I wanted to collate health data for my autonomics disorders specialist appointment. To gather that health data, I had to get my hands on a few devices to achieve my aim. I only get to have an appointment with my autonomics specialist once a year, unfortunately.
Thus, I invested in getting my hands on three devices that’d help collect the health data I thought I’d need. The three devices I used to try and gather this health data were the Fitbit Charge 4, the Beurer BM58 upper arm blood pressure monitor, and the Braun ExactFit 3 upper arm blood pressure monitor. Thus, this article is a review of these three devices.
Health Data: Fitbit Change 4
To be honest, the Fitbit Charge 4 was a massive letdown from the start. As soon as I got the Fitbit Charge 4 and strapped it on my wrist, things already weren’t going as planned. I bought the Fitbit Charge 4 after watching several review videos of fitness trackers and decided on the Fitbit Charge 4 because of two features it was meant to come with it: blood oxygen saturation and blood glucose levels.
I wanted the blood oxygen saturation feature because my dizziness and balance symptoms could have been caused by low blood oxygen. I’m currently being investigated for PoTS, with tests checking blood pressure but not blood oxygen-related issues. Thus, the blood oxygen saturation feature might have filled a space in my heath data and could have helped progress my diagnosis.
However, this feature wasn’t available right out of the box and when it finally did become available, it only tracked blood oxygen saturation while you’re asleep. Furthermore, this feature only tracks blood oxygen saturation if it’s over 90%, anything below that doesn’t track. Therefore, this feature was completely useless for my needs.
For some reason, Fitbit like to get its users to vote on features that might be useful, rather than just making it available. So, if you’d like to vote for the blood oxygen saturation feature to go 24/7 rather than just while you’re asleep, you can vote for that by clicking here.
As for the blood glucose feature, that could have helped monitor my reactive hypoglycemia. This blood glucose feature could have generated potentially useful information on my blood sugar levels throughout the day for the health data I was gathering. The bonus of which might have meant I’d no longer need to do finger-prick tests for my GlucoMen Areo blood glucose monitor, which I really hate doing.
However, this feature is only available for people living in the US. Now, I don’t know how accurate the blood glucose feature is, but I could have tested it against my GlucoMen Areo to have found out. But no matter how many times I ask Fitbit, they won’t allow me to have access to this feature to monitor my health problems. Fitbit also won’t tell me when they’ll roll this feature out to other countries and instead keep telling me to go to their community forum to get people to vote on the feature.
Why should we have to vote on a feature that has been freely available to people in the US since Feburay 2021? A feature that my smart device is already primed to use? I can already choose the unit output for this feature, I just don’t have the firmware to activate this feature. So for now, the blood glucose feature is restricted to US customers only.
Both these features might have been beneficial to my health issues and for pooling my health data for my doctors. It could have also helped improve my quality of life and allowed me to avoid doing fingers pricks, which is painful and causes bruising to my fingers.
It also became very apparent that something was wrong with how my Fitbit Charge 4 worked out its numbers. Somehow I was burning over 4,000 calories a day while sitting on my sofa, stuffing my face, watching films, and binging TV shows. I had to go through an annoyingly lengthy complaint about this with Fitbit, who at first wouldn’t accept that it was a problem until I bombarded them with research papers on the average daily calories burnt for a male adult, which is only 2,500 calories. Such a waste of time.
What’s worse, on one day, I managed to clock up over 15,000 calories burnt in a day, even after getting Fitbit to fix the calories burnt range on my Fitbit Charge 4. I’m not even sure that is humanly possible unless you’re competing in the world’s strongest man. Granted, I walked to a picnic location in a park, but that’s barely 100 calories total for such a gentle walk to and from.
I’m still waiting on Fitbit to provide me with an answer to this question. An answer I’ve been trying to get from them for several months now.
I wish that this was the end of the problems with my Fitbit Charge 4, but it wasn’t. Somehow I was also clocking up over 3,000 steps a day while barely leaving my sofa. I was getting rewards for the steps I was taking from Fitbit without actually walking anywhere. Thus, a substantial amount of the data generated by my Fitbit Charge 4 was useless.
