Smartwatch technology has come a long way in recent years. Gone are the days when your watch would mainly be used for tracking your steps. Now, you can use your smartwatch to measure your heart rate, blood oxygen level, breathing rate, ECG, stress level, and more.
Your smartwatch can also help you with your diabetes management, although, at present, there isn’t a smartwatch on the market that can measure blood glucose on its own. We’ve compiled a list to tell you the best smartwatch for people with diabetes available right now.
How can a smartwatch help diabetes patients?
Managing diabetes can be a challenge, but having all of the information you need can make it a lot easier. For example, one of the most challenging aspects of managing diabetes can be knowing exactly where your blood sugar level is.
The standard way of doing this at home has been unchanged ever since the invention of the blood glucose monitor. It involves taking a pinprick of blood, placing it on a fingerstick, and putting the finger stick inside the monitor to get a blood glucose readout.
People with diabetes need to do this several times a day, especially if they have hypoglycemia unawareness (not being able to feel the symptoms of a low blood glucose level.
Measuring blood glucose in this way can be inconvenient and unpleasant, and it also means that there will be relatively large gaps between each blood glucose reading. Because of this, there has been a big drive toward creating a way of measuring blood glucose levels without manually needing to take the readings.
This is where smartwatches can come in handy. We’ll get into the details in the next couple of sections. Still, many smartwatches will now link to a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device via an app on your smartphone to have constant access to your blood sugar level simply by glancing at your wrist. Many will also give you alerts if your blood sugar reading is below or above where it should be and have the ability to connect with emergency services quickly.
Another way smartwatches can be invaluable for someone who has diabetes is how they can help maintain a healthy lifestyle. Staying healthy is essential for everyone, but it is crucial for people with diabetes. Having access to heart rate, activity, blood oxygen level, sleep health, stress, and more can give diabetes patients the information they need to maintain a healthy lifestyle that supports their diabetes management.
Can smartwatches measure blood glucose levels?
Unfortunately, at this stage, the technology isn’t quite there for smartwatches to measure blood glucose directly. Instead, they need to connect to a continuous glucose monitor.
That isn’t to say that this technology will never be available. And in fact, Apple Watch users and Samsung Galaxy Watch users will be pleased to know that both companies are actively investing in the technology that could make this possible.
Your smartwatch uses optical technology to measure heart rate, blood oxygen, and other physiological levels. This involves shining a light through the skin of your wrist, which reacts differently depending on the volume of your blood. Your smartwatch can then use this information to calculate when your heartbeats happen.
This type of technology will likely need to be used to measure blood glucose using a smartwatch but are not yet at the point where it would be anywhere near accurate enough for a diabetic patient to take medication and make diabetes management decisions.
At this point, we don’t have any way of measuring blood glucose non-invasively, but continuous glucose monitoring has been a life-changing first step for many diabetes patients.
Understanding the difference between continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) and smartwatches
Let’s delve deeper into what continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) devices do, how they differ from smartwatches, and how the two can work together for effective diabetes management.
A CGM device uses a glucose sensor placed beneath the skin, often on the stomach or the underarm. It measures the interstitial glucose. That is the glucose found in the fluid between your cells. Because it isn’t testing your blood for sugar directly, the results are often delayed compared to a fingerstick.
The glucose sensor speaks to the CGM device to give you a blood glucose reading. You can see this reading on the device itself, and some communicate it to an app on your smartphone and then to your smartwatch.
For most CGM devices, you will need to take a fingerstick to confirm the blood sugar reading before deciding to take insulin. The Dexcom G6, however, is the first continuous glucose monitor that can directly make insulin decisions.
With this ability, it is now possible to imagine a future where an artificial pancreas that works without the need for user input or action is possible for many diabetes patients.
The Dexcom G6 is also the first CGM device to communicate with a smartwatch. Since then, many more CGM devices now have smartwatch compatibility.
The most common smartwatches that are compatible with a CGM device include:
- Apple Watch Series 7
- Samsung Galaxy Watch 4
- Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 3
- Fitbit Versa
- Fitbit Sense
- Ticwatch Pro
- Garmin smartwatches
Best smartwatch to sync blood glucose readings
Apple Watch Series
There were rumors that the Apple Watch Series 7 would have built-in non-invasive glucose monitoring, but this never came to pass. Instead, Apple Watch users can connect their smartwatch to their CGM device, such as the Dexcom G6, via their iPhone.
