CDC website and take their online prediabetes risk quiz. This quiz considers factors like family history, physical activity levels, and other health information to let you know how many risk factors you have for developing prediabetes.
Remember, an at-home test can be helpful but doesn’t provide diabetes education or a prediabetes diagnosis. Only your doctor can give you medical advice about your blood sugar levels and tell you whether or not you are prediabetic.
How Can I Reduce My Risk of Prediabetes?
Some people are at higher risk of developing prediabetes than others. You may be more likely to develop unhealthy blood sugar levels if any of the following are true:
- You are overweight or obese
- You have an inactive, sedentary lifestyle
- You have a family history of diabetes
- You had gestational diabetes during one or more pregnancies
- You are African American, Pacific Islander, American Indian, Hispanic, or Asian-American
Even if one or some of these are true, you can reduce your risk of developing prediabetes by taking an active role in your healthcare and making necessary lifestyle changes.
Maintaining a Healthy Weight
One of the precursors of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes is being overweight. You can reduce your risk of developing diabetes by maintaining a healthy weight and losing weight if necessary.
Weight loss is a journey, but you can do it with help and support from your healthcare providers and the inclusion of professionals like dieticians, who can help you make better food choices.
Another precursor of type 2 diabetes is inactivity. Getting at least 150 minutes of exercise per week is recommended not only for diabetes prevention but also managing diabetes if you’ve already been diagnosed.
Breaking your exercise into manageable increments of 30 minutes can make movement easier. Exercise helps with your overall wellness and can help you lose weight if needed.
It’s important to get regular blood tests to ensure your blood sugar levels are healthy. Make an appointment if you haven’t had a screening in a while. Your doctor can also help determine if you are experiencing any symptoms of diabetes or prediabetes, which often go unnoticed.
A diagnosis of prediabetes doesn’t mean you’ll eventually develop type 2 diabetes, but it does place you at higher risk. Making lifestyle changes like maintaining a healthy weight and getting plenty of exercise are important ways to lower your risk and reverse a prediabetes diagnosis.
Type 2 diabetes increases your risk of developing other negative health issues, like heart disease and stroke. Taking care of yourself now will pay dividends in your ability to stay well and age healthfully.
Eric Venn-Watson M.D.
Senior Scientist, Co-Founder
Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.
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