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Whether you’ve recently received a diabetes diagnosis or you’re in the market for a new glucose monitoring system, we’ve found the right option for you. Our picks for this year’s best glucose monitors provide a simple way to monitor blood sugar and stay in good health.
Blood glucose monitors, also known as glucometers, help people with diabetes understand their condition and better manage their food intake, medication, and physical activity. There are two types of monitors: blood glucose meters and continuous glucose monitors.
Blood glucose meters are the most basic glucose monitor. They give you your current blood sugar by analyzing a small amount of blood drawn from your fingertip, placed on a test strip, and inserted into a meter that measures your glucose level. Since blood sugar levels fluctuate, regular testing is required.
Continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) automatically track your blood glucose levels around the clock. In most cases, CGMs work by inserting a tiny sensor just under your skin and a transmitter onto your skin. The sensor uses levels of interstitial glucose — the glucose found in the fluid between the cells — to determine your blood sugar. It then communicates the data to the transmitter, which sends the info to your monitor.
The real-time data and trends accessible via CGMs can help you make choices about how to balance your food, physical activity, and medications. Occasionally individuals attempting to lose weight also use CGMs.
To evaluate each glucose meter and monitor, we used the following criteria:
Consistency: Blood glucose readings can be a matter of life and death, so we looked for products that provide consistently accurate results.
Price: Glucose meters and monitors can vary widely in cost, so we looked for the most affordable devices or, for the less affordable ones, coverage by insurance.
Extra features: Many devices on this list have Bluetooth capabilities or vibration-based alarms.
Simplicity: All the devices on this list are easy to use, even for beginners.
FreeStyle Libre - Bloodless Readings
4.7 / 5
What We Like Most:
Updates every 60 seconds
No painful finger pricks
Option to set alarms and reminders
Among the most affordable options
Cost: $151 per month without insurance
The FreeStyle Libre is a needle-free glucose monitoring system that offers real-time blood sugar readings via a quarter-size sensor you attach to the back of your upper arm. The sensor works 24/7 for 10 to 14 days, depending on which version it is. With the sensor in place, a mere one-second scan over the sensor with your reader or smartphone will give you your current blood glucose reading, an arrow telling you the direction your blood sugar is trending, and your eight-hour history.
A monthly FreeStyle Libre kit includes a reader and two disposable sensors meant to last 28 days. The Freestyle Libre automatically updates every 60 seconds and is approved by Medicare experts, but it doesn’t offer the peace of mind that real-time high and low alerts provide and only a handful of insurance companies cover the system. Nevertheless the system is still fairly affordable. It is ideal for individuals who prefer to get their reading with a smartphone, anyone who places a lot of importance on having a discreet and easy-to-use sensor, and veterans whose systems are covered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Care Touch Blood Glucose Monitoring System - Fast Results
4.5 / 5
What We Like Most:
Stores 300 test results
Affordable and minimalist
Senior-friendly buttons and screen
Cost: $39.99 for a kit without insurance
The budget-friendly and minimalist Care Touch Blood Glucose Monitoring System is classified as a blood glucose meter, and it is a great choice for beginners or people paying out of pocket for diabetes supplies. It requires a finger prick, but the blood sample size required is only 0.5 microliters — much smaller than most well-known blood glucose meters.
Its battery lasts for up to 1,000 tests and the monitor can store as many as 300 tests, so it’s easy to refer back to months of tests with your doctor. To save additional tests, simply sync your meter to your computer via a USB cord.
The Care Touch kit includes the Care Touch monitor, 100 Care Touch testing strips, a three-volt lithium-ion battery (Cr2032), a lancing device, 100 30-gauge lancets, a carrying bag, instructions, and a log book. The kit’s test strips are precoded, eliminating any need to worry about batch codes.
To use the system, you prick your finger with the lance and release 0.5 microliters of blood onto the designated space on your test strip. When inserted, the strip automatically turns on the monitor. The monitor will give you a blood glucose reading in no more than five seconds. You then remove the testing strip with a convenient ejection button. Once it’s been out of use for a short time, it automatically turns itself off.
Automatic on and off
Portable and travel-friendly
Small blood sample size
Computer sync capability for long-term storage
No Bluetooth capabilities
No app support
Rite Aid TrueMetrix Meter - Most Affordable
4.4 / 5
What We Like Most:
Stores up to 500 tests
Excellent customer reviews
Cost: $19.99 for the meter, $34.99 for 50 strips, $10.99 for the lance device
Rite Aid’s TrueMetrix Meter is best known for its affordability and speedy four-second results.
The blood glucose meter kit comes with a TrueMetrix reader, a three-volt battery, three lancets, a lancing device, instructions, and a carrying case. You will need to purchase lancets and strips separately.
You begin using the blood glucose meter by ensuring the monitor and strips have been at room temperature for at least 10 minutes. Take a test strip from the vial and recap it, then insert the contact end of the strip into the meter’s test port, which will turn on the meter. Leave the test strip on the meter until your glucose test is complete, then use a lance on your finger and place a drop of blood on the strip. The meter will beep when it’s finished, and your result will be displayed.
