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’ve ask Fitbit, they won’t allow me to have access to this feature for monitoring 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 was 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. It’s 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. I thought if it fits 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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