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Your guide to wearable trackers that can change your health and life

Stick-on patches, braces and watches track vital signs such as heart rate and blood pressure, and transfer the data to a smartphone.

health and fitness Updated: Apr 03, 2016 15:59 IST
Real-time diagnosis

Dr Anoop Misra, director, Fortis C-DOC Centre for Diabetes, Metabolic Diseases and Endocrinology, demonstrates the use of a glucometer. (Saumya Khandelwal/HT Photo)

For people like Medha Pant, 47, a Type-1 diabetic with frequent blood sugar lows (hypoglycaemia), the stick-on continuous glucose-monitoring device she bought online is a godsend.

“I stick the band-aid like patch, a little bigger than a Rs 10 coin, on my arm and it tracks my sugar peaks and lows 24x7 for two weeks, sounding an alarm if levels rise or fall too much,” says Pant, a marketing executive whose work involves frequent travel across time-zones, which sometimes wrecks her monitoring and insulin dosage. “The device helps me caliberate and administer correct insulin doses.”

Read: A low-calorie diet can get you rid of diabetes

“Real-time sugar-monitoring devices can be used by everyone, irrespective of whether you use insulin pump therapy, multiple daily insulin injections, other diabetes medications, or diet and exercise to control your diabetes,” said Dr Anoop Misra, director, Fortis C-DOC Centre for diabetes, metabolic diseases and endocrinology.

“The continuous graph of sugar levels can be downloaded on a smartphone and be used to modify treatment and lifestyle for optimal control,” says Dr Misra, who is increasingly using it to improve his patients’ blood sugar control.

“It is particularly useful for children with Type 1 diabetes changing their treatment regimen, pregnant women with type-1 diabetes, people who have low glucose at night or experience high glucose spikes several times a day,” he says. “In some cases, it helps lower insulin doses.”

Devices that track sugar levels for three days (Medtronic iPro 2) and seven days (Dexcom G4 platinum) are also available.

Read: Prevent diabetes with these three simple lifestyle changes

Equally popular are ambulatory blood pressure-monitoring devices that measure your blood pressure as you go about your day. “It’s particularly useful for diagnosing hypertension in people who have higher blood pressure readings in the clinic (called the “white-coat effect”), to determine doses and decide if a change in medication is needed,” says Dr Ravi R Kasliwal, chairman of Cardiology, Medanta Heart Institute, Gurgaon.

“In people with pre-existing medical conditions, such devices help by giving us a rough trend of key indicators that need monitoring over a period of time to fine-tune therapy,” says Dr Altaf Patel at Mumbai’s Jaslok Hospital, whose wife Devika, 50, used the sugar-tracking device when her blood sugar levels started fluctuating four months ago.

Wearing these devices all the time, however, could cause undue stress about health. “It is ideal to use them with the approval of a doctor,” cautions Dr Altaf.

Patches, braces and lighters to track vital signs:

It automatically measures and records your BP.

* Ambulatory BP Monitor

Rs 20,000; available for a day at many clinics/hospitals

A smartphone-sized digital machine worn on a belt is connected to a cuff around your upper arm to track the highs and lows in your blood pressure as you go about your day. It automatically measures and records your BP every 30 minutes during the day and every hour while you sleep to plot fluctuations and correct medicine dosage.

It raises alarm when blood glucose plummets or peaks.

* Abbott FreeStyle Libre

Price: Rs 2,250

Stick on disposable patch a little bigger than Rs 10-coin has micro sensors that measure glucose levels in interstitial fluid (the fluid between cells) and calibrates it to give actual blood glucose values 24x7. The data is wirelessly transmitted to a receiver hooked to your belt or abdomen. Raises alarm when blood glucose plummets or peaks.

It helps improve back health, restore spine movement and redevelop deep muscles.

* Valedo Digital Back Therapy

Price: $359; available online

It’s Wii Fit with a motion sensor designed to increase mobility and reduce lower back pain. A cellphone-sized cordless device with smart sensors attached to the back gives personalised and guided self-therapy to improve back health, restore spine movement and redevelop deep muscles. The data is transferred and stored in a free iOS and Android app to track progress.

It taps into the body’s natural pain control systems to block pain signals.

* Quell Pain Relief

Price $249; available online

Quell is a slim pain-relieving brace that uses intense nerve stimulation to manage chronic pain 24x7, including during sleeping. Strapped just on the upper calf below the knee, the brace taps into the body’s natural pain control systems to block pain signals. The rechargeable battery gives pain relief for between 30 to 40 