Looking at the data for 01/05/2021, I somehow clocked 5,134 steps with zero minutes of very active activity or fairly active activity. I’m not even sure how I clocked up any light activity when the only things I did that day were sitting on the sofa and occasionally going downstairs to the kitchen and the ground floor to get the post.
Because of this issue with my calories and steps, I didn’t want to export any of that useless data for my health data collation. Instead, I only wanted to gather the data from the exercise sessions I purposely tracking using the Fitbit Charge 4 when I manually start and stopped a workout tracked session with the device.
However, for some reason, Fitbit doesn’t allow you to do that. I can see that data on the Fitbit app on my phone and Fitbit’s website, but that’s all I can do with it. I can’t extract this exercise data to add to the other health data I was collating for my cardiologist, endocrinologist, and ENT dizziness specialist doctors. I wanted this data to be combined with the blood pressure and blood glucose tests I did before and after exercising.
In the end, I had to manually input the data from my Fitbit dashboard, which was annoyingly time-consuming. I really don’t understand the reasoning behind Fitbit not thinking it’s worth having a feature so you can extract this kind of data. Instead, Fitbit thinks it’s better you get a data dump of everything “exercise” related, which is everything from each day like your daily steps, which is utterly useless. This, as I’ve said, is a problem as that data is worthless when I can still routinely burn 3,000+ calories and take over 3,000 steps all without leaving my sofa.
No matter how many times I complain about how inaccurate the data is to Fitbit, nothing is done to fix it. Hence why I only wanted my logged exercise sessions’ data and only that data. I reached out to Fitbit to sort out this feature, but they just told me to go to their forum where I saw other people have been making the same complaint for a few years, so it’s likely never going to happen, even if it would be extremely useful.
There are a few good things about the Fitbit Charge 4, I guess. The sleep data will give you some insight into how well you’re sleeping. However, if you export the data to gather your health data into a spreadsheet as I did, you’ll want to delete the column ‘Number of Awakenings’ because that is nowhere near accurate.
Using your Fitbit to record your proper workout sessions also allows you to set targets, which is useful if you want to track improvements. It’s just exporting that data that’s the problem. The Fitbit Charge 4 also has a good battery life.
To sum up
I found Fitbit and the Fitbit Charge 4 pretty useless for collecting health data or any worthwhile data. I wanted to monitor my blood sugar for my health, but that feature is only available to Americans, which they’ve had since February 2021. I wanted to extract my exercise session data only, but that’s a feature that doesn’t exist for some reason.
In short, there are a lot of things wrong with the Fitbit Charge 4 and Fitbit in general. However, the Fitbit Charge 4 becomes useful when you use it during exercise sessions and the insights into your sleep may help you get better sleep in the future.
All in all, I don’t think the Fitbit Charge 4 is worth the money when it’s only useful when you’re asleep or when you’re actually doing an exercise session. All the other data it produces is just so wildly unreliable. If it wasn’t for the fact that I was desperate to gather health data for my doctors, I wouldn’t have bought one. Its saving grace of a long battery life, where you only have to charge it up once every seven days, is handy, but doesn’t save it from its many issues.
It should be noted that this is the only activity tracker device I’ve ever used, so this may be one of the best available, but I hope that’s not the case.
For all the reasons mentioned, I give the Fitbit Charge 4 2/5 stars.
Health Data: Beurer BM58
When I saw the circumference suggestion for the blood pressure monitor for the Beurer BM58, I assumed that had to be wrong. I measured my arm and assumed I must have got it wrong with how they’re calculating the circumference because I’ve always seen my arms as scrawny, child-like arms. I even watched a video of a woman using it in Beurer’s promotional content for the device on YouTube. Because I thought if it fit her arms, then it should fit mine, as I have scrawny arms.
Turns out, I was wrong, which likely means two things. One, I may have a visual body dysmorphia of my arms, as my arms have always been scrawny to me. But the fact that the blood pressure cuff is too small implies that my arms are bigger than they appear to me. And two, that this device isn’t intended for use on adults, which seems niche.
