If you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, monitoring your blood glucose levels at home is critically important.
That means you need a glucometer that’s portable, accurate, easy to use, and won’t break the bank with the cost of its test strips.
Current Best Glucometers
Best All-Round Glucometer
Simpler is better — not only for kids and the elderly, experts say, but for anyone with diabetes who uses a glucometer.
Fewer steps mean fewer mistakes, so the best meters are those that make the basic process of testing your blood sure as foolproof as possible: Insert test strip, prick finger, apply blood, read result.
The tiny FreeStyle Lite (Est. $18) glucometer — itself no bigger than a pack of gum — goes one step further by requiring only 0.3 microliters of blood for each sample.
Users love the small sample size, which they say makes the testing process much less painful and intimidating.
They also appreciate that the meter beeps once you’ve added enough blood and that if you don’t get enough blood onto the test strip with your first try, you have up to 60 seconds to add more blood; this cuts down on the number of wasted test strips, one of the biggest costs for any glucometer user.
Even more important than its comfort and user-friendly features, the FreeStyle Lite receives top scores for accuracy and repeatability in clinical trials and from a leading consumer research organization.
There’s no need for manual coding when you open a new set of test strips, which helps cut down on possible errors.
Other features that make the FreeStyle Lite so popular with users include a simple three-button operation, a backlit screen an and illuminated test strip port for discreet testing in the dark, with storage for up to 400 readings with calculated averages.
The FreeStyle Lite also has a data port that lets you download your readings into a Windows or OS X computer using FreeStyle’s Auto-Assist desktop program.
The program compiles several types of reports including meter settings, meal event averages, daily statistics and a snapshot report.
Finally, as tiny as it may be, users have only good things to say about the FreeStyle Lite’s durability; some reviewers have been using the same meter for years with no problem.
What initially look like complaints about the meter often turn out to be unhappiness with just the lancing device. Users don’t like that it requires you to change the lancing needles manually.
The FreeStyle Lite’s Test Strips (about $30 per box of 50) are on the pricey side but Abbott, which manufacturers the FreeStyle Lite, offers a co-pay program that limits your payments to as little as $15 per box of 50 strips if you qualify.
If the FreeStyle Lite’s test strips or the meter itself are too tiny for you, consider the Accu-Chek Aviva Plus, (Est. $16) my runner up in this category.
The Accu-Chek Aviva Plus’s test strips are a little larger than most others, and both strips and meter are so easy to hold and manipulate that the Accu-Chek Aviva Plus was the first glucometer to earn an “Ease of Use” award from the Arthritis Foundation. If you happen to touch the testing surface on the strip, it won’t skew the results and thus waste the test strip.
The Accu-Chek Aviva Plus also has a solid reputation for accuracy, with a slew of clinical trials and an “Excellent” accuracy score from a leading consumer research group to back it up, although its repeatability score is a notch below that of the FreeStyle Lite.
The Accu-Chek Aviva Plus requires a reasonable 0.6 microliter blood sample — about twice that of the FreeStyle Lite — and returns results in about the same amount of time (5 seconds).
Other notable features include a 500-reading memory function with calculated averages, before- and after-meal markers, and four customizable alerts. Earlier versions of the Accu-Chek Aviva required you to enter a code every time you opened a new vial of test strips, but the latest version does not require coding.
The Aviva Plus comes with an infrared data transfer port for transferring your data to a computer, but most people will have to purchase the appropriate infrared cable (which is strictly optional). If you do spring for the infrared port, you can manage, track, analyze and share your downloaded readings with Accu-Chek’s Diabetes Management System (PC only).
Note that the testing strips for the Accu-Chek Aviva Plus are more expensive than those for the FreeStyle Lite, starting at about $46 for a package of 50. However, Roche Diagnostics — the company behind Accu-Chek — also offers a savings program to make their test strips more accessible to consumers.
Best Cheap Blood Glucose Meter
The Value Pack Starter Kit (photo above – $34) includes:
- Contour Next EZ Meter
- Contour Next Test Strips, 100 test strips
- 100 Slight Touch 30g Lancets
- Lancing Device with 5 adjustable depths
- Alcohol Pads
- Bayer Clinilog logbook
- Contour Next Control Solution
- Carrying Case
The Contour EZ glucose meter is one of newest blood monitoring devices offered by Bayer Corporation.
- Auto Coding: This meter is auto coding. Most meters are today, but nonetheless, it is worth noting.
- Personable Hi/Low Settings: You can set upper and lower limits that you want the meter to let you know if you exceed them. Of course, you can keep track of this yourself, but it is nice to just program it into the meter.
- 5 Second Testing Results: Very quick results.
- Test Strips: The test strips are new and perform up to 7 repeat checks for every test. The thought is that they provide greater accuracy than other strips. I have written extensively on glucose meter accuracy on this site, however, I have also included a link to the FDA’s 510(k) report on the meter’s accuracy.
- High Altitude: The meter remains accurate up to 20,674 feet. Many meters tap out at approximately 10,000 feet. However, still realize that the meter has to be at least 41 degrees Fahrenheit o work properly. So, don’t think you can just whip it out at the top of a mountain during a ski trip and expect it to work perfectly!
