Giving blood for your job sounds a little extreme, but it's exactly what our panel of volunteer staffers did for our latest tests of 21 blood-glucose meters. For our tests, phlebotomists took blood from staffers with and without diabetes and compared multiple readings from the meters against those from our lab glucose analyzer. But there were some perks for the 15 panelists, including Angry Birds and SpongeBob bandages and Oreo cookies!
Our tests found that most of the meters were quite accurate. The top nine models from our Ratings were all excellent. But the big news, especially if you pay for those expensive strips yourself, was that you can save a lot of money by opting for store brand meters from places like Target and Walmart.
Some of our best blood-glucose meters also have convenient features like auto-strip coding and fast results. In addition to our accuracy and repeatability tests, we also used a panel of six staffers with diabetes who checked out the meters and told us how easy they were to use. One of the panelists, a type 1 diabetic, said a backlit screen, big memory and the ability to download your readings to a computer are all desirable features. He doesn't have a big memory on his current meter, so he has to write out a week's worth of readings before he goes to the doctor, which he says is tedious.
He also mentioned a few other things he's learned over the last 20 years or so. Traveling this fall? He says to pack extras of everything, including lancing devices, lancets, test strips, and even an extra meter. He also checks his blood before he drives or exercises.
"All diabetics who take insulin need to test their blood sugars, at the very least, one or two times a day in order to adjust dosage and avoid low blood sugar," says Marvin Lipman, M.D., our chief medical adviser and a board-certified endocrinologist. "Those on oral medications, who are in good control, can test less frequently." Here are a few tips and tricks from Lipman on using blood glucose meters:
- Wash your hands with warm water to dilate your blood vessels and dry your hands briskly and thoroughly with a towel.
- Snap your fingers to increase the blood flow to your fingertips.
- Skip alcohol wipes or hand cleansers before the finger stick. They can interfere with the formation of a neat, rounded droplet of blood.
- Avoid picking a favorite finger. Use different fingers and even parts of the fingertip, in order to avoid eventual callus formation.
- Support your finger against a solid surface such as a wall or desk when using the lancet device.
Use our buying guide
for advice from our experts on what to look for in a blood glucose meter. And check with your insurer to see which brands they'll cover. One of our diabetic panelists said he uses his insurance's mail-order pharmacy, which allows him to spend just one co-pay on a three-month supply of test strips.