It isn’t currently possible to connect the Apple Watch directly to a CGM system. Instead, it has to be done via a compatible iPhone app. You can see your blood glucose level in real-time on your Apple Watch and a trend arrow and trend graph (with 1, 3, or 6 hours of data).
Having access to these trends can be invaluable for managing diabetes because it allows you to see the impact of lifestyle factors on your blood glucose level.
Alongside this specific diabetes feature, the Apple Watch will also give you information about other aspects of your health that can impact how you manage your diabetes. This includes an ECG, blood oxygen level, heart rate, sleep health, and more.
It can also, of course, be used as a fitness tracker. Staying fit can be essential to ensure that your diabetes is under control.
- Specific iPhone app
- Easy access to trend graphs
- Many other health and fitness features
- Short battery life of 18 hours
- Expensive compared to many other smartwatch devices
- WHY APPLE WATCH SERIES 7 — The most advanced Apple Watch features powerful health innovations like...
- EASILY CUSTOMIZABLE — Available in a range of sizes and materials, with dozens of bands to choose...
- INCREDIBLE DURABILITY — Built to be tough. It’s more crack resistant, it’s dust resistant, and...
- STAY CONNECTED — Send a text, make a call, listen to music and podcasts, use Siri, or call for...
- MOST ADVANCED HEALTH FEATURES — Keep an eye on your blood oxygen with a revolutionary sensor and...
Samsung Galaxy Watch 4
As with the Apple Watch, there were rumors that the latest Galaxy Watch would be able to measure blood sugar directly, but the technology isn’t there yet.
Because the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 uses Wear OS now that Samsung has partnered with Google, it will sync directly with the Dexcom app on your smartphone. Earlier models may not have this functionality, although there are some workarounds that you can use.
As with the Apple Watch, your Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 will sync with the smartphone app and display data about your current blood sugar level, a trend arrow, and a trend graph (1, 3, 6, or 24 hours). And you will also need to wake the watch for it to sync.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 has a wide range of health and fitness features that can help to support your diabetes management. Like the Apple Watch, it has ECG, blood oxygen level, heart rate, sleep tracking/coaching, calorie tracking, and activity/workout tracking.
However, alongside these features, it also has some additional standouts that may make it a good choice. For example, blood pressure monitoring can help you manage your blood pressure and diabetes.
You can also use the Galaxy Watch to monitor your body mass index (BMI). If weight management is part of taking care of yourself with diabetes, this can be a handy tool.
- BMI and blood pressure monitoring
- Double the battery life of the Apple Watch at 40 hours
- Easy syncing with the CGM app
- Only Galaxy Watches that use Wear OS can sync to the CGM app
- Relatively expensive
Fitbit Sense and Charge
The health monitoring on Fitbit has always been high, and when it comes to blood sugar monitoring, they have again gone above and beyond.
Whether you use a CGM or not, you can use your Fitbit and the associated Fitbit app to truly take control of your diabetes. For example, you can input your blood sugar readings manually if you have taken them with a standard blood glucose monitor or input the data from a CGM (at present, it only supports LifeScan products).
There is a dedicated blood glucose tracking feature within the Fitbit app that allows you to see or input your glucose readings, set personalized ranges, get reminders, and see at a glance how lifestyle factors might be impacting your blood sugar levels.
Having the blood sugar tracking features directly in the Fitbit app gives you that extra bit of control over how you manage your diabetes, and it allows you to see at a glance all of your health metrics together.
It also has a wide range of health and fitness features that can help you stay healthy. These include heart rate, blood oxygen, sleep tracking, calorie, activity tracking, and an ECG.
Fitbit’s stress management features use skin temperature to measure and track your stress levels and provide ways for you to relax.
- Integrated blood sugar monitoring in the Fitbit app
- Battery life of up to four days
- Much lower price than the Apple Watch and Galaxy Watch
- Doesn’t yet sync with the Dexcom G6
- No blood pressure or BMI monitoring
- BODY COMPOSITION ANALYSIS: Galaxy Watch4 is the first smartwatch to off body composition data right...
- BETTER SLEEP STARTS HERE: Wake up feeling refreshed and recharged with advanced sleep tracking; When...
- BE SMART ABOUT YOUR HEART: Take care of your heart with accurate ECG monitoring and keep an eye on...
- MAKE EVERY WORKOUT COUNT: Get the most out of every exercise session with advanced workout tracking...
