Continuous Glucose Monitor
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Continuous glucose monitors (CGM) were invented to help people with diabetes track their glucose levels more effectively.
Since the FDA approved the FreeStyle Libre monitors in 2020, users have also included those who want to manage weight, increase exercise performance, and reduce sleep issues — since glucose levels can affect all four of these conditions.
Conditions Treated by CGM Monitors
First and foremost, CGMs were invented to help people with diabetes track their glucose levels.
Diabetes 1 and diabetes 2 patients need to monitor glucose and insulin levels throughout the day, ensuring their levels don’t reach dangerous highs or lows. Everything from food, exercise, stress, and alcohol can affect glucose levels.
For many diabetics, routinely checking glucose levels is a must. Before CGMs were available, diabetes patients had to check blood glucose levels with a finger prick and test strip.
CGMs are inserted into the arm and contain a hair-thin needle. Most people don’t feel any discomfort during monitor applications, making CGMs a less-painful way to monitor glucose levels.
Though CGMs were first developed to help diabetics track glucose levels, they are now used by those suffering from other conditions that glucose may affect.
Since higher glucose levels can indicate higher insulin levels and higher insulin levels can lead to weight gain, CGMs may help people who want to manage their weight.
While we can often guess which foods will trigger higher glucose levels and insulin release, every body is different. While eating oatmeal with healthy amounts of protein and fat may not cause a spike in glucose for one person, another person may see their glucose levels rise and fall sharply after eating a bowl of oats.
What we eat can greatly affect our exercise performance, too.
Many athletes eat “naked” simple carbs before an intense workout to purposefully spike their glucose levels — which in turn can lead to a boost of energy. Some athletes prefer their energy to come primarily from fat, meaning they may want to ensure their glucose doesn’t spike at all throughout the day and they remain in ketosis.
While CGMs themselves don’t offer exercise performance or weight management advice, the various platforms that sell and prescribe these devices often do. It’s important to choose an app that offers data output analysis and advice that aligns with your nutrition and exercise performance goals.
Glucose can also affect our sleep quality, too. If you’ve ever eaten a sugary snack just before bed, you may have experienced poor sleep.
Glucose spikes give us energy, which is something that we don’t necessarily want before bed. Spikes may lead to insomnia, difficulty falling asleep, waking during the night, light sleep, and other sleep issues.
Since it’s not just sugary foods that can spike our glucose levels (did you know that drinking warm milk may actually spike your glucose since dairy contains natural sugars?), knowing which foods trigger glucose spikes can be extremely helpful.
How does glucose tracking work?
Glucose monitoring works differently based on which provider you choose. Each provider specializes in different conditions affected by glucose.
If you order your CGM directly from Abbott (the manufacturer of the FreeStyle Libre continuous glucose monitor), you may want to work with your doctor to interpret the data. Abbott’s app does not provide much help in deciphering CGM data output.
Choose Your Provider
Several providers now sell the Abbott FreeStyle Libre continuous glucose monitor. If you purchase the monitor directly from Abbott, you’ll need a doctor’s prescription (Abbott does not offer telehealth prescriptions).
The most common reason to do so is if you’re a diabetes patient and are working with your doctor to control glucose levels.
If you’re not using a CGM to manage diabetes, you’ll want to choose a telehealth provider that offers an app that reads the data in a way that most closely aligns with your health goals.
If you’re interested in a CGM for weight management, you’re probably most likely either doing keto or tracking macros to prioritize protein and fat when eating carbohydrates.
It’s important to either choose the provider that aligns most closely with your goals or simply filter out the information that doesn’t fit with your weight management plan.
Order Your Monitor
Once you’ve chosen a CGM telehealth provider, you’ll need to fill out some intake information!
This is similar to the intake information you’d fill out at a doctor’s office. You’ll need to include some basic health information, why you’re interested in monitoring glucose levels, and your payment information.
Since CGMs must be prescribed by a doctor, the next step is to get a prescription from a telehealth doctor — but don’t worry! Your provider will take care of that.
Get Your Prescription Approved
Once you’ve submitted your intake information and entered in your payment information, a telehealth doctor (hired by the CGM provider) will look over your intake form.
You don’t need to do anything, as this will all be handled by your provider. Depending on which provider you choose, your prescription should only take up to a few business days (though most CGM providers can get prescriptions approved in just a few hours).
Once your prescription is approved, you’ll receive an email letting you know. You’ll then get another email when your order has shipped with tracking information.
Apply the Tracker
When you receive your tracker in the mail, you’re ready to apply it! Simply follow the provided instructions to insert the tracker into your arm.
Included in your package will be the monitor, applicator, and instructions. Most CGM providers also include alcohol wipes and CGM bandages (to ensure the monitor doesn’t fall off or get snagged during its 14-day lifespan).
Once your sensor is in place, you’re ready to initiate the sensor and start tracking!
Download the provider’s app, enter your information, and sync your sensor. It usually takes up to an hour for the sensor to initiate, sync with the app, and start sending data.
The first day the sensor is in place, you may not receive accurate data. Many users get extremely low readings on the first day
Trackers expire 14 days after application.
Once your tracker is affixed to your arm, you can scan it as often as you’d like. Trackers only store up to eight hours of data, so you do want to scan your tracker at least every eight hours to transfer the data to your app.
To scan your tracker, simply place your smartphone on the tracker and wait for a confirmation buzz or beep.
How much do glucose tracking telehealth providers charge?
Most glucose tracking healthcare providers charge varying rates for monitors, memberships, and apps.
These monitors start at $50 a month (just for the monitor and excluding the apps and telehealth provider costs) and can go up to several hundred dollars a month (depending on the telehealth provider and app). Most glucose tracking telehealth providers charge a monthly subscription for access to their apps — though the cost of monitors is usually included in that price.
Some providers charge an annual subscription rate on top of their monthly rate or rate for monitors.
Best Glucose Tracking Telehealth Providers
The two largest telehealth startups that sell continuous glucose monitors and provide apps that analyze glucose data are Veri and Levels.
Veri just launched in 2021. This company sells the FreeStyle Libre, offers a doctor’s prescription for the continuous glucose monitor, and has developed an app to help users understand glucose data.
With Veri, you simply need to fill out a form online and prepay for your FreeStyle Libre. Once Veri’s team has received your intake information, you’ll get a confirmation email. A doctor will review your information and determine if Veri is right for you.
Once your prescription is approved, you’ll get your sensors in the mail within a few days. Simply download the Veri app, follow the instructions to apply your sensor, and sync the sensor with the app.
You can track your food and beverage intake as well as your exercise in the app. Veri will rate your food, based on how your glucose responds. A score of one means you may need to make some dietary changes (swapping out high-sugar and high-carb foods, pairing carbs and sugar with protein and fat, or waiting until later in the day to eat carbs or caffeine.
Veri currently charges $79 for one sensor and app access and $169 for two sensors and app access.
Levels is another continuous glucose monitor telehealth provider.
Similar to Veri, Levels both sells FreeStyle Libre sensors and offers advice on how to interpret the sensor’s data. Simply download the Levels app, follow the instructions to attach the sensor to your arm, and sync your sensor to the app.
Levels also rates your meals from 0 to 10 (10 meaning your meals didn’t affect your glucose at all and 0 meaning your glucose spiked severely from your meal).
Levels charges an annual membership fee of around $300 and $200 a month for two sensors and access to its app.