Thursday, December 01, 2005

Glucose meters

Today's diabetes news items I found interesting...
Test will try to fend off type 1 diabetes.
The Seattle Times reports about a treatment which may help type 1 sufferers stop or delay the progression of the disease.

Participating in aerobic routines and resistance training is as effective as medication
Macleans reports on a Canadian study which indicates that aerobic exercise and resistance training works as well as medication to control blood sugar.

Alzheimer's Could Be Diabetes-like Illness, Study Suggests.
Some intriguing research which indicates that insulin resistance in the brain is at the root of Alzheimer's disease.

There is so much I want to write about my battle with this disease it is hard to decide where to start. I finally sent in my rebate for my glucose meter today, so meters are on my mind.

There are some things about my current physician's approach to diabetes treatment which I like, and some which I do not. One of those things I dislike is his attitude towards testing. In the two years since I was diagnosed, he has never recommended that I test. On one hand he encourages me to be very proactive with my diet, and especially to exercise as much as possible, yet on the other hand he seems to expect me to be passive about tracking my condition. In the beginning, I would have agreed with this attitude. After all, I reasoned, what can you really do about a high BG reading anyway?

The fact is, you can do a lot about your BG readings through food choices, activities, etc. But the only way you can make intelligent choices is to test.

Because my doctor never recommended testing, he didn't recommend any particular tester. I didn't know much about them. Television ads are little help. They largely focus on the speed of results. This is a feature I do not understand. How much difference is there, really, between waiting five seconds for a result, and waiting seven seconds; or even ten or fifteen seconds? Are you so busy that you can actually get that much more accomplished in those two to ten seconds? Unencumbered with any predispositions or information, I shopped for a meter.

I began at my pharmacy, which is a Walgreens. They offered a number of different brands of meters. Two which interested me were on sale. One was a TrueTrack Smart System, which carried the Walgreens label, for about $17. The other was the FreeStyle for $10. I asked the pharmacist if he knew anything about them. He said that the main thing he noticed was that the FreeStyle strips were twice as much as the TrueTrack. Since my meter wasn't a prescription, I could see that the cost of strips would be a major expense. Even though the TrueTrack meter was more expensive, it seemed smart to purchase it, and save money in the long run on test strips.

I took the Walgreens meter home, and followed the instructions. Setting it up was more complicated than I imagined. There was a code chip to be inserted into the meter, which had to match the code on the test strips, and then further related adjustments (the geek in me is still curious about the need for test strip codes). Then I had to go through the control solution test (the need for which did make sense). Finally, I was ready to load the lancing device and test. My first result was 130. Since it was about two hours after a rather large breakfast, I thought this looked very promising.

I decided to start a routine of testing at bedtime, and upon awakening. The first night my result was 200. The next morning it was 277 (what!). For several days my numbers would jump around all over the place, but always high numbers (200+) in the morning. Then one morning after eating nothing but salad the previous day, and exercising the previous evening, I awoke to a reading of 230. This really shook me up. I walked downstairs, somewhat in a state of shock, thinking that it just couldn't be right. I immediately went back upstairs to retest. Now, less than five minutes later, the result was 177. A 50-point drop in less than five minutes? I could only conclude that I had a defective meter.

Another thing I didn't like about the Walgreens meter was that I frequently had to re-test. Even after lancing, and squeezing out a drop of blood large enough to fill a bucket, the meter would often fail. This required re-lancing (OUCH!), more blood, a new test strip… I began to wonder if I was really saving money after all.

I returned to Walgreens to purchase the FreeStyle. It was still on sale for $10, but next to it was the FreeStyle Flash. This promised a free data cable and software, plus it was smaller. Even though it was $74, it came with a $40 rebate. It also claimed to require the smallest blood sample on the market. Even though it was expensive, with more expensive test strips, I was compelled to buy it.

I liked the FreeStyle Flash almost right away. First of all, the coding thing was easier to deal with. Secondly, the lance was much less painful. Additionally, they seemed to tell the truth about the small amount of blood needed. Finally, the results I was getting seemed more realistic: while they were high, they never exceeded 200. Since I've owned it, I've tested about 60 times, and have never had to re-test once. The morning of my last doctor's visit the FreeStyle Flash pegged my FBG at 141. The test at the doctor's office came back as 140. That seems pretty accurate to me.

Here's what I learned: it pays to shop for meters. Accuracy and consistency should be the highest criteria. I have since discovered that Consumer reports rated 13 meters in their August, 2005 edition. They gave very good marks to the Onetouch, FreeStyle, Accu-Check, and BD Logic brands. The TrueTrack received the lowest marks of all the meters tested, receiving merely a "fair" rating, and was specifically marked down for consistency.

I've also learned that information about one's BG levels can really help in getting them lowered. My average has gone from about 144 to 137. This motivates me to work harder.


Blogger the beautiful diabetic said...

HI! Thanks for your comments on my blog! I can totally relate to the whole glucose meter thing! My latest entry was devoted to it as well!! I agree with you, the only way to manage it is to find what works for you. There are 10,000 opinions out there, so I have to find my own! I have come to believe that Diabetes is totally individual. No rhyme or reason. I have a friend who eats lots of carbs and has great readings, I eat more protein and low carb and have good who knows?? I will check in often!

12:57 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home