The blood pressure cuff on the Beurer BM58 was tiny. I’m not sure who they designed it for, but it seems unlikely to be able to fit any average built male. It didn’t fit my arms and it only just fit my wrists, which I’ve always thought were small. Thus, it’s likely that the Beurer BM58 could only be used on children and maybe some women, but not all.
Because the cuff was so tiny, I wasn’t able to use the device so I can’t give it a proper review. However, because it couldn’t be used by the majority of the adult population either, given the tiny cuff size, I’m going to have to give it 1/5 stars. We shouldn’t have to buy a separate cuff so adults can use the device. The details for the device should clearly state that this device is only suitable for children when using the cuff provided.
Health Data: Braun ExactFit 3
I returned the Beurer BM58 and got a Braun ExactFit 3 blood pressure monitor instead. The Braun ExactFit 3 came with two cuffs, with the small one having the same tiny cuff that came with the Beurer BM58. However, the large one fit me and gave me a lot of extra room should my arms ever bulk up more. Thus, with a cuff suitable for an adult, I was finally able to start tracking my blood pressure to add to my growing health data.
The Braun ExactFit 3 is easy to use once you’ve set it up. The device also allows you to save health data for two users, user A and user B which you can pick using a simple switch on the front of the device. To use the Braun ExactFit 3, all you need to do is put the cuff on and connect it to the device, make sure the right user has been selected, then tap the button to turn it on, and then tab the same button again to start the blood pressure test. That’s it, job done.
The device is capable of sorting both users’ data, which can be exported via a USB cable. One downside, which isn’t much of an issue, is that the carry case for the Braun ExactFit 3 is very thin and isn’t well designed to hold the device. The carry case won’t offer much protection to the device if you need to carry it with you.
However, you could, if you were willing to, keep some of the foam packagings from the box when it was delivered and keep that in the carry case for added protection. If you don’t need to carry it with you, then the carry case is fine to keep it all nicely packed away at home.
The Braun ExactFit 3 is a really simple blood pressure monitor device that comes with two cuffs, the larger one for adult users and a smaller one for children. The two cuff options is an advantage when compared to the Beurer BM58 if you want to be able to use the device right out of the box and not incur the additional cost of buying a second larger compatible cuff.
The Braun ExactFit 3 has been extremely useful for gathering my BPM health data for when my dizziness symptoms spike or when my other health symptoms flare-up. It has also been useful for seeing how my BPM changes before exercise, just after exercise, and 10-30 minutes after exercise. Thus, the Braun ExactFit 3 has allowed me to generate a lot of potentially useful health data that simply wouldn’t exist without it. Therefore, I give the Braun ExactFit 3 5/5, I would definitely recommend this device.
The following two great people donated to my GoFundMe to help me buy a blood pressure monitor in time to generate data for my specialist doctor’s appointment for 30/07/2021. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to gather the important health data. So please check these two great people out.
Books2Read – Taryn Allie
Taryn Allie is an author of two poetry books titled ‘The Book of Bad Poetry‘ and ‘The Book of Not So Bad Poetry‘. Both books are available from most eBook stores. They’ve also just started blogging again; you can find their blog at: https://cosmictaryn.co.za.
A personal blog writing about my personal life, thoughts and feelings. This includes, but isn’t limited to, mental health, web development, work, community building, music, gaming and much more.
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36 thoughts on “Health Data: A Triple Review Of Health And Medical Devices”
Great post! I recently bought a blood pressure machine to monitor it, and luckily the cuff was okay on that- but it sounds like the one you got was a bit of a disappointment. Thanks for sharing, this is very helpful 🙂
Yeah, the first one was a massive let down
Great post! I gotta say, while I haven’t used the other two, my fitbit has been a major letdown since I got it. It just seems to make up data all over the place! That’s so awesome you were able to get your blood pressure monitor through those generous donations! I hope your appointment went well.
You’d think now that Google owns it they’d be better at generating accurate data, but I guess not
Thank you for sharing such a detailed post, I’ve been looking for a new fitness tracker for similar reasons to you.
I’ve tried many over the years & unfortunately all of the straps break & they’ve been a total faff to repair/replace.
