Dietary Cholesterol is seen in all animal products such as meats, dairy products and eggs, deep fried items, processed food and some of the bakery products containing trans fats and saturated fats. Cholesterol is made in the liver and is essential to build up cell membranes, formation of sex hormones and form bile acid which help in digestion of fats.
Diabetes has long been considered a risk factor for developing a heart disease. The risk is approximately 2 to 4 times more than those without diabetes getting a heart disease. 65% of the deaths among those with diabetes are related to heart diseases. However, even among those with diabetes, the risk varies among individuals and is influenced by gender, duration of diabetes , presence of raised blood pressure, poor cholesterol control and smoking history. The elder the patient, the higher is the risk for developing a heart disease. Among the fairer sex, the protective effect of estrogen can prevent a heart disease till they stop menstruating. Having a higher body mass and high uric acid levels are also known to trigger heart diseases.
Though maintaining normal or near normal sugar levels can improve the outcome of diabetes in general, good control prevents the progression of or delays the onset of microvascular complications such as the eye, kidney and nerve damage ( retinopathy, nephropathy and neuropathy). However, tight control of the blood pressure and cholesterol levels are important in preventing the progression to or delay the onset of developing macrovascular complications such as stroke, blood vessel diseases of the legs and heart attacks.
The cholesterol panel ( Lipid profile) is generally done after a 12 hour fasting. The blood is collected and the total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, ratio of cholesterol to HDL and LDL to HDL cholesterol is measured. The HDL cholesterol is the good cholesterol. The ratios mentioned above indicate the tendency to develop a block in the blood vessel. Cholesterol can get deposited in the inner linings of the blood vessels causing varying degrees of blocks. The blood vessel involvement is diffuse among those with diabetes and it has also been shown that numbers of collateral blood vessels are reduced among those with diabetes. The plaque which consists of the cholesterol deposit, can get dislodged and travel in the blood causing blocks elsewhere from its origin. Having pre diabetes, especially the increased glucose levels after meals only ( called IGT) is also a risk for developing a heart disease.
Better investigative modalities and better awareness among the people have helped improve the outcome, but because of sedentary lifestyle and enhanced use of junk food, high cholesterol levels and even heart attacks are quite common among the young.
But, when levels of cholesterol are high, it can get deposited in walls of arteries( blood vessels carrying blood from heart) . Normal levels < 5.2 mmol/L
HDL C ( High density lipoprotein cholesterol) is called the good cholesterol. This transports cholesterol from the blood and artery walls to the liver where it gets converted to bile which help in digestion of fats. Risk of coronary heart disease increases by 2-3% for every 1.0 mmol/L fall in levels of HDL C. Normal level > 1.0 mmol/L.
LDL C ( Low density Lipoprotein cholesterol) is called the bad cholesterol. This helps to transport cholesterol to various body cells and deposit the excess in walls of the arteries. Normal levels < 1.7 mmol/L if diabetic or < 2.3 mmol/L if not diabetic.
The cholesterol can get deposited on the inner linings of the blood vessels causing blocks in the eyes, heart supplying blood vessels, brain and kidneys causing blindness, heart attacks, strokes or paralysis, erectile dysfunction among males and kidney failure.
According to the data available with the various governing bodies around the globe, for every 10 mg/dL or 0.25 mmol/L increase of HDL, the good cholesterol, the risk for developing a heart attack is reduced by 2-3%. Similarly for every 1 mmol/L or 88.7 mg/dL increase of triglyceride level, the risk of developing a heart disease increases by 30% among men and 75% among women.
The main cholesterol level to be kept under control is the LDL cholesterol. The lower the level of LDL, less is the risk to develop a heart attack. Similarly, higher the HDL, the protective cholesterol, better is the outcome.
Non pharmacological ways to improve the HDL levels and reduce the LDL levels:
• Reduce smoking
• Increased consumption of avocados, a handful of non roasted non salted dry nuts( walnuts, almonds, pistachios).
