Hormones Matter TM

Know Thy Quantified Self

April 25, 2012  |  Amy Sandberg

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If you haven’t heard about the Quantified Self movement, you will soon. More and more, everyday folks like you and I are taking advantage of advancements in information and biotechnology to track and take control of our own health.

We’ve all monitored some aspect of our health at one point or another. I remember my husband charting the duration and intervals between contractions during my labor with our first child. And who hasn’t kept track of progress toward a weight loss (or gain) goal? What’s new these days is that information technology, such as web-based software and apps for your smart phone, can help aggregate and make sense of large amounts of seemingly disparate data that is recorded by you, not your doctor.

For instance there is the web site DailyBurn.com, where you can track your body information (weight, body fat percentage), including workouts, nutrition, and challenges; and the iphone app Sleep Cycle, an alarm clock that analyzes your sleep patterns and wakes you when you are in the lightest sleep phase. In addition, there are wearable digital devices that perform tasks such as monitoring a person’s blood sugar level and the electrical rhythm of the heart. The data from these devices can be displayed on your cellphone or computer and emailed directly to your doctor.

Cardiologist Eric Topol uses his smart phone rather than a stethoscope to monitor his patients heartbeat during office visits. This way he can both see and hear the rhythm.

It is natural for UC San Diego physicist Larry Smarr  to quantify and measure things; he’s a scientist after all. However, not until he set out to lose weight did he begin to recognize the efficacy of quantifying one’s own health. He monitored his weight and caloric intake daily, eventually losing 20 pounds. This progressed to measuring his blood chemistry 4-8 times a year, tracking over 60 markers, and adjusting his supplement and food intake accordingly. Smarr has even had parts of his DNA sequenced.

While all this tracking and monitoring may sound like a lot of work and somewhat hypochondriacal – a Woody Allen character on steroids comes to mind -Smarr and others such as futurist Ray Kurzweil, offer extreme examples of the benefits of the quantified self. The rest of us can start small.

First, set a goal. Perhaps you want to run further or faster? You could go out and buy yourself a pair running shoes with a computer chip, or simply enter your time and distance into a phone app such as Runmeter GPS that charts your progress over time. Monitoring your results offers you feedback and something to strive for – literally and figuratively.

Suppose you’re not sleeping well? Enlist the help Zeo, a sleep monitor that measures brain waves during sleep, or simply keep a diary of your bedtime and sleep habits.

Tennis elbow got you down? Do like a friend of mine does; he rates the pain in his various achy joints on a scale of 1-100 every day. This allows him to see how variables such as his activity level, diet, and medications correlate to his pain level.

The point is, as you begin to monitor your body, you’ll have quantitative data with which to measure your health and fitness goals. This data, in turn, empowers you to make the necessary changes, tweaks, and hacks in your personal habits.

Assuming you have at least one competitive bone in your body, when you begin to see positive trends and results, often packaged by apps and software in attractive infographics, you’ll likely begin to up your game and reach your goals even faster. By developing just one keystone habit, you can reprogram not just your routines, but your life as well.

With the exponential growth in computer and communication technology and biotechnology (think human genome), we now have the means to quickly, easily, and fairly inexpensively monitor our own vital signs in real time so that we may pinpoint the first signs of trouble as they arise. Simply put, by paying attention we can improve not only the quality of our life, but extend the duration of our life as well.

Lucine will soon be entering this market. Stay tuned for details. Better yet, tell us what you would like us to help you monitor.

What ails you? Could your condition benefit from paying closer attention to it? Why not start tracking your symptoms/efforts/results today and see where it may lead?

The views and opinions of authors published on this site do not necessarily reflect those of Hormones Matters or Lucine Biotech. Reference to any specific commercial products, processes, or services by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement or recommendation by Hormones Matter or Lucine Biotech.