- GO THE EXTRA MILE: Improve your runs with advanced running coaching technology; VO2 Max readings...
Many people see Garmin smartwatches as focused solely on fitness, but they are also great smartwatches for monitoring your health. And, when it comes to blood glucose monitoring, they might be the best smartwatch available right now.
This is because, unlike the other smartwatches we have looked at, with Garmin watches, you can connect directly to your Dexcom G6 without needing to go via a smartphone app.
This feature is likely to be rolled out to other smartwatches soon enough, and it can make a lot of difference. So, for example, you don’t need to keep your smartphone on you at all times. Instead, you can head out just with your Garmin watch and still have access to all of your blood glucose information. This is achieved via the dedicated Dexcom Connect IQ app on the smartphone itself.
Garmin has specialist watches specifically designed for people interested in different sports. Still, the core health features that you can expect from a Garmin watch can be seen across the entire range.
You will see heart rate monitoring, blood oxygen monitoring, stress tracking, energy tracking, breathing rate monitoring, sleep tracking, fitness, calorie tracking, etc.
- Direct access to a Dexcom G6 device without the need for a smartphone
- Compatible with both iPhone (IOS 7 and up) and Android phones
- Very long battery life, which is, on average, 21 days
- Some models of Garmin smartwatches can be costly
- Only compatible with Dexcom products
- GPS running smartwatch with advanced training features
- Evaluates your current training status to indicate if you’re undertraining or overdoing it; offers...
- Get free adaptive training plans from Garmin Coach, or create your own custom workouts on our Garmin...
- Provides advanced running dynamics, including ground contact time balance, stride length, vertical...
- Safety and tracking features include incident detection (during select activities) which sends your...
The future of technology for diabetes patients
Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you will know just how integral to your life tracking your blood glucose can become. The inconvenience of tracking your levels using fingersticks has driven a big push in technology to make the lives of diabetes patients much easier. Technology has come a long way, but we are still really in its infancy.
The goal of many of those involved in diabetes technology research is to create a full artificial pancreas system. This will look like a closed-loop system, and there are already variations of this on the market.
This system includes a continuous glucose monitor that speaks to an insulin pump. When blood glucose is too high, the CGM tells the insulin pump to release insulin and how much. These systems remove the need for insulin injections and reduce the number of fingerstick measurements that need to be taken.
Closed-loop CGM systems are only currently available for people with type 1 diabetes and not for those with type 2 or gestational diabetes.
And closed-loop systems are one side of the research into diabetes technology. However, one of the main issues with CGM systems, in general, is that they are still invasive. The sensor needs to be placed under the skin and changed approximately every week. And because of this, take-up is still relatively low.
A non-invasive way of measuring blood glucose would change the landscape of diabetes management entirely, but we aren’t quite there yet.
Samsung, Apple, and Samsung are all actively researching technology that would allow this type of blood glucose monitoring via their smartwatches. As with heart rate monitoring, this would likely use optical technology, but this time to measure the amount of glucose in the blood.
At present, the problem we have is the potential accuracy of this type of measurement. To be used by diabetes patients, the accuracy would need to be equivalent to a fingerstick test, and this is still something that is a long way off.
The most likely application of blood glucose smartphone monitoring soon would be for non-diabetic people to use as part of their general health monitoring.
Without advice on insulin dosage, smartwatch glucose monitoring may not be for diabetic patients for quite a long time.
And accuracy is most likely the reason why both Apple and Samsung abandoned plans to include blood glucose sensors in the Apple Watch Series 7 and Samsung Galaxy Watch 4. Both companies are highly motivated to ensure that their health monitoring features are accurate. In addition, many of them are FDA-approved, so they would be unlikely to release a feature that was inaccurate and not up to standard.
With that being said, blood sugar monitoring directly via a smartwatch is almost certainly going to exist in the coming years. The accuracy is getting better every day.
To wrap up
If you have diabetes, you will know firsthand how vital monitoring your blood glucose level can be. And a smartwatch can help you to keep on top of things. Whether you are planning to manually input your glucose information or have the watch communicate with your CGM device, you will be able to see at a glance what your blood glucose trends are over the course of days and weeks.
You will also be able to see how your lifestyle impacts your blood glucose, which can help you make positive health decisions. h can also help you with your diabetes management, although, at present, there isn’t a smartwatch on the market that can measure blood glucose on its own. We’ve compiled a list to tell you the best smartwatch for people with diabetes available right now.