A continuous glucose monitor, or CGM, is a wearable device worn by people who want to measure their blood sugar levels on a near real-time basis. CGMs are very accurate in measuring blood sugar levels and can help people with diabetes, pre-diabetes, or those just wanting to improve their metabolism and make better decisions about their health.
Choosing a CGM option helped our family better understand how diet and lifestyle choices impacted our blood sugar levels. It also helped identify trends so that we could make changes to improve our overall health.
How does a CGM work?
We chose the Levels brand app that works in conjunction with the Freestyle Libre CGM and they are also testing alternatives. It consists of a sensor that is inserted just under the skin, usually on the outside of the upper arm. This sensor is at the end of a small, flexible filament that you really never feel while wearing it. It was intimidating the first time we applied the disk, but was no worse than a mosquito bite. Now I take mine on and off without a second thought.
The sensor is connected to a transmitter (in a small disk that you wear with an adhesive) and that sends data to a receiver. The receiver displays the data in the form of a graph or numerical readout in the app. The receiver also stores data so that it can be downloaded to a mobile phone or other device for analysis and review.
The cgm sensor measures the amount of glucose in interstitial fluid, which is the fluid that surrounds cells. The sensor gives a glucose reading every few minutes and can provide up to 288 readings in a 24-hour period.
Once the sensor is in place, it will calibrate for the first hour, then begin taking readings of your blood sugar levels every few minutes. Having the ability to see how your blood sugar changes over time, for example the 2 hours following a meal, you can understand how food or drinks are changing your levels.
Who Uses a Continuous Glucose Monitor?
If you are using a cgm to manage diabetes, it is important to check your blood sugar levels regularly and take action to keep them within a safe range. If your blood sugar levels get too low, you may experience hypoglycemia, which can be dangerous. If your blood sugar levels get too high, you may experience hyperglycemia, which can also be dangerous.
CGMs have become quite popular for more than just those concerned about diabetes. For example, a cgm can help you to:
- Understand how diet and lifestyle choices impact your blood sugar levels
- Identify trends so that you can make changes to improve your health
- See the impact of exercise on your blood sugar levels
- Make decisions about food and activity based on your blood sugar levels
- Avoid low blood sugar episodes (hypoglycemia)
- Prevent high blood sugar episodes (hyperglycemia)
How to Choose and Get a CGM
There are many different brands and types of CGMs on the market, so it is important to do your research to find the one that fits your needs. Once you have chosen a cgm, you will need to consult with your doctor to make sure it is the right fit for you. They will likely need to approve the use of a cgm and may have specific recommendations for you.
CGMs are not perfect, but they can be a useful tool to help you manage your diabetes or pre-diabetes. If you are interested in using a cgm, talk to your doctor about whether it is right for you.
What is the Cost of CGM?
The cost of CGMs can vary, depending on the brand and type of cgm you choose and if you need to wear one continuously. We decided on a quarterly plan to wear ours for a 28-30 day cycle every 3 months. Since then, I have decided to reduce my time to one 28 day measurement period every 4 months and my partner has increased her time to every other month or nearly continuous if she is testing out new diets and activities.
Some insurance plans may cover the cost of a cgm, or you may want to consider if a HSA or other health financial account will be eligible. But you may also have to pay out-of-pocket. Others have had success looking into financial assistance programs to help offset the cost of a cgm.
What to do if your blood sugar levels are too high:
This is called hyperglycemia and can be dangerous and cause organ damage. If your blood sugar levels are too high, you will need to take action to bring them back down to a safe level. This may include eating food, taking medication, or exercising.
What to do if your blood sugar levels are too low:
This is called yypoglycemia. If your blood sugar levels are too low, you will need to take action to bring them back up to a safe level. This may include eating food or taking medication. It is important to monitor your blood sugar levels closely and take action as needed.
If you are using a cgm to manage diabetes, it is important to check your blood sugar levels regularly and take action to keep them within a safe range.
CGMs are not perfect, but they can be a useful tool to help you manage your diabetes or pre-diabetes.
How Can A CGM Improve Your Health and Metabolism?
After wearing our CGM’s for several cycles, we were able to track differences in how certain foods and activities impacted our metabolism.
We learned that when eating the same meal, choosing more protein before the carbs in a bowl can reduce the increase in our blood glucose. Small changes in selection, order of eating items, and quantity can make nearly identical meals healthier. We learned that for my partner, exercising before a meal had a more severe impact on lowering her glucose. We were able to see individual differences in how the same meal and ingredients affected each other separately and make smarter choices.
We believe the things we measure get more attention than the things we do not measure.
Other factors such as stress, anxiety, and levels of hydration were found to have an impact on our metabolism that we may not have noticed without monitoring. The act of measuring and monitoring blood glucose and seeing the results recorded along with meals made a big difference in future choices. Even if some of those choices were not the healthiest, we now have the data to choose and anticipate the impact on our health.
If you want to try the “Levels” brand of a CGM, while we have been happy with our results, please do your own research.