• Olive oil or canola oil to be taken
• Reduction or avoiding red meat ( mutton, beef, pork, organ meat such as liver, gizzard)
• Reduction of deep fried food items
• Reduced intake of prawns, crabs and lobster.
• Reduced intake of full cream dairy products
When to treat with medicines?
When lifestyle modification and diet control alone do not help in lowering the levels, one will have to reconsider options of pharmacotherapy.
Guidelines from around the world have stressed the need for treatment with medicines in the following groups of people:
• If aged between 40-75 years with >7.5% risk of developing a heart attack in the next ten years
• If aged < 40 years with LDL cholesterol levels >190 mg/dL
• If person has suffered from any of the following:
• Heart attack
• Stroke or paralysis
• Transient ischemic attack ( features of stroke which reversed due to incomplete block to blood flow to brain)
• Those with peripheral artery disease of the extremities
• Those who have undergone revascularization procedures to improve blood flow in either heart or extremities
The risk for developing a heart attack is estimated by the health care professionals by using calculators incorporating ones race, gender, age, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, blood pressure, use of medicines for controlling blood pressure, smoking and diabetes mellitus.
Normally the lipid profile ,which tests the various cholesterol types, is done after a 12 hour fasting. There are tests also which are available to assess how much of cholesterol has already lined the vessels. ( coronary angiogram, coronary calcium scoring and carotid doppler) Check the lipid levels once in 3 months if the levels are high or else once in 6 months. The doctor will advise when to start the medicines and if needed, when to stop the medicines. Some of the tests done to check heart functioning will also indirectly determine the lining of the vessels supplying the heart.( ECHO cardiogram and Stress Treadmill testing)
Statins, fibrates and drugs which reduce absorption of cholesterol from the intestines,ezetimibe, are used in treatment of high lipid levels. The former group is generally used around the world. Niacin is still being used in some parts of the world
A note on statins
Statins are generally found to have some side effects such as muscle pain and altered liver enzyme levels. It has also been associated with a 0.5% increase in chance in developing diabetes which led to a scare among the patients and health care providers.
However, statins have benefits besides lowering cholesterol levels, statins also help in stabilizing the plaque formation , reducing the inflammation of the blood vessels and regression of blocks to an extent. The plaque which is a mixture of calcium, lipids,fats and blood elements can get “fractured” and can shower small blocks through the blood vessels which can cause block at distant sites.
The benefits of taking a medicine to lower cholesterol far outweigh the risks associated with the medicine.
The benefits of taking medicines to control cholesterol go along way beyond just control of high levels. Cholesterol deposition almost always occurs in the inner lining of the blood vessels. People of some races are more prone for developing heart attacks when compared to people of other races. Some people inquire if they can stop the medicines for cholesterol once the levels are normal. Being a diabetic, the chances of getting a heart attack are high and so taking this tablet will go a long way to prevent the onset of developing a serious heart disorder. If intolerant to statins, there are other classes of medicines which can be used to control the cholesterol levels.
Some of the commonly used statins are Simvastatin, Fluvastatin, Atorvatstain and Rosuvastatin.
The dose needed depends on the treating health care professional and the need for starting the treatment as to whether it was for prevention or for treatment. If high doses are needed, the side effects can be minimized by addition of ezetimibe ( drug to impair absorption of cholesterol from intestines) or fibrates.
The liver enzyme levels and muscle enzyme level are checked frequently after starting therapy. A baseline level of the above enzymes are taken in some centers before commencing therapy.
The triglyceride levels are high among the Asians and South Indians due to their dietary habits and genetic make up. However among those in the rest of the world, LDL levels are high and targeted for control.
Exercise and impact on cholesterol
Link between coronary heart disease and cholesterol levels are well established through various studies.
Sedentary lifestyle adds to the risk for development of heart problems.
It has been shown by various studies that men who exercised more 75% of the maximum heart rate ( 220-age in years) at least 3 times a week for 12 weeks have reduced risk for developing heart disease. However, such studies have not been done on women.