- No AST: This meter cannot do any alternative site testing. This is a real draw back for people who do a lot of testing. Fingertips get sore fast.
- Display: The display is the standard utilitarian black and white. Nowadays, people are really getting used to easy to read color displays. This “new” meter does not follow this trend.
The biggest change for this meter is the new test strips. They are called the Contour Next Test Strips. The claim to fame is that the strip evaluates a blood sample 7 times to deliver more accurate results.
The Contour Next EZ can be used with Bayer’s GlucoFacts Deluxe. You can download your data to your computer and track your results with various graphs, etc. Glucofacts is a good software program and is one of the few that are MAC compatible.
Best Talking Blood Glucose Meter
The Prodigy Voice continues its dominion over other talking glucose meters for very good reason: It’s the only model we’ve seen that can talk you through every single aspect of its use, from setup to calibration, testing and accessing the memory function.
- No Coding
- Designed for Blind and Low Vision
- Audible Set-Up
- Accurate Results in 7 Seconds
- Alternate Site Testing
- NEW! USB Port for easy downloading
The Prodigy Voice retails for about $45 and has excellent reviews.
Important Notes About Glucometers and These Reviews
- Accuracy matters most in a glucometer.
- If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, checking your blood sugar levels is key to managing the disease and maintaining your health.
- Even if you don’t have diabetes, your doctor may ask you to check your blood sugar periodically if you have a history of the disease or have borderline high numbers.
- There are other reasons for checking your blood sugar, too; for example, glucometers are popular with those who are following special diets — sugar detoxes, low-carb and ketogenic diets in particular.
Accuracy and consistency (also called repeatability) are the top features to look for in a glucometer. These should take priority over the fancy bells and whistles you can find on some modern blood glucose meters.
For diabetics, getting the readings right — or at least within a reasonable range — can be a matter of life and death, or at least the ability to consistently feel good.
I look beyond FDA and ISO compliance.
Just because a home blood glucose meter meets the current federal standards doesn’t mean it’s the best; as of February 2016, those standards allow the devices to be wrong by as much as 20 percent.
To make my choices, I looked at what independent testing organization and clinical trials have revealed about these glucose monitors’ accuracy and dependability, plus user feedback about how well they perform in the real world.
(The Food and Drug Administration has, for several years, been pushing for stronger international standards for glucose meters. FDA officials say they may switch to higher federal standards on their own if necessary, but it hasn’t happened yet. Some clinical trials, however, have begun evaluating glucometers against ISO standard 15197:2013, which requires greater, more consistent accuracy than the 2003 standard previously used for clinical trials. We will continually update the FDA’s progress in subsequent reports.)
Glucometer technology has come a long way in recent years and continues to improve, with smart phone compatibility, more storage options and even less blood necessary for a reading.
Regardless of technology, ease of use is an important consideration. Experts say this is not just for your convenience. The more complicated the process gets, the greater the chance that you’ll get errors. Even with the simplest of meters, though, you’ll still want to pay careful attention to the manufacturer’s directions to ensure the most accurate results.
If you’re sight-impaired — a common complication of diabetes — a talking glucose meter can literally talk you through the entire process. A good talking meter lets those with limited sight do everything — from setup to testing and recording your results — without assistance.
The cost of the meter doesn’t always represent the lon
Even if your insurance company covers the cost of diabetic supplies, be aware that it may only cover a limited selection of brands — so check your coverage before you buy.
If you don’t have insurance, you can often get a free meter and a sample batch of test strips from your doctor or even directly from the meter manufacturer.
Watch out for the cost of test strips, though — they are the greatest overall expense in your diabetic testing kit.
The test strips that accompany the monitors in this report range from $8 to $50 or more per box of 50. If you test your blood sugar four times a day, that supply will last you a little less than two weeks. With more expensive brands, the cost of test strips can easily clear $1,500 per year.
The good news is that some of the manufacturers with more expensive test strips offer co-pay programs to help bring the cost per 50 strip box of test strips. These include Abbott Diabetes Care and Roche Diagnostics, which manufacture two of the highest-performing meters in this report.
Some drugs and glucose meters can be a deadly combination. Certain drugs can cause errors with glucose meters that use a specific type of test-strip technology (known as GDH-PQQ), resulting in dangerous — potentially fatal — false readings. The FDA has issued an alert, and you should always consult with your care provider if you have any questions or concerns.
How I found the best glucometers
There are a good number of expert evaluations as well as clinical trials of home blood glucose monitors. These usually measure accuracy, ease of use and convenience. At retail sites like Amazon.com and Walmart.com, users of glucose meters — sometimes hundreds — weigh in with helpful real-world information about using these monitors.
Through my research for this article, I ordered Reverse Diabetes Today , and found it to be currently the most scientific, clinically-proven program for reversing diabetes.
This program covers all aspects of diabetes treatment, giving you a complete protocol that delivers proven results, and I know you will find it to be a valuable tool for escaping the downward spiral of diabetes-related complications.
Please share your experience with blood glucose meters; I’d love to hear what you’ve used and how well it worked for you.
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