- A glucose meter helps you reliably track your blood sugar levels, and is a highly important piece of equipment for anyone living with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.
- Though there are several types of glucometers available, the version used most often is a self-monitoring blood glucose meter that uses a pinprick to draw blood to be tested.
- We researched the best glucometers currently available to find reliable options for a variety of users, including a budget model and one that’s great for on-the-go use.
- This article was medically reviewed by Jason R. McKnight, MD, MS, a family medicine physician and clinical assistant professor at Texas A&M College of Medicine.
Thanks to a wide variety of affordable and efficient devices, it’s now easier than ever to track a number of health-related metrics. For instance, most smartwatches are capable of keeping tabs on our heart rate and even alert us to unexpected irregularities. At-home pulse oximeters can even monitor blood oxygen levels, heart rate, and blood pressure.
Meanwhile, digital thermometers can accurately assess our temperature in a manner of seconds, while blood pressure monitors and oximeters offer useful data on how our bodies respond to both stress and relaxation. Adding a glucometer can also prove useful, too, especially for diabetics.
What are glucometers?
Small, lightweight, and highly accurate, glucose meters (or glucometers) are considered mandatory equipment for anyone who lives with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. In order to stay healthy, those individuals must keep a close watch on their blood sugar levels throughout the day, altering their activities and diet to maintain consistent and safe levels as needed.
Modern glucometers are safe, surprisingly quick, and provide highly accurate measurements of a user’s current blood sugar status, making it easier for diabetics to manage their condition and live normal lives.
For example, if a diabetic finds themselves running low on energy in the middle of the afternoon, it could be because of a sudden spike and abrupt crash in their blood sugar levels shortly after they’ve eaten lunch. Similarly, if they tend to feel anxiety or find themselves getting irritable when they haven’t eaten in a while, it could be due to low blood sugar. Other symptoms include dizziness, a rapid heart rate, and lethargy.
Non-diabetics can also use them but it’s not recommended
Though glucometers can still be of benefit to those who aren’t diabetic, it’s not recommended that people use them to routinely check their blood sugar. Unless a healthcare professional specifically prescribes you to run daily checks of your blood sugar, the need for someone other than a diabetic to own a glucometer is quite low.
Charting the rise and fall of blood sugar levels can help someone better understand how their body responds to what they do or don’t eat, so long as they’re addressing the issue with a doctor first. A healthcare professional’s guidance is vital in all cases, diabetic or not, no matter if you just want to try to eat healthier or maintain a more consistent level of energy or focus throughout the day.
What about for people who workout?
Using a glucometer to monitor blood sugar before or after exercising should only be done at the recommendation of a healthcare professional. If you intend to figure out what your body responds to best in terms of nutrition while working out, consult a dietitian or nutritionist instead of taking your own blood sugar readings and managing it yourself.
Intense exercise does have an effect on blood sugar levels and may cause them to rise and fall depending on specific nutrition, the type of exercise, and the fitness level of the athlete, among others. You can still take those factors into account in an effort to improve performance both in training and competition, but should always get guidance from a healthcare professional before starting any new diet, supplement, or treatment.
How to shop for a glucose meter
Generally speaking, there are three different types of glucose meters that are commonly used, although only one of them is readily available to consumers. Self-monitoring blood glucose (SMBG) meters are by far the most common of these devices, with millions of diabetics using them on a daily basis.
SMBGs use a small sample of blood to determine current blood sugar levels. Those samples are generally obtained by using a lancing stick to create a pinprick on the end of the finger, with the blood then collected on a test strip or lancet for analysis. The strip inserts into the device, with the results displayed on its built-in screen in a manner of seconds. SMBGs are small, lightweight, and simple to use, which in turn makes it easy to collect samples whenever they’re needed.
Alternative options include continuous glucose monitors (CGM) that are capable of tracking a person’s blood sugar on a minute-by-minute basis and noninvasive glucometers, which don’t require a blood sample at all. The downside of a CGM is that they require a sensor to be inserted into the body by a doctor, making them a bit more costly and invasive.
Noninvasive glucometers don’t have that problem but they use low-energy radio waves to get their readings. Though this type of device shows promise for the future, they’re mostly still in the developmental phase right now.
The vast majority of people shopping for a glucometer are going to purchase an SMBG model. Most of these devices operate very similarly to each other, although they often vary in size, speed, and accuracy.
Other factors to keep in mind include how much onboard storage the monitor has for keeping track of the user’s results, whether or not it offers audible cues for the visually impaired, and, of course, price.
Here are the best glucose meters:
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