In post menopausal women benefits of exercise were seen among those who exercise for 70% maximum heart rate for 24 weeks and who were on hormone replacement therapy. It was shown low to moderately intense exercise among post menopausal women improved outcomes.
The intensity, duration and frequency of exercise, the initial HDL C levels and length of the training period determine the benefits of exercise on cholesterol levels.
Exercising regularly for 8 months or jogging for 6 months or 3 weeks of diet control or brisk walking for three months can help reduce the LDL cholesterol. 5-10% body weight reduction can reduce the cholesterol levels. Recommendation is 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 1000 Kcals to be burned per week.
Omega 3 capsules taken once daily( containing fish oil) help to reduce a triglyceride levels to an extent. For the vegetarians, flaxseeds can be taken in place of Omega 3 capsules. There are no studies establishing the benefits of taking this to prevent heart attacks or strokes.
The diet should contain- 50-60% of total calories as carbohydrates, < 30% as fats, 15% as proteins, < 10% as polyunsaturated, < 20% as monounsaturated and 20-30 g of dietary fiber.
A note on oils.
Replacing saturated and transfats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids can help improve the cholesterol levels.
If monounsaturated acids are used, there is a 12% reduction in total cholesterol and 15% reduction in LDL cholesterol. If polyunsaturated acids are used, cholesterol reduction by 19% and LDL by 22% is observed in studies.
Monounsaturated fatty acids are always better than polyunsaturated oils.
Remember that any oil when it is boiled loses its good properties. Hence, even olive oil or canola oil will not do any good if they are boiled.
Olive oil comes as extra virgin type and Pomace type. The extra virgin is used for raw consumption and the pomace type for cooking. Olive oil is actually the juice of olives unlike most of the oils made from the seeds.
Indications for insulin usage:
- When oral medicines fail to control the sugar in maximum doses
- when there are complications to the eyes, kidney or heart,
- when the sugars are very high,
- when there is pregnancy associated with diabetes,
- when intolerant to oral medicines ,
- when diagnosed with latent auto immune diabetes of adults
- when being planned for surgery.
- If diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
Insulin preparation: There are 3 main types of insulin based on duration of action- short acting, intermediate acting and long acting. • Short acting insulin acts for a short time and peaks fast. This is why this has to be administered with the main meals at least three times a day. • Intermediate acting insulin acts for close to 10 hours and so needs twice daily dosing • The long acting insulin can last for 16-24 hours and thus, needs one or two shots a day • There are premix insulin which comprise short and intermediate acting insulin in one. • Ultra short acting and ultra long acting insulin preparations are now available. • Non injection forms of insulin are now becoming available- studies are on. Nasal, inhaled forms, patches, pills, oral sprays are all forms being researched into to avoid the needle prick. The doses of insulin are usually tailored by the doctor or nurse initially and then adjusted by the patient depending on the sugar reading. Insulin delivery devices are now- a days by pen devices or by continuous subcutaneous devices. The old method of using a vial and syringe is still present. Insulin can be safely administered if used sensibly. Store the insulin in fridges ( not in the freezer) or in a cool room, lightly shake the pen before use if pre mix insulin and roll the insulin pen between the palms of the hand to prevent injecting cold insulin and inject at different sites each time. The needles are to ideally thrown after each injection( though some can use up to 3 injections with a needle) . Sites for injecting: • The thighs on inner side, the outer side and front side are the most preferred sites. • The abdomen wall can be used- but remember not to inject just around the belly button ( umbilicus) inject any place on the flanks more than two finger breaths on either side of the umbilicus. • The arms are not commonly used in adults. • The buttocks and back are used for small children How to inject: • Have the needles changed before injecting • Roll the insulin between the palms of the hands if insulin is cold. • Select the site for injection. It is not mandatory to wipe the area with a spirit wipe. However, if you do, make sure the alcohol or spirit dries out before injecting. • Feel for any thickening or induration. If present, avoid injecting into that site. • If skin is dark at that site avoid injecting there. • Do not inject into dilated veins on the thigh, if present. • Dial the required dose. • There are people who pinch a fold of skin before injecting. It