Why Everyone Should Wear a CGM
First introduced in the late 1990s as an alternative to standard glucose testing, continuous glucose monitors are small, non-invasive devices. They stay on the back of your arm for two weeks and measure your glucose values 24/7.
The CGM was initially developed as a life-saving tool for people with diabetes, quickly becoming an invaluable tool for diabetes management. Over the decades, the sensors have improved, costs decreased, and the technology is now available to a broader audience.
CGMs are now an excellent tool for anyone who wants to optimize their metabolic health. Curious to learn more about the benefits of CGMs on healthy people? Read on to find out more, right from some of these people themselves!
What is Metabolic Health, and Why Is It Important?
Metabolic health is commonly defined as the absence of metabolic syndrome, an umbrella term for a cluster of risk factors that can lead to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Simply put, if you have high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat, or elevated cholesterol or triglyceride levels, you may be at higher risk of conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Most generally healthy people have likely never thought twice about their metabolic health, but it might surprise you that only 12 percent of Americans are actually metabolically healthy. That’s right—only 1 in 8 American adults currently has optimal levels of things like HDL cholesterol, body fat, blood glucose, and blood pressure.
How Do You Know if You're Metabolically Healthy?
One of the best ways to determine whether you're metabolically healthy is to visit your doctor, so don't avoid those routine checkups and lab tests. But since good metabolic health typically means having optimal levels of a few key health markers, here are a few things that may help you figure out how healthy you are:
- Daily average glucose <105 mg/dL (but remember, normal blood sugar levels vary depending on various factors, including age).
- Triglyceride values <150 (normal) and <90 (optimal).
- High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol values >60.
- Blood Pressure <120/80.
- Waist Circumference below 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men.
CGMs Encourage Optimal Health
CGMs are just one tool that can give you more insight into metabolic health, especially when it comes to monitoring your blood sugar levels.
According to Dr. Daniel Brito Guzmán, M.D., an assistant professor at the Heart and Vascular Institute at West Virginia University, understanding preprandial (pre-meal) and postprandial (post-meal) glucose levels can help patients learn what they can eat. It can also help them understand portions related to glucose elevation and use this information to maintain stable glucose levels.
Uncontrolled glucose levels and insulin resistance are a precursor to metabolic syndrome and diabetes mellitus. At the same time, controlled glucose levels can help reduce overstimulation of the pancreas and impact chronic inflammation.
How CGMs Benefit Healthy People
So, glucose monitoring is key to optimizing your health and preventing various chronic health conditions. For healthy people, CGMs are a relatively new biohacking tool. According to Dr. Brito, healthy individuals can benefit from glucose monitoring by understanding how the pancreas and insulin work to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
For example, if you’re planning on engaging in a strenuous exercise regime and your CGM detects your baseline glucose level as borderline low, you’d want to eat beforehand.
Here are some of the benefits to the test by speaking with a group of otherwise healthy individuals who used CGMs to optimize their health.
Professional endurance coach and endurance athlete - Ian Hosek
"I know how vital fueling for endurance events is and wanted to take my control to the next level. I wanted to try using a CGM to find out what works, what doesn’t, and how to maximize my performance when it matters most.
The application process was completely painless and super easy to follow the instructions. It was fascinating to see how my body reacts to different foods and how my glucose levels spike or don't spike.
I noticed that pre-meals, when I was low on energy, my glucose levels would reflect that. After some food and after they would normalize some, I would be back to normal and not feel sluggish anymore."
Triathlete and 2:53 marathoner - Ann Maher
I have experienced firsthand (while competing in marathons and triathlons) how important it is for athletic performance to keep blood sugar stable. I thought that wearing a CGM would provide valuable insight into my blood sugar levels during training to optimize performance in training and on race day. I was amazed by how much stress impacted my blood sugar levels. On days that I experienced significant life stress, my blood sugar was significantly higher than when I had less stress.
One of the biggest takeaways for me was how much stress impacts so much in our bodies, even blood sugar. I also did not realize that everyone's body responds uniquely to different carbohydrates and found it very helpful to see exactly which types of carbohydrates make my blood sugar "spike" and which keep my blood sugar in an optimal range.
I see a CGM as a valuable tool to see what is happening inside your body. It allows you to make tweaks to your daily habits to optimize your health. Seeing how your food choices and habits impact your body in real-time makes it easier to make changes and reach your goals."
Cardiologist and assistant professor at the Heart and Vascular Institute at West Virginia University - Daniel Brito Guzmán M.D.
"I was excited to try out a CGM because I wanted to know more about my eating behaviors and see patterns of glucose peaks.
When I started looking at the data, there were days that I could not understand why some foods peak differently than others, so having dietitian support available definitely helped guide the process and understand glucose behavior.
I purposely tried to eat a chocolate bar with chips and a sports drink, and my glucose peaked at 220. My diet has been pretty much controlled after that! It’s a perfect example of 'see it to believe it.' After using the CGM, I’d say it’s reliable, accurate, and definitely better than daily needlestick tests after meals, which is the current standard."
Doctor of physical therapy - Domenic Fraboni
"I have always been interested in how my body and blood sugar responds to different foods/eating habits and wanted to learn more and more about my body to find out how I could optimize my health.
It might not be the most surprising, but I learned that my late-night eating habit might not be the best for my blood glucose. Many nights, my glucose would top out at one or two a.m., which is not the most optimal for sleep. It was also interesting to see how much blood glucose spikes during high-intensity exercise.
My biggest takeaway is that blood sugar is yet another amazing tool to help you have more information about your body. You can use it to better understand how to optimize sleep, exercise performance, recovery, mental clarity, and many other aspects of our everyday lives.
I will definitely be revisiting the use of a CGM consistently. The CGM is an amazing tool to help you optimize many different areas of your everyday health. I would recommend doing at least a month of consistent tracking to anyone to learn more about their body—that knowledge will help empower us to make more informed decisions in how we take care of our bodies."
Registered Dietitian - Katie Kissane
"I worked for several years in a diabetes clinic that used CGMs with their patients, and I always thought it would be super interesting to wear one and see how my eating and exercise habits affect my glucose values. I expected that my values would be pretty normal, but I was also expecting that I would likely have some surprises regarding my values.
One of the first things I noticed was that some of my fasting workouts were causing a rise in my glucose despite being lower intensity. It was better for my glucose values if I ate something before exercising in the morning."