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The FreeStyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitoring System: Getting Started on My New Health Plan

By Health, Technology, Thinking9 Comments

Hello all,

I’m a type 1 diabetic who has always struggled to have good control of my blood sugars.

I’ve been using a traditional glucose meter (a TEE2). Every diabetic will have a glucose meter. The meter tells the tester what their blood sugar is at the time that the reading is taken.


My traditional glucose meter the TEE2 by Spirit Healthcare Ltd.

Nothing had really changed in the management or treatment of my diabetes for the last decade. That was until just over a week ago. It started when I saw this photo in the media:


I saw this photo of Theresa May (the current Prime Minister) who is Type 1 diabetic. I wondered what it was on her arm. (I’ve added on the circle and arrow on to the photo.)

I posted the photo on Facebook and asked if anyone knew what it was. I quickly learned that it was a sensor for the FreeStyle Libre Glucose Monitoring System.


The FreeStyle Libre Sensor (left) and Reader (right).

The FreeStyle Libre Glucose Monitoring System is a revolutionary and life changing way to monitor blood sugars for diabetics.

A sensor that has a needle that goes into the interstitial fluid is placed on the back of an arm. The sensor on the skin is about the size of a two pound coin. The sensor takes a reading every minute and stores readings at 15 minute intervals. The sensor can store 8 hours of data. A sensor lasts 14 days.

A Reader downloads data from the sensor, including the most current blood sugar reading by placing the reader near the sensor (using Fear Field Communication (NFC)). You don’t even need a Reader if you have a phone with NFC. You can download an App available for both Android and Apple smartphones that allows you to use your phone as a reader. I haven’t got a phone with NFC, so would need a reader.


So I did some research. I read the entire FreeStyle Libre website including watching tutorial videos and FAQs. Then I read some posts on the Diabetes UK Forums. I watched every video about the FreeStyle Libre on YouTube.

I discovered that in November of last year (2017) the FreeStyle Libre became available on the NHS. However from reading the forums it seemed that availability depended on local criteria.

I decided I needed to trial the FreeStyle Libre as part of a new health plan to improve my health and prevent illness where possible.


I managed to buy two sensors at my local Boots Pharmacy. A sensor cost more than £50 each. This was because I thought I’d probably have to self-fund due to the cost to the NHS.


But I couldn’t buy a Reader anywhere. I rang my local Diabetes Specialists Centre. Their criteria for starting me on the FreeStlye Libre is: 1. is type one diabetic and 2. testing blood sugar 6-10 times a day. I met the criteria so they sorted me out with a Reader.

The Diabetic Specialist Nurse at my local Diabetes Centre was amazing. She sorted me a Reader. I saw the Diabetic Consultant in January and have been awaiting an appointment with a Dietitian. She said she’d chase this.

The Diabetic Specialist Nurse and I also arranged an appointment together in a few weeks time. This is so I can give her an update on my use of the FreeStyle Libre and so that she could write to my GP about putting the sensors on prescription. She informed me that if there was no improvement in my blood sugar control after 6 months, that my GP may choose to stop prescribing the sensors.

Excited I put on the sensor:


The sensor should be placed on the back of the arm. Start by cleaning with a pre-injection swab (provided with the sensor).


The sensor is assembled by pulling off the lid of the white tub, then matching up the gray lines and pressing down. Really easy and simple.


Place to your skin and press down. It’s painless and makes a clicking sound.


There it is. Sensor on.


I’ve chosen to put a 10cmx10cm dressing on my sensor to better protect it.


All set up. Quick, easy and simple. I’ll let you know how I go on.


I’ve been wearing the sensor and using the reader for a few days now. So here’s the pros and cons I’ve discovered so far:

Pros Cons
  • The sensor isn’t noticed by others being on the back of my arm (covered even by short sleeves).
  • I don’t feel the sensor in my arm at all. No discomfort or pain.
  • The reader is pocked sized.
  • It’s quick and easy. A quick swipe and you have your current blood sugar along with a line graph showing your blood sugar throughout the day (and night) from readings the sensor has taken.
  • It’s more discrete swiping the reader near your arm, rather than getting out your glucose meter and pricking your finger.
  • I can check my blood sugar as often as I want, without worrying about running out of testing strips.
  • The reader has a whole host of useful features including: reading alarm reminders, logbook, daily graph, average glucose, daily patterns, time in target glucose range (which you set when you setup the reader), sensor usage, add notes to go with readings (including units of rapid-acting insulin, units of long-acting insulin, food – carbs, medicine and exercise).
  • It tells you how many days you have before you need to change the senor on the home screen.
  • The daily graph along with arrows showing whether your blood sugar is increasing (and how quickly), stable or decreasing (and how quickly) are enabling me to make better bolus insulin adjustments. The food notes will enable me to better match the number of rapid insulin units I need to administer based on the number carbs I’ve eaten.
  • The reader is helping me to identify trends in my blood sugars and helping me prevent my blood sugar from rising too high.
  • FreeStyle have software for both Windows on Mac that uses the data to create reports that you can share with Health Professionals.
  • If you have a phone with NFC you can use an App on your phone rather than using the reader. The Apps appear to have all the same features as the Reader.
  • The reader comes with with a USB wire (for connecting to computers) and has a plug to charge it from mains. According to the manufacturer, a full charge lasts about a week with average use.
  • The sensor takes the reading from interstitial fluid rather than blood. This means that the reading is 10-15 mins behind. This is not an issue if your blood sugar is stable, but could be an issue if it’s dropping.
  • The reader feels a little flimsy and doesn’t come with any cover or pouch to protect it from damage and general wear and tear.
  • The DVLA don’t currently allow readings from this monitor to count as a before driving test. Therefore a traditional glucose meter and finger pricking is still required prior to driving.
  • The sensors are expensive, costing over £50 each. This is a Con whether you are paying for them privately or whether the NHS is being charged for them (as we pay for the NHS through our taxes).