is not necessary to. • Plunge the needle vertically into the site ( perpendicular to skin and not at an angle). Needles are fine and almost painless • Depress the plunger down. The meter will return to zero. • Count to five slowly and remove the pen. • It is common to see a drop of blood after removing the needle. • There is no need for a vigorous massage as is done after deep intramuscular injections. • Do not inject soon before or after an exercise regime. • Rapid acting ( short acting) insulin can be injected in the abdominal wall. The absorption from the thighs is ideal for intermediate and long acting insulin as the absorption is not so fast. The absorption of insulin is slowest if injected in the buttocks. The arm is not ideal for self injection. • The pen device has a spring device which can get worn out over a period of time, maybe after an year or two. Change the delivery system when this happens. The needles after use are to be discarded in a proper manner after putting them in a sharps container. There are places around the world where the used needles are sold again in a fresh pack thus helping spread of disease such as AIDS, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. Side effects of insulin: • Hypoglycemia- low sugar • Allergy to the preservative or type of insulin( this is quite rare these days with the advent of purified and human varieties of insulin) • Weight gain • Thickening of the subcutaneous tissue at injection site • Neuropathy- sometimes insulin can cause nerve pain which can be very depressing. Being started on insulin does not mean the end of the road. It is used by the doctor when the sugar levels are very high to bring I down, or when you are undergoing an operation or when you are pregnant or when you have complications affecting the eyes, kidney or heart. It does not mean that insulin once started remains so for the rest of your life. There are needless insulin delivery systems which are present elsewhere. There are other insulin routes available which had been researched, but fell out of favor due to the less efficiency. . While traveling long distances, use a temperature controlled pouch or ice box for keeping the insulin at a cool temperature. If you party, take a small dose before the party, have a snack before you leave, and have the rapid acting insulin after the dinner .Meet your doctor for advice on the dose. Alcohol intake can cause a delayed hypoglycemia(low sugar) The three main insulin delivery options are a pen, syringe, or pump. There are also a few newer insulin delivery systems, including the jet injector. Here are the pros and cons of each insulin delivery method to help you get started. Most of the insurance companies do not approve of these delivery systems which are new and innovative. The pen delivery system is, of course, approved and effective. Pen, Pump, or Syringe? Here’s a rundown of the three different insulin delivery systems, how they work, and their pros and cons. Insulin Syringe You use an insulin syringe to inject insulin into your body with a very fine needle. Pros: • Flexibility. You can choose from many different brands and types of syringes, and you can use them with just about any kind of insulin. • Cost savings. These work more economical than the latest medicines which could be very costly. • People with very regular schedules and consistent meal patterns can do well using this method. Cons: • Time. You have to be meticulous in loading the syringe, remember to warm the insulin if cold , by rolling the cartridge in the palm three or four times. Before injecting you need to check there is no air bubble, attach the needle, and draw the correct dose of insulin into the syringe. • Dosing mistakes. Sometimes error while loading the dose can lead to problems. Insulin Pen An insulin pen works much like a syringe, but it looks like the type of pen you use to write. Insulin pens come in disposable and reusable versions. • Disposable pens come pre-filled with insulin. • Reusable pens use a cartridge filled with insulin. Pros: • Ease and convenience. Pens are convenient to carry about unlike the insulin which ( and still is) comes in bottles.. To use an insulin pen, you just dial up the insulin dose on the pen. Then you press a plunger at one end to inject the insulin through a needle at the other end. • Memory storage. Insulin pens have a handy memory feature that will remind you how much insulin you took, and when you took it. Cons: • Expense. The disposable pens are costly and the ones which could be reused are more economical. However, the reusable ones may have to be changed once in a year or two as the dose dialer spring may become faulty. • Lack of options. Some types of insulin are not available in pen form. Insulin Pump An insulin pump is a device that’s about the same size as a pager. You wear it on your belt or in a pocket, and it delivers a steady stream of rapid acting insulin to your body 24 hours a day