What is a CGM?

You may have seen people with a small circular device on the back of their arm and wondered “What is that?” “Why is that there?” It’s likely a CGM.

A CGM, or continuous glucose monitor, continuously measures glucose from our interstitial fluid (the fluid in the space around our cells).

A History of CGMs

CGMs were invented as an alternative to self-monitoring blood glucose (SMBG). Traditionally, patients with diabetes would self-monitor their sugar levels by pricking their fingers to check blood glucose at various times usually after meals, workouts, or sleep. Unfortunately, SMBG requires a rigid routine of finger-pricking throughout the day. To improve this, implantable glucose monitors were first developed in 1999 but had limited utility because they only lasted 3 days. Once CGM technology progressed enough to allow FDA-approved longevity of 10 days up to 6 months, CGMs became more widely used and recommended. Currently, CGMs are shown to increase quality of life by improving diabetes management decisions through optimized glucose control and a more personalized approach.

Best Time to Check Blood Sugar

With SMBG, measuring glucose at every moment of the day was impossible, so it was necessary to strategically choose moments after meals, workouts, or sleep to analyze glucose levels. With CGMs, there is no “best time to check blood sugar” – you can see your blood sugar at every moment of the day. Current CGM models transmit data to your phone by one of two methods 1) touching the phone to the CGM every 8 hours or 2) automatic transmission without the need to scan. This allows for easier modification of diet or insulin using real-time blood glucose feedback.

How do CGMs Work?

CGM devices use a sensor under the skin (not a needle!) to measure glucose levels in interstitial fluid. The sensor is usually covered by an adhesive patch. Information from the sensor is transmitted wirelessly to an app or device to visualize the data.

CGMs can be used by more than just people living with diabetes. They are beginning to be used for weight loss, diabetes prevention, gestational diabetes monitoring, metabolic health, and more.

CGMs for Weight Loss

One study explored whether CGMs led to behavioral modifications in food selection and physical activity. It found that 90% of participants felt their CGM contributed to a healthier lifestyle, 47% reported being more likely to exercise when they saw a rise in glucose, and 87% felt they modified their food choices based on using a CGM.

CGMs for Diabetes Prevention

CGM use might allow for early diagnosis of prediabetes or diabetes. Patients with a family history of diabetes or other risk factors typically receive blood glucose testing from their primary care provider on an annual basis or less frequently. With a CGM, they could see abnormal blood glucose patterns outside of this testing and take action to manage or prevent diabetes sooner.

CGMs for Gestational Diabetes Monitoring

Glucose management is important for a healthy pregnancy. Using a CGM during pregnancy can assure that glucose levels are within a normal or near-normal range. CGM use is safe for pregnant women with gestational diabetes and the use of a CGM for pregnant women with type 1 diabetes is associated with improved neonatal outcomes. CGMs provide more data and this data is easier to access than SMBG making it near effortless for pregnant women to monitor their glucose throughout the pregnancy.

CGMs for Metabolic Health

CGM programs offer insights into how eating foods with different glycemic loads and physical activity affect glucose responses. CGMs offer close to immediate biofeedback on different health-related behaviors allowing for an easy way to see changes. Although most of the evidence surrounding CGMs is for diabetes management, many experts and companies are promoting CGMs as a means to improve health behavior, learn more about individuals’ responses to food, and find a personalized/optimized approach to nutrition and exercise.

CGMs are an incredible technology that greatly improved the lives of people living with diabetes. They also offer an opportunity to access the body’s glucose response to nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress, and more all on phone screens without a doctor’s appointment. The medical community would like more data on the application of CGMs in healthy people and we expect more research to be done in the coming years. Currently, a prescription is required to obtain a CGM in the US, but there are companies that offer a prescription with the purchase of one of their programs. Stay tuned for more information on these programs, how to choose the right CGM/program for your unique health needs, and of course, a new Takeoff Health quiz!

This is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Go to the emergency room if you are experiencing a life-threatening medical emergency.

Disclaimer: Takeoff Health may make a small commission from some of the links above.


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