In the process of gaining control of your diabetes, understanding how your body reacts to the sugars and carbohydrates that you eat is an essential skill. Keeping a sugar diary is one the most valuable tools available to you. This article is designed to help you find answers to questions like:

What is a sugar diary?

A sugar diary is a record that you can create to keep track of how high or low your blood sugar levels are on a day to day basis. You can measure this level with the standard glucometer you've purchased at the pharmacy. If you don't have a glucometer, or the one you have is old or damaged, ask for a prescription for a new one at your next appointment. Occassionally, we may even have a coupon that entitles you to a free glucometer when you purchase the test-strips to use it with. This device will allow you to check your capillary blood sugar level, also known as your CBS. When you check your blood sugar level, enter the value in the diary in the appropriate spot. This is the beginning of your sugar diary.

Below you can see an example of a good sugar diary: there is space for you to write the date, and your sugar level reading from your glucometer depending on whether you've tested your sugar before or after a meal, or at bedtime, as well as any extra comments on why you think your sugar level was so high or low ( for example: my sugar level at bedtime was too high, because I had more pasta than my body could handle, at dinner-time ). To understand the reason for the use of colour-coded boxes, see the section on "How often should I check my sugar level?", below.

example of a sugar diary link to printable version
breakfastlunch dinner bedtime
date before after before after before after notes
Nov 12monday4.7 
Nov 13tuesday5.4 
Nov 14wednesday7.86.9 
Nov 15thursday12.9too much pasta
Nov 16friday7.310.2 
 saturday 
 sunday 

Doesn't my doctor already check my blood sugar in the office?

Although your doctor checks your sugar level with a blood test through the lab every three months or so, it is usually a different kind of testing than the one you can do at home. More importantly, your sugar levels vary from hour to hour and day to day, which you can detect with regular blood sugar testing at home. The test your doctor does every quarter, called HgA1C ( pronounced: heemoh-glow-bin ayh wun see ) , will not detect these variations, and will only allow your doctor to make an estimation of your "average" blood sugar level over the past three months.

Why is it important for me to make a sugar diary?

Diabetes is disease that causes excessively high blood sugar levels that, left unchecked, will cause damage to your blood vessels, kidneys, eyes, and increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. If your sugar levels suddenly increase, either due to worsening of your diabetes or because of other infections, illnesses or medications, you will be able to detect this right from the start if you're keeping a sugar diary. If you aren't checking your sugar level regularly, you will have missed this chance to keep yourself healthy and safe. In that case, your high sugar levels would continue to do more and more damage to your body for two to three more months until your quarterly blood test in the office detected the danger. That is, unless you checked your blood sugar levels at home regularly, and were able to alert your doctor with your sugar diary.

In order to get your diabetes under control, you and your doctor need to work as a team. If you are more vigilant in keeping track of how your well your diabetes is controlled, you make it possible for your doctor to provide you with timely care to reduce the chance of the life and limb-threatening complications of diabetes. Prevention needs to happen before complications set in: you can't afford to miss the boat.

An irony of diabetes management is that as you begin to take more care of your diabetes, and your sugar levels first begin to come down into the normal range, you need to be just as aware of the level to make sure that your sugar doesn't drop too low. Some of the medications used to control diabetes ( such as glyburide or glicazide) may cause your blood sugar level to drop too low if you skip a meal or have irregular eating habits. This can make you feel dizzy, nauseous or lose consciousness, and can clearly be dangerous to your health. Keeping regular records in your sugar diary during this period can help your doctor make accurate adjustments to medications to keep your sugars in a safe range. Remember, it's not only one result, but a trend that can only be seen with regular diary, that will provide your doctor with right information to make the best decision for your health.

Another just as important reason to keep a sugar diary is what it tells you about your body. Your sugar level is affected by what and how much you eat, and by how much exercise you do. If you keep a record of your sugar levels, and mark down how they related to your meals, you'll begin to get an idea of just how much of different kinds of food you can safely eat in one meal. This will give you the ability to be more flexible in your diet and activity level, whether eating at home or at a restaurant, because you will have a better understanding of how your body can handle different foods. Without this kind of explicit understanding of what and how much you can eat, and what that kind of meal will do to your sugar level, it is nearly impossible for you and your doctor to get complete control of your diabetes. Who would have imagined that keeping a sugar diary would be so empowering for you? But it is, so take advantage of what it offers you: a better understanding of your body, and better health.

How often should I check my sugar level?

In the past, people with diabetes were asked to check and record their blood sugar levels up to four times a day, for months at a time. And although this information was useful for the medical management of their diabetes, it was inconvenient, not to mention uncomfortable. For most patients, a good compromise is checking your blood sugar level once a day. However, just checking it at the same time each day ( say, first thing in the morning, before breakfast ), isn't useful. Typically, your blood sugar level should be at its lowest before breakfast, because you have been fasting all night while you slept. As you know, the problem is that your diabetes prevents your body from properly handling the carbohydrates and sugars from your meals, so your sugar levels after meals will give you the most sensitive picture of how well your diabetes is controlled.

Since the kinds of foods you eat at breakfast tend to be different from the content of your meals at lunch or dinner, it's important to know how your body handles these different different combinations of sugars, carbohydrates, proteins and fats. As well, the level of exertion or exercise you do in activities of daily living aren't uniform throughout the day. If you work, then you may be sitting at your desk during working hours, and only get the activity of running errands, home-cleaning or the gym in the evening. If you have retired from work, then your activity schedule will likely be the opposite: busier mid-day and quieter in the evenings. This is why it is neccessary for you to check your blood sugar level at different times of the day, sometimes before, and sometimes after meals.

To keep it simple, your sugar diary has one block highlighted for you to check your blood sugar level on each day. There is a regular schedule, beginning with checking your sugar level before meals on Monday to Wednesday ( before breakfast on Monday, before lunch on Tuesday, and before dinner and Wednesday ), at bedtime on Thurday, then finishing off the week by checking your blood sugar level after meals on Friday through Sunday. When checking your blood sugar level before meals, be sure to check it within one hour before you eat (it can be even a minute before you eat ). And when you check your sugar level after a meal, be sure it check it about two hours after you eat ( with no more than a fifteen minute window around the two hour mark ). Otherwise, the recorded levels will not reflect the right information, and may compromise your doctor's assesment of your diabetes control.

Can I check my sugar level more frequently?

Some people are used to checking their sugar levels more frequently. If you would like to, check your sugar level whenever you are concerned that the levels are too high or too low, and mark down the result in your diary. In fact, if you're not feeling well, it's a good idea to keep closer tabs on your sugar level. So, go ahead and check. Just be sure not the miss the scheduled check times in your diary, so that you don't miss out on getting the most important results. Your doctor will be pleased to take this added information into account when your reviewing the managment of your diabetes.

Where can I print out the sugar diary?

Click right here to open a printer-friendly version of the sugar diary that you can print out from your computer.