through a needle attached to a flexible plastic tube. Whenever you eat, you press a button on the pump to give yourself an extra boost of insulin, called a bolus. The pump is an option for people with type 1 diabetes who have not reached their target blood sugar level using other delivery methods. It’s also a good option for people with diabetes that have very active lifestyles. It’s not clear whether people with type 2 diabetes benefit from using a pump. However among those with type 2 diabetes, who have failed to achieve good sugar control with maximum doses and have to take multiple doses of insulin instead, this is a convenient option. Pros: • Steady insulin release. The pump releases insulin as if mimicking the pancreas. The dose of insulin used will be quite less as it will be delivering tiny doses at pre fixed times. Only short acting insulin is used in this. Pumps are so efficient that you can use less insulin than you would with a syringe or pen. • Ease of use. You’ll no longer have to give yourself injections of insulin throughout the day–the pump will do it for you automatically. You can also eat whenever you choose. • Better blood sugar control. Because it delivers insulin steadily like your pancreas, the pump helps prevent blood sugar swings. • Ease of monitoring. Your pump can communicate with your glucose monitoring system so you can track your blood sugar over time and make changes to your routine as needed. Cons: • Constant wear. You’re going to be attached to this pump nearly all of the time — even when you sleep. • Risks. You need to be very careful about changing the needle every couple of days because there is a slight risk for infection. You also have to monitor your blood sugar levels, because you may be more likely to have a drop in blood sugar (hypoglycemia) with the pump than with a syringe or pen. If the catheter slips out or the pump fails, you might not get the insulin you need and over time your sugars can increase and you could develop a dangerous complication called diabetic ketoacidosis. • Cost. Pumps are costly and so also are the infusion tubing and reservoir. Some of the new ones come with inbuilt sensors as well which are costly. Insurance companies do not approve of this usually. • The infusion tubing and reservoir have to changed once every three days • Sometimes the tubing gets kinked without delivering the insulin which could cause problems • One has to feed in the carbohydrate consumption at the start to prime the pump. • The insulin will not be delivered if there is air in the tubing or if the insulin remaining in the cartridge is very low. Jet Injector Jet injectors don’t have a needle. Instead, they use very high pressure to push a fine spray of insulin through the pores in your skin. Pros: • Needle-free. If you hate needles, a jet injector is an alternative to the insulin syringe or pen. Cons: • Pain. Though needle less, they can cause more pain in some of those with sensitive skin as the insulin is driven inside the body by sheer force. You have a high concentration of nerves close to the surface of your skin. Trying to push insulin through the skin can hurt more than injecting — especially considering how thin needles are. • Uneven insulin delivery. Because they send insulin into the body through the pores, jet injectors may not always deliver an accurate dose. Other options include an insulin patch. Work closely with your doctor to choose the option that best fits your budget, health needs, and lifestyle. Not all the above are available here in Oman. Afreeza is a powder form of insulin which is an ultra rapid acting insulin. The powder is used by an inhaler called the Dreamboat inhaler. Peak levels are reported in 12-14 minutes of inhalation. This is especially beneficial for those with type 1 diabetes who are dependent on insulin for life and also for those with type 2 who become insulin dependent with failure of the pancreas. Close to 5300 patients have been studied in trails across the world and the results so far are promising, but needs further time to be found effective. This has been found to reduce the post meal sugar levels, fasting levels, have less incidence of hypoglycemia( term used for low sugar levels) , reduced weight gain as when compared to rapid acting insulin. However, this may need to be combined with long acting insulin or with oral medicines as the case may be for a better effect. The side effect so far noted has been a non productive cough ( dry cough) Degludec insulin is a new ultra long acting insulin which is still on research programs to test its efficacy. Though it is being marketed for injection once in 3 days or once a week ( which sounds like sweet music) , the effects of the insulin wear off after a day or two. Which means it is still better to have the shots of insulin daily for better control. The sugar control and episodes of low sugar have not shown any improvement over the insulin preparations