Results in four seconds
Four reminder alarms
Fingertip, forearm, or palm testing
Frequent error codes for some customers
Must purchase test strips separately
Dexcom G6 - Most Accurate Readings
4.3 / 5
What We Like Most:
Consistently accurate readings
Works seamlessly with insulin pumps
Readings every five minutes
Outstanding app support
Cost: $299 per month without insurance, but coupons are available through discount services and the manufacturer also helps reduce your out-of-pocket costs.
With a Dexcom system, you wear a sensor on your abdomen and your updated blood glucose levels arrive automatically every five minutes. Factory-calibrated, the Dexcom G6 is free from finger pricks and has excellent app support that provides your glucose levels through a smartphone, watch, or tablet.
Every Dexcom G6 kit includes an auto-applicator, under-skin sensor, and transmitter. You can view the data gathered on both Apple and Android devices. The popular CGM also allows you to share your glucose data with as many as 10 people, including professionals on your health-care team. It has also been clinically proven to increase daily time in your ideal glucose range, lower hyper and hypoglycemia, and reduce your A1C.
Dexcom G6 is a great choice if you think you’d benefit from automatic alerts when outside your ideal glucose range and if you’re comfortable using its compatible devices, such as smartwatches, Google Fit, and Apple Health. Despite its many desirable features, Dexcom G6 sensors must be changed every week and a half, and its hefty $300 monthly price tag makes it difficult for some to afford. Fortunately for Costco members, deep discounts are available through the wholesale retailer’s free pharmacy program.
Simple, one-touch applicator
Customizable alerts and alarms
Share your data with up to 10 other people
Compatible with Siri, Google Fit, Samsung Health, and Apple and Android watches
Sensor needs changing every 10 days
F rating on BBB
Guardian Connect System - Varied Data Set
4.3 / 5
What We Like Most:
Detailed glucose tracking data
Directly connect with smartphones and watches
Function with or without an insulin pump
Option to manually log your insulin, food, exercise
Cost: $400 per month without insurance
Guardian Connect’s glucose monitoring system is the most sophisticated among the five systems on this list. As you may expect, however, the wealth of information Guardian Connect provides is evident in its cost, which is a steep $400 per month without insurance. The 30-day free trial offered by Medtronic, the company that sells the device, helps offset the costs for new users.
This smartphone-compatible CGM functions with or without an insulin pump, and offers detailed time-in-range data for your glucose levels and trends via your mobile device. The system employs smart technology to analyze the direction your levels are headed and predicts upcoming highs or lows up to 60 minutes ahead.
A recent data analysis of real-world Guardian Connect users found that its predictive technology helps the system’s users avoid 65 percent of low and 44 percent of high episodes. Each kit includes an insertion device, sensor, transmitter, tape, Skin Tac patch, and charger. With the sensor attached to your arm, Guardian Connect measures your glucose levels through interstitial fluids. The kit comes with a sleek Bluetooth receiver, but many of its users enjoy the ease of using their smart devices to view their glucose info.
Provides the time frame during which your glucose is in the ideal range each day
Displays past glucose data from the last three, six, 12, or 24 hours
Predictive alarms alert you 10 to 60 minutes before expected highs or lows
User-friendly mobile app with up-to-date readings
Most frequent sensor change (every seven days)
For some, selecting a continuous glucose monitor can be an overwhelming process. How do you know which one is best for you, and what steps should you take to ensure you’re getting a high-quality product? Great question! You can use the following process to decide whether you want a continuous glucose monitor or a blood glucose meter (BGM).
Speak to your doctor. Ask your doctor whether they recommend a CGM or BGM for your needs. If you agree that a CGM is the best option, get a prescription since all CGMs require one.
Contact your insurance provider. Find out whether your insurance will cover a CGM and what copays and other costs you will be expected to cover.
Review your budget. Decide whether you can afford the monthly cost of a CGM. Are you limited to a certain monthly expense range?
Rank important features. Consider what features you need or want in your glucose monitor and which ones are the most important. You may weigh qualities such as storage, ease of use, battery life, Bluetooth capability, app support, frequency of sensor replacement, alerts, reminder capability, and monitor display size.
Complete your search. Search online for monitors that fit within your budget and include any features you consider deal-breakers. Ask support groups, friends, or family to see if they know of a monitor that meets your criteria.
Narrow down your options. Limit your choices to two or three options by looking at customer ratings and features you care about but don’t consider deal-breakers.
Make a decision and purchase. Decide which CGM you think will work best for you. Speak to customer service to get any burning questions answered, and then make your purchase.
Your personal needs and preferences ultimately have the most influence over which CGM is the best choice, but we’re confident that the five we discussed above are a great starting point.
CGMs can provide more consistent and detailed information than traditional blood glucose meters. They may, for example, alert you to asymptomatic changes you wouldn’t have identified otherwise. CGMs can be very expensive, however, especially without insurance, so you’ll have to weigh the value of their convenience and detailed data against what having one costs each month.
New devices that determine your blood sugar by scanning your finger with an infrared laser or using subcutaneous implants exist as alternatives to more typical CGMs. Traditional blood glucose meters are also a simple and effective monitoring option.
Amie has been writing about senior care products and services for the last decade. She is particularly passionate about new technologies that help improve the quality of life for seniors and their families. Seeing her parents and grandparents age made Amie ask herself, “Would this be good enough for my loved ones?” In her spare time, Amie enjoys outdoor adventures and spontaneous road trips. Learn more about Amie here