I hope your appointment was positive.
Pixee ♡ | Thats What Pea Said
That’s annoying that the straps keep breaking, were the devices any good apart from that issue?
We have a blood pressure machine as Fred has been pretty sick and we had to monitor her heart closely, but it’s a very simple yet effective model we have. Regarding the fitbit, I had one and gave it away…the little thing would not count enough steps as I made them through the day because of my very short legs and plenty of stepping. My mother on the other hand (I gave it to her) loved and still swears by it to this day for analysing her step count and sleep.
I believe some Fitbit’s allow you to calibrate them to your own specific step length
I think FitBit went downhill when google bought them.
Chances are they were always bad
I thought of using health apps on my iPhone and downloaded some apps but didn’t really stick to it. Never tried this and I guess I won’t have to. Thank you for the review!
It would depend on the health app
I have never used anything remotely like Fitbit, but I have heard of it so I am both surprised and amazed that it was as useless as it turned out to be for you! It is a tough world where you cannot go into buying something with the knowledge your money will be well-spent. Love that you bought one thing that did what it is meant to and that the Braun gives you accurate results!
Tracking your own medical data is an awesome way to go into appointments with a better understanding of your body and condition. Best of luck!
It certainly seems like everything I buy recently requires me making a lot of complaints due to them not working as they should. They don’t make things like they used to
I was really eager to read this as I have a Fit Bit and it’s such a let down, but I was interested to see what you thought of the 4. However, I can see that nothing has changed. My Fit Bit strap disintegrated after 6-months so now I just keep in in my pocket so it can count my steps. Also, when I’m pushing a pram or a shopping trolley is doesn’t track the steps??? How rubbish! So, as much as I need a new one, I’ll keep looking for a step counter that lasts longer than 6-months. Fit Bits suck 🙁
You’re the second person to have an issue with the straps of a fitness tracker, I’ve yet to have that issue yet myself. I’m guessing it won’t track your steps as well in your pocket with a trolley because your steps are likely smaller and slower?
Out of interest, which Fitbit do you have?
That’s really interesting that the feature they’re so proud of isn’t actually helpful for people wanting it for health purposes. thanks for sharing this
Thanks for commenting
Good ideas. I have to monitor blood pressure regularly. I found fitbits heavy on my wrist.
What device do you use to monitor your blood pressure?
I have a blood pressure cuff and stethoscope, which work perfectly. A little bit of edification and you’re all set. As for wrist step monitors, I’ve never tried one. I don’t think I will take the plunge, either. Thanks for the great reviews.
Fitness trackers have a long way to go before they become useful
Crazy the issues you’ve had with the various tech. I was particularly interested in your FitBit review becasue I’ve been considering buying one to get a better estimation of the steps I walk, my phone is rubbish at this. And the calories I burn; particularly whilst working out. I’ll definitely need to look more into different options.
From my experience, the only useful data these devices are capable of being close to accurate on are when you specifically track your exercise. Everything else is pointless
I know so many people who used to love Fitbit. They would talk about it all the time. Then a close friend of mine purchased one and really didn’t like it. Like you said the data was all over the place. I don’t think I would purchase a Fitbit.
They really don’t seem worth the money
Very informative. I learned a lot. Thanks!
I loved how detailed and honest your reviews are. There is no reason to say that something is great when it does not do not even the half for which you bought it for. I thought that Fitbit was a decent choice among the available activity trackers. I had only seen the advertises and don’t know anyone who has actually used it. I use Garmin ever since activity trackers and training watches came out and I am really happy with it.
Thank you for sharing your experiences!
I always try to give the company a chance to explain or fix the issues before publishing my review as well, just to give them that chance
I had a fitbit, I think I am going to invest in an Apple watch.
Not a fan of the Apple company
Thank you for the mention. Very kind of you. I’m just glad you making some progress on your quest to better understand your health. That’s the important part.
No need to thank me
A great review of current fitness technology. As someone who had a fitbit for more than 5 years, I appreciated that I could track my steps, distance and the current time. I now have an apple watch and frankly don’t know how I lived without it!
Thanks for sharing