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Start Tracking More Than Just Your Steps With Wearables

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The landscape of health technology has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years, expanding far beyond the basic functionality of step counting to offer a comprehensive array of metrics for users to monitor. With the advent of smart wearables like the Apple Watch, Garmin trackers, Oura ring, and WHOOP strap, individuals now have access to a wealth of data about their health and well-being. Dr. Davin Lundquist, a family physician and chief medical officer at Augmedix, highlights the significance of this evolution, emphasizing that the availability of diverse metrics has empowered individuals to take a more proactive approach to their health.

These advanced health-tracking devices offer users insights into various aspects of their physical activity, sleep patterns, heart health, and more. Beyond simply quantifying steps taken or calories burned, these devices provide sophisticated metrics that enable users to gain a deeper understanding of their bodies. From monitoring heart rate variability to tracking sleep stages and analyzing recovery metrics, these tools offer a holistic view of one’s health status.

Four Key Metrics to Monitor for Better Health

  • Sleep: Sleep plays a crucial role in overall health and well-being, yet it is often overlooked. Dr. Carlos M. Nunez, chief medical officer at ResMed, emphasizes the importance of establishing healthy sleep habits and leveraging sleep tracking to optimize rest. By monitoring sleep-wake cycles and identifying trends in sleep quality, individuals can make informed decisions to improve their sleep hygiene and overall health.
  • Heart Rate: Tracking heart rate provides valuable insights into cardiovascular health and fitness. Dr. Lundquist explains that resting heart rate, in particular, can serve as an indicator of one’s overall fitness level. By monitoring changes in resting heart rate over time, individuals can gauge the effectiveness of their exercise routines and track improvements in cardiovascular health.
  • Respiratory Rate: Respiratory rate is another key metric that can offer insights into overall health and well-being. Certain devices can track respiratory rate, providing information about how the body responds to stress and exertion. Changes in respiratory rate may indicate underlying health issues, making it a valuable metric to monitor for early detection of potential problems.
  • Cardiac Rhythm: Monitoring cardiac rhythm can help detect irregularities such as atrial fibrillation (AFib), a condition that increases the risk of stroke and other complications. Dr. Lundquist shares a case where a patient’s smartwatch alerted them to an episode of AFib, leading to prompt medical intervention. Early detection of cardiac irregularities can be lifesaving, highlighting the importance of monitoring cardiac rhythm regularly.

The Importance of Accuracy and Limitations

While health trackers offer valuable insights, it’s essential to recognize their limitations and not rely solely on their data for diagnosis or treatment. The accuracy of some smartwatches may still be in question, and users should exercise caution when interpreting their data. Additionally, devices may need to be periodically charged, resulting in gaps in data collection. It’s crucial for users to understand the strengths and limitations of their devices and to use them as tools for promoting overall health and wellness, rather than as diagnostic tools.

Health trackers can facilitate collaboration between patients and healthcare providers by providing valuable data during medical appointments. Dr. Lundquist envisions a future where patients can share their device metrics with their doctors, enabling more informed discussions about health goals and potential concerns. While trackers can complement medical care, they should not replace professional diagnosis or treatment. Instead, they can serve as valuable tools for promoting preventive health measures and fostering collaboration between patients and healthcare providers.

As health technology continues to advance, individuals have unprecedented opportunities to monitor and improve their health. By leveraging the insights provided by wearable devices, users can make informed decisions about their lifestyle, exercise, and overall well-being. While health trackers are not a substitute for medical care, they can serve as valuable tools for promoting preventive health measures and facilitating collaboration between patients and healthcare providers. With continued innovation and refinement, health tech has the potential to revolutionize the way we approach healthcare, empowering individuals to take control of their health and well-being like never before.

Do you use wearables? Will this article change how you use them? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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