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Matching the best CGM to your lifestyle

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Kerri Sparling

There are a number of continuous glucose monitor (CGM) devices available on the market these days, which can make choosing the right one tricky. But ultimately, the best CGM for you is the one you can easily access and will use routinely.

In the last three decades since my own diagnosis, diabetes technology has come a long way. Instead of testing my urine or pricking my finger, I'm now able to use a CGM to check my glucose. Seeing graphs and trends of my numbers has helped me take a proactive approach to my diabetes care — and I can do it all from my smartphone.

Understanding CGM options for different lifestyles

CGMs are medical devices that automatically track blood sugar levels, allowing people with diabetes to see their glucose trends (and changes) in real time. Compared to the "blood sugar snapshots" provided by finger pricks, CGMs give "streaming video" of glucose control.

The device's sensors measure glucose levels in interstitial fluid via a component inserted under the skin. These values are transmitted every five minutes to an external monitor, like a phone application or compatible insulin pump.

The insights that CGMs provide can allow you to make important adjustments to your management plan, and many systems come equipped with alarms that will alert you to out-of-range blood sugar levels. This acts as a "safety net" for emergency events like hypoglycemia.

Access to CGMs through insurance is increasing all the time, which will help make using these systems even more affordable. If you are living with diabetes and checking your blood glucose several times a day, a CGM could be just a prescription away! Here's what you need to know, depending on your lifestyle.

For athletes looking to stay fit

CGMs are powerful tools for both professional and casual athletes because they provide valuable data that can influence training regimens. For example, if you're a runner and you're heading out to train, you can look at your CGM graph and use the trend arrows to determine if you need to eat before you head out, if your blood sugars are stable or if you might need a correction dose of insulin.

The ability to see blood sugars at a glance can help athletes fine-tune their nutrition and workout regimens so they can get the most out of their training. For athletes, every CGM option is a good one, and systems like the Dexcom G6 CGM and the Medtronic Guardian Connect CGM may be especially helpful as they are paired with insulin pumps that have artificial pancreas systems included.

For travelers wanting ease of access

For people who are on the road often for work or pleasure, a CGM makes it easier to move through time zones and deal with the stress of traveling. The trend arrows provided on CGM graphs can help frequent fliers avoid low and high blood sugars by making proactive decisions. For example, you can request the peanuts instead of the pretzels if your blood sugar is rising slightly during the flight.

Depending on your preferences, just about every available CGM system could be a good fit for your travels!

For professionals in need of efficiency

Whether you're chairing a board meeting or answering service calls, keeping blood sugars in range and under control improves productivity. A CGM is a useful tool to check during a work shift to ensure you don't need to make adjustments to medication or food — and if you do need to make changes, the CGM trend arrows can help you head issues off before they become problematic.

The FreeStyle Libre 14-Day System is a scan system, meaning the sensor is scanned using an external device and trend arrows and results are plotted on a graph. This is a great fit for a working professional, as the absence of alarms is more discreet in an office environment.

For parents, caregivers and elders who want security

If you are the parent of a child with diabetes, you may want to consider a CGM with a remote access monitor. In 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of integrated CGM devices in children as young as two years old. These devices can streamline diabetes management, enhance the health and safety of users and reduce the amount of stress you experience as a caregiver. For example, the Dexcom Follow app pairs with Dexcom's CGM, allowing you to see the glucose trend graph of your child's diabetes.

If you are a parent who has diabetes, a CGM can help you best control your numbers. In turn, this can provide a sense of security in your ability to give care — and help your loved ones rest assured your diabetes management is being kept in check.

If you are over 65 and living with diabetes, a CGM can be especially useful, as it can help you know if you're experiencing hypoglycemia unawareness (i.e. the inability to feel low blood sugar symptoms). Remote monitoring also provides a safety net for caregivers, and coverage for CGM devices for seniors has taken steps forward in recent years. The FreeStyle Libre 14-Day System can be a tremendous resource, with streamlined insertion and excellent insurance coverage. Additionally, any CGM with alarm features or remote-following capability may be useful for caregivers.

Whichever device you deem to be the best CGM for you, remember that access, cost and personal preference will play into your decision-making process as much as lifestyle. So embrace the technology and research your options to improve your diabetes management and overall well-being.

Looking to streamline your T1D management? Learn more about the CGMs available through Edgepark and how to order through your insurance.

Kerri Sparling

Kerri Sparling is an accomplished writer and speaker who has been living with type 1 diabetes since the age of seven. She has given keynotes around the globe about life with diabetes, the influence of peer connections on health outcomes, and the power of sharing health narratives. Her work can be found at KerriSparling.com.

Diabetes Management Tip