Health Monitors: How They Measure Up (cont.)

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“Certain strips will be unavailable to beneficiaries, and that’s going to be awful,” he says. 

We called six companies to see whether they would discuss pricing and whether they planned to make their testing supplies available (read: affordable) to Medicare recipients, but they all deferred to Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed), which is a trade association for medical suppliers. Unfortunately, AdvaMed wouldn’t talk about pricing strategies either, so we’ll have to wait until July 2013 to see what test strips are available to beneficiaries at the Medicare rate of 22 cents per strip.

LOSING CHEST STRAPS. Accuracy isn’t an issue in blood-glucose meters only. Manufacturers of heart-rate monitors still are introducing wrist-only, watch-style monitors as an alternative to traditional chest-strap heart-rate monitors, which can be cumbersome to wear while you exercise. However, in our hands-on evaluations, we found that even the latest wrist-only models deliver inaccurate readings. We believe that that’s because the watches tend to move around on wrists and lose their pulse reading. We didn’t find a monitor that solves the pulse-reading problem.

Omron’s HR-500U ($150), which was introduced in November 2012, is a notable wrist-only innovation, because it uses a unique optical sensor to measure the blood that flows through your capillaries and continuously calculate your heart rate instead of taking an intermittent pulse reading.

However, we found that the HR-500U still moved around the wrist and gave inconsistent readings at times. For instance, the HR-500U told us that our heart rate was 48, which is correct for a resting position. When we got up, though, it suddenly jumped to 72 during our handful of evaluations. That was incorrect, because that reading is too high from just standing after such a low resting rate. We called Omron for a response, but we hadn’t heard back as of press time.

The most unique heart-rate monitor that we’ve seen in the past 4 years is 4iiii’s Sportiiiis and Viiiiva combination ($199), which was introduced in July 2012. It’s a chest-strap heart-rate monitor that beams data to a thin receiver that can be attached to a pair of eyeglasses or sunglasses. The receiver flashes colored lights in the corner of the lens of your eyeglasses or sunglasses to indicate your current heart-rate zone and allows you to keep your eyes on the road while you run or ride a bicycle.

We gave this product a try, and it was easy to use. We easily saw the colored lights on our lens and instantly knew our heart-rate zone. At press time, we hadn’t heard of any other manufacturer that planned a similar device, but we’ll continue to monitor the situation. 

Roy M. Wallack has written about fitness equipment and health monitors for 24 years. He is the Los Angeles Times’ fitness-gear columnist and the author of four books about fitness.

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