available in the market today. Continuous glucose monitoring Continuous Glucose monitoring (CGM) devices are in the market for quite some time. These are small gadgets the size of a pager which help to monitor the sugar levels throughout the day and night. On an average a child between the ages 5 and 14 may have to poke the finger for sugar checking at least 50000 times and about 15000 injections of insulin during that time. This is quite phenomenal and frightening. For people on intensive insulin therapy as among those with type 1 diabetes or among those with frequent dips or spikes in their sugar levels which could be related to either food, alcohol or exercise. These machines detect the glucose level just under skin with the help of sensors. These levels are transmitted to a receiver. Pros: • This will give a constant reading and you can adjust the doses accordingly with the help of the health care provider. If the blood glucose reading is 7 mmol/L or 126 mg/dL, it could mean the sugar is going up or down and that is the reading at that time. The machine gives an arrow mark which will give the trend based on the readings just before.. • The tracings can be downloaded and interpreted • The tracings are given for every day in different color lines for easy interpretation • It also gives the average and how many lows one had experienced in the interim. • Alarms are there which could be programmed into the machine which could go on either when sugar swings too low or too high. Cons: • The cost is quite high • Normally the insurance companies do not approve of this unless in certain cases. • The sensors will have to be changed once in 3-7 days. This is costly • This is to be worn at all times. • May not be feasible for children below the age of 12. • One will have to calibrate the machine from time to time so that the readings are accurate. Needle less devices Frequent puncturing of the delicate skin at finger tips and also the insulin shots which are so frequent especially among those with type 1 diabetes are a cause of frustration. Now-a-days needle free CGM devices are coming out. Some are awaiting patents. There will be sensors, a transmitter and receiver. The signals can be sent to smart phones, computers or even laptops. This can be useful for working mothers who have children at home and can remotely access the sugar levels and send information to make corrective steps. The sensors are to be changed once in 3 days which helps prevent skin irritation. The skin top layer which comprises dead cells is painlessly removed and leaves a small abrasion not visible to the naked eye. The Symphony is one brand making such needle free CGM. Dexcom G4 Platinum is awaiting patents rights. This is sleek and hardly noticeable
Hypoglycemia or low sugar is one of the nightmares of the patients and the doctors alike. High and low sugars may both present with sweating , confusion and sometimes even unconsciousness.
The commonest causes being taking too much of insulin or some medicines or forgetting to take food, too intense an exercise, consuming alcohol and some tumors of the pancreas.
Generally sweating, shaking of the hands, irritation, craving for food, beating fast of the heart, headache, stomach pain (gastritis) and clouding of consciousness. The body tries to correct the levels itself by an in built mechanism.
For the elderly adults low sugar manifests as confusion, delirium and drowsiness. Tremors and sweating are rare for the elderly with low sugar levels.These can mimic those with a fit or stroke and is, for that strange reason, often misdiagnosed.
For some people the body fails to recognize the features of low sugar. This is dangerous as very low levels are needed for the body to recognize it thereafter. This is called unawareness.
What can be done?
If low sugar happens, drink a can of orange juice or chew on some dry raisins or put some sugar into your mouth. If glucose tablets are available, that is a good option. Chocolates are not a good solution for low sugars as the fat content in chocolates delay the fast rise in sugar. Check your sugar level after 15 minutes and if still low, repeat the above. Get to nearest hospital and get this corrected if needed.
Categories of hypoglycemia:
• Documented hypoglycemia: typical symptoms of hypoglycemia and when the plasma glucose is ≤70 mg%.
• Severe hypoglycemia : An event which requires active assistance of a person to administer glucagon or carbohydrate or adopt any other resuscitative measure.
• Asymptomatic hypoglycemia: An event that is not accompanied by typical symptoms but the plasma glucose ≤70 mg%.
• Probable symptomatic: An event during which hypoglycemic symptoms are not documented with a plasma glucose determination, but presumed to be ≤70 mg%.
• Relative hypoglycemia: An event during which the diabetic patient reports typical symptoms of hypoglycemia, and interprets those as indicative of hypoglycemia, but the plasma glucose is ≥ 70mg%.
