Like Having a Life Coach on My Arm


 

Wouldn’t it be nice to know if that cup of coffee had an impact on your glucose and if so, how much? What about if you wanted to know how a heavy weightlifting session affects your blood sugar compared to cardio? Or, maybe you already have theories about what causes your glucose to fluctuate but need that validation?

There’s a device for that. It’s called a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). CGMs track your glucose over a period of time, instead of just a snapshot from a fingerstick. You can see your glucose levels at various points of your day and learn more about your diabetes. For example, if you’re used to testing your glucose before meals and two hours after, a CGM can show you how your blood sugar acts between those periods.

For people with Type 2 diabetes like Rob Taub, a continuous glucose monitor has helped him learn more about his diabetes.

“It’s like having a life coach on my arm,” said Rob, who uses the Freestyle Libre 14 day system. “It’s there to help you and make you aware of what’s going on. So, if I know my glucose is at 11.1 mmol/L200 mg/dL, I’m not going to eat something that’s going to cause it to rise higher. You can really see how different foods affect you.”

Gaining Insight into Type 2 Diabetes

Rob started wearing the Freestyle Libre in 2017 after being contacted by Abbott Diabetes Care, the CGM device makers. As an ambassador for the American Diabetes Association and a diabetes writer and public speaker, he was excited to try new technology that would help him learn more about his diabetes beyond finger-pricking.

For some people with Type 2 diabetes, the idea of finger-pricking to check blood sugar multiple times per day is daunting. Rob, who was pricking his fingers two to three times per day is no exception to that and shares how wearing the Freestyle Libre has changed that for him.

“When I was diagnosed with diabetes about 15 years ago, I had to use fingersticks,” said Rob. “It didn’t really give me insight into my diabetes that I feel is really necessary to effectively self-manage.”

Another form of stigma people with Type 2 diabetes face is making food choices. In general, people with Type 2 diabetes are often told what to eat and what not to eat or may face pressure from peers to follow a certain diet to manage their condition. Rob says that continuous glucose monitoring offers an opportunity for people with T2D to truly see there is no one-size-fits-all way of eating.

“We’re all different, we’re not abstractions,” said Rob. “I and another person with diabetes could have completely different reactions to food. If I have white rice, it’s going to have the same impact if I have Domino sugar; I can’t have it. Same with sweet potatoes, despite some saying it’s good for us. But someone else? Their experiences could be the opposite of mine. Still, there are things I can enjoy, like a Snickers bar.”

Improved Communication with Providers

Having a good amount of data from the Freestyle Libre has helped Rob have more productive interactions with his providers — during and outside of office visits. When Rob scans his Freestyle Libre, his providers can see what his numbers are. They also can review his data to identify trends and make recommendations to help Rob continue to improve his self-management.

“I think [having this data] leads us to have better and more open conversations,” said Rob. “My numbers were getting higher when the pandemic started and I wasn’t exercising as much. I told my doctor and he put me on Ozempic, which has really helped me get back on track.”

Using FreeStyle Libre to Start Positive Conversations

Something people with Type 2 diabetes can relate to: the anxiety from checking their blood sugar in public. While there shouldn’t be any shame for checking your glucose levels, no matter the situation, deciding to test glucose in front of others is stressful for a couple of reasons. One may not want to be deal with stares or make others feel uncomfortable with blood; second, the potential for someone to get a peek at the number on the meter and judge the person with diabetes.

Some people like Rob may choose to excuse themselves to a bathroom or another private to check their glucose in social settings. Fortunately, having the Freestyle Libre now allows Rob to feel more comfortable checking his glucose in front of others and helps him check it more discreetly. Also, wearing the device has sparked more positive conversations about how he manages Type 2 diabetes.

“I can scan my reading right through my clothing using the reader or my iPhone,” said Rob. “It’s also a conversation starter. Someone will ask me how it works and it gives me a chance to talk about diabetes and how technology helps us.”

This content was made possible with support from Abbott, the makers of FreeStyle Libre 2, a Founding Partner of Beyond Type 2.

WRITTEN BY T'ara Smith, MS, Nutrition Education, POSTED 04/05/21, UPDATED 08/27/21

T’ara was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in July 2017 at the age of 25. Since her diagnosis, she focused her academic studies and career on diabetes awareness and living a full life with it. She’s excited to have joined the Beyond Type 1 team to continue her work. Two years later, T'ara discovered she'd been misdiagnosed with Type 2 and actually has LADA. Outside the office, T’ara enjoys going to the movies, visiting parks with her dog, listening to BTS, and cooking awesome healthy meals. T’ara holds an MS in Nutrition Education from American University.