Sunday, October 27, 2013

Tools to Track (and Hack) Your Own Health

One of the most exciting trends over the past few years has been the proliferation of tools to track your own health. No longer is your health a conversation reserved for a doctor's office, but there are more and more opportunities for people interested in their own health to track various aspects of it.

Whether the number of steps taken in a day, sleep duration and quality, heart rate variability (a measure of stress, which is being used more and more - this is a good podcast done by Ben Greenfield if you'd like to learn more), or even keeping track of individual lab results that measure a whole host of biomarkers, technology has allowed for more data. This has allowed for a unique niche of health and wellness experts, called biohackers, to spring up, but it's also allowed for something the online lab and personalized wellness company, WellnessFx, likes to call the "democratization of health."

I've become a huge fan of this individualized approach to health, including from a nutrition perspective. Our body's are unique ecosystems and what works for one person might not work for another. That's where this concept of individualized wellness comes in. I'm sure you've heard the saying that "you're the best expect of your own body," (or something like that) but I think there is a lot of validity to that statement. And technology has made it possible for an even deeper, more intimate expertise of our own physiology, genetics and health.

Over the past year or so I have been experimenting with a variety of apps to track different aspects of my own health. Here are a few of my favorites.

Sleep Time - Made by Azumio, which also makes a variety of other health and wellness apps (including the next one on my list), this particular app allows you to track the duration and quality of your sleep through your smartphone (I've only used the iPhone). The app uses sensors within your smartphone that can detect movement, and tells you the time you spend in deep sleep and light sleep. I found the app was pretty accurate, but practically was sometimes difficult to use. For example, you need to sleep with your phone fairly close to your pillow so it can most accurately sense movement. There can also be a counter-productive mental game that you play with yourself, wanting to score well on your sleep score, but by over thinking it, I found it even harder to fall asleep. 
Argus - Another app by Azumio (no they don't pay me), Argus is a so-called lifestyle app that functions as a pedometer, calorie counter, and keeps track of your meals and daily water intake. I'm a big fan of the reminders Argus has when you've been sitting for too long. Getting caught up in our work is a frequent occurence, and I'm no exception, and these are helpful reminders to make sure we all step away for a few minutes and go for a walk. My favorite part of the app, though, was that you could take pictures of your meals, which are stored directly in the app. Also, because it's an Azumio app, Argus conveniently syncs with other Azumio apps, such as Sleep Time or Instant Heart Rate, to create a useful dashboard of data.

Food Sense -Not by Azumio, this is an app by the Bulletproof Exec, Dave Asprey, and one I've actually been using the most recently. I haven't quite tapped into it's full capabilities, which also include measuring heart rate variability, but one of its main functions is to detect food sensitivities through a series of heart rate measurements around meal times. It also includes a handy relax function, which takes you through deep breathing exercises, which can be used by itself, or in conjunction with the heart rate variability function. I also like that the app is compatible with a number of wireless heart rate monitor straps, which can be used to measure heart rate, or it also has options of measuring it through the camera lens of your smartphone.

So, give these a try and let me know your thoughts. Also, post your favorite health and wellness apps in the comments. I'm always looking for new ones to try.

No comments:

Post a Comment