While driving if low sugar is encountered, drive off the road, put on distress signals, turn off the car, pull down the windows, remove the key from the ignition, take some sugar or orange juice immediately.( you must have a stock of this in the car always) . The brain takes some time to recover from the low sugar and impulsive driving may be initiated leading to accidents. Always check sugar levels before a long drive, break the journey in between long drives and carry an ID mentioning your diabetic status and contact numbers.
Sometimes hospitalization is also needed in serious cases.
The impact low sugars can have on life is very dramatic. For example, developing this while attending an interview or while at the exams or at an important meeting or while driving, can change the course of ones` life. People may then become introverts avoiding social functions for fear of low sugar. They are often mistaken for drunken behavior as well.
If you have diabetes, one needs a blood glucose meter — a small device — to measure, store and display the blood glucose level. Glucometer is commonly used in emergency rooms in hospitals, ambulatory medical care services as in ambulances, helicopters or sea transport while shifting patients. The glucometer is used for analysing sugar leels and adjust dose medication with the help of the health care professional or diabetes educator. This is not used in the diagnosis of Diabetes.
Exercise, food, medications, stress and other factors affect the blood glucose level. Using a blood glucose meter can help better manage the diabetes by tracking any fluctuations caused by these factors.
Many types of blood glucose meters are available, from basic models to more-advanced meters with multiple features and options. The cost of blood glucose meters and test strips varies. Study all the options before deciding which model to buy.. As with any electronic device, this cannot be immersed in water, should not be stored in extremes of temperature and humidity which can affect the device or even the test strips. Most of the new model glucometer devices have an in built check that does not display readings at extremes of temperature. Using a glucometer at high altitude as when climbing high mountains can give erratic readings.
The glucometer uses an enzymatic portion on a test strip which is in a dehydrated state when packed and a detector. The glucose in the blood sample reacts with the enzyme to produce the level which is detected. The commonly used enzymes are hexokinase, glucose oxidase and glucose dehydrogenase
Basics while using any glucometer
- Check the expiration date of the kit
- Make sure the lancets, glucometer, test strips are available globally.
- Make sure the warranty card is filled out and handed over.
- Ask for a demonstration if need be.
- Some meters need a code chip to be inserted with each new box of test strips.
- Always clean the finger tip before pricking the finger tip for the sample of blood. The sides of the non dominant hand are used as the skin is thinner at the side of the fingertips.
- The blood should be flowing well. Do not squeeze the finger tip excessively to get the blood out- this affects the reading.
- Do not reuse the lancets or test strips.
- Dispose the lancets in a sharps disposal bin.
- Remember to use the glucometer often, say at least twice a week. If not used regularly, it may cause the batteries to wear off by discharging or the IC to burn off. It is similar to a motor car that is not used for a month or two. The battery will not work at that time.
- Get the glucometer calibrated often as well as periodic testing of the control solution is necessary.
Choosing the right meter
When selecting a blood glucose meter, it can help to know the basics of how they work.
- To use most blood glucose meters, first insert one end of a test strip into the device.
- Then, prick a clean fingertip with a special needle (lancet) to get a drop of blood.
- Wipe away the first drop of blood.
- Carefully touch the other end of the test strip to the drop of blood and wait for a blood glucose reading to appear on the screen. There are meters which can determine the blood glucose and blood ketone levels as well. These meters are useful for type 1 diabetic patients. It is marketed by the Freestyle under the name Freestyle Optium Xceed.
Blood glucose meters are usually accurate in how they measure glucose, but they differ in the type and number of features they offer. There is a difference between the values obtained by the glucometer and the blood test done at the hospital. The glucometer checks the capillary glucose level. The hospital or clinic estimates the glucose from a sample drawn from the vein.
Here are several factors to consider when choosing a blood glucose meter:
• Cost. Meters vary in price, so shop around. Be sure to factor in the cost of test strips as the insurance doesn’t pay for them. Test strips are the most expensive part of monitoring because they’re used so often. A meter may be the cheapest one on the market, but may not be a good deal if the strips cost twice as much. Also, individually packaged strips tend to cost more, but you might not use all the strips in a container before the expiration date or within the required number of days after opening the container. Figure out which type of strip is most cost-effective for you. Remember that the strips have expiration dates on the cover. Please check it out.