I was going to do this blog posts as a vlog (video blog). But I couldn’t get my head around the video editing software, so opted for the written method instead. That’s why the photos of me look like image captures from a video, because they are.

The FreeStyle Libre Glucose Monitoring System is just one part of my new health plan. I also want to become SmokeFree for good and lose weight through a better diet and regular exercise.

Write soon,


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10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Mental Health

By Health2 Comments

Today (Tuesday 10th October 2017) is World Mental Health Day. So here’s 10 easy ways to improve your mental health:


Tuesday 10th October 2017 – World Mental Health Day

10. Regular Exercise
I don’t mean becoming a gym bunny or taking up running. Start walking. Walking is the easiest form of exercise. Take it slow and easy. Do it regularly, a couple of times a week. Gradually build up the distance. It’s even better if you can walk in places of natural beauty, as you’ll have the scenery to enjoy.

NHS Choices says:

Research shows that physical activity can also boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing your risk of stress, depression…

(From: NHS Choices, last accessed: Thursday 28th September 2017)

9. A Better Diet
We could all do with eating a bit better right? Add more fruit and vegetables to your diet – aim for five a day. Cut down on the amount of sugar and salt in your food. Try to drink 6-8 glasses of fluid per day (roughly 1.2 litres). You can learn more about diet on the NHS Choices – Eatwell Guide website.

8. Go Smoke-Free
Despite many smokers saying that a cigarette reduces their stress levels, Nicotine is a stimulant which means it has the opposite effect. It increases anxiety and stress levels, especially when those nicotine receptors in the brain need feeding. Becoming smoke-free has loads of other benefits as well.

7. Drink Less Alcohol
Alcohol is a depressant drug and affects your brain chemistry. Drinking a small amount of alcohol decreases inhibitions and can make you feel happier. But drinking heavily can lead to a lowered mood. It’s also not a good idea to drink if you are angry or upset, as it can make you feel worse and do things that you wouldn’t do sober.

You don’t have to stop drinking alcohol, just cut down on the amount. A good tip is to buy less alcohol. If you buy less alcohol you’ll have less to drink.

6. Meditate
Meditation is about clearing your mind and focusing on the present or a particular thought or emotion. Research suggests that daily meditation for just 20 minutes per day has benefits to mental health after just five days. Benefits of meditation include: lower stress levels, feeling more positive, improved concentration, improves the ability to be in the moment and helps with clarity of thought.

Start slow with meditation. Set an alarm for a short period of time, say 5-10 minutes and gradually build up the time. Gradually build up the frequency of meditation sessions to, so start with a couple of times a week and work towards daily practice. Like anything, your ability to meditate will get better with practice. So don’t be surprised if you struggle with intruding thoughts initially and don’t let them discourage you.

5. Recognise the Signs of Stress
Recognise when your stressed and take steps to de-stress. You can do this by taking a deep breath, focusing on your body, mind and feelings and look for signs of stress. I call this checking-in with myself and try to do it a few times a day. Signs of stress include:

How you may feel emotionally

  • overwhelmed
  • irritable and “wound up”
  • anxious or fearful
  • lacking in self-esteem

How you may feel mentally

  • racing thoughts
  • constant worrying
  • difficulty concentrating
  • difficulty making decisions

How you may feel physically

  • headaches
  • muscle tension or pain
  • dizziness
  • sleep problems
  • feeling tired all the time
  • eating too much or too little

(From: NHS Choices, last accessed: Friday 29th September 2017)

4. It’s okay to say NO
When we think about saying no to people, we imagine the world will end. But the reality is nothing like our imagination. In fact, most of the time, people are okay about it. Remember that it is okay to say no and say it when you need to.

Sometimes it’s better to say no rather than say yes. Otherwise we risk over committing ourselves and spread our limited energy too thinly.

3. Sleep
Sleep is so important for good mental health. Sleep allows our bodies to rest and repair. The average adult needs eight hours of sleep. But children and teenagers need much more. But it’s not just about the amount of the sleep you get, it’s also about the quality. Poor quality sleep lowers resilience and increases the risk of physical and mental illness. Get your shut-eye in and try to have a good sleep routine.

2. Off-Load
We all need people to talk to and to off-load to at times. Some off-load to their families, their spouses, their friends or their therapists. Find some people in your life who you can off-load to.

Important characteristics in people you choose to off-load to: they should give you a feeling of trust, they should have the ability to actively listen to what you say, they should be non-judgemental, they should be empathetic and they should challenge you when needed.

1. Relaxation
Write a list of things that help you relax. Then do some of the things on the list on a regular basis. For example, reading really relaxes me. So every night before bed, I read, even if it’s just for ten minutes.

Write soon,


NHS Choices – Benefits of exercise
NHS Choices – Eatwell Guide
Smokefree NHS
Drink Aware – Alcohol and mental health
NHS Choices – Does meditation reduce stress?
NHS Choices – How to deal with stress
One You – Sleep


I aim for posts on this blog to be informative, educational and entertaining. If you have found this post useful or enjoyable, please consider making a contribution by Paypal:

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