• Ease of use and maintenance. Some meters are easier to use than others. Are both the meter and test strips comfortable to hold? Can you easily see the numbers on the screen? How easy is it to get blood onto the strips? Does it require a small or large drop of blood?
- Also, some brands of meters need to be coded and others have no coding. Code numbers are used to calibrate your meter with the test strips for accurate results. Make sure the strips can be bought from other parts of the world as well so that travel does not be cumbersome.
• Special features. Ask about the features to see what meets your specific needs. For example, some meters are large with strips that are easier to handle. Some are compact and easier to carry. People with impaired vision can buy a meter with a large screen or a “talking” meter that announces the results. Colorful meters that give a quick reading are available for children. Some models have a backlight, which is handy for nighttime readings. Others are manufactured to withstand extreme temperatures, which may be useful for people who spend a lot of time outdoors, such as hikers or construction workers.
• Information storage and retrieval. Consider how the meter stores and retrieves information. Some can track all the information one would normally write in a log, such as the time and date of a test, the result, and trends over time. Some meters offer the ability to download your blood glucose readings to a computer or your cell phone and then email the test results to your doctor.
• Support. Many meter manufacturers include a toll-free number on the back of the meter or packing. Look for a meter that includes clear instructions that demonstrate the correct way to use the meter. Some manufacturers offer user manuals on their websites.
Although finger pricks remain the gold standard for blood sugar monitoring, researchers are developing products designed to take the “ouch” out of the process. You might ask your doctor about these alternatives.
Alternative site monitor Allows blood samples from areas likely to be less painful than your finger, such as your arm, abdomen or thigh Not as accurate as fingertip samples when blood sugar level is rising or falling quickly.
Continuous glucose testing Uses a sensor placed under skin to measure blood sugar level; transmits each reading to a small recording device worn on your body; sounds an alarm if blood sugar level becomes too low or too high Expensive; requires sensor to be replaced every three to seven days depending on the brand; must check blood sugar level with a traditional monitor when dosing for insulin or treating low blood sugar to confirm readings
• Infrared, laser light and electric current technologies are among a few of the possible offerings on the horizon for noninvasive methods of checking blood sugar levels. But, these may cause irritation to the skin where it is placed upon.
Consider these factors that affect meter accuracy and the steps to resolve or prevent the problem:
- Test strip problems —Throw out damaged or outdated test strips. Store strips in their sealed container; keep them away from heat, moisture and humidity. Be sure the strips are meant for your specific glucose meter.
- Extremes of temperature —Keep your glucose meter and test strips at room temperature.
- Alcohol, dirt or other substances on your skin— Wash your hands and the testing site with soap and water before pricking your skin.
- Improper coding— Some meters must be coded to each container of test strips. Be sure the code number in the device matches the code number on the test strip container.
- Monitor problems —Fully insert the test strip into the monitor. Replace the monitor batteries as needed.
- Not enough blood applied to the test strip —Apply a generous drop of blood to the test strip. Don’t add more blood to the test strip after the first drop is applied. Some meters do not need a large drop.
- Testing site location — Blood samples from alternate sites are not as accurate as fingertip samples when the blood sugar level is rising or falling quickly.
Blood glucose monitor quality control tests
When starting a new container of test strips, occasionally perform these quality control tests before using them and when the results seem unusual.
To perform a quality control test, do one or both of the following:
• Test using a control solution. Follow normal blood-testing procedure, but use a liquid control solution instead of blood. These solutions usually come with the monitor and are available at most drugstores and pharmacies. Follow package directions.
• Match the reading with lab results. Take the blood glucose monitor along when visiting the doctor or have an appointment for lab work. Check the blood glucose with the meter at the same time that blood is drawn for lab tests. Then compare the meter’s reading with the lab results. The meter’s result is considered accurate if it falls within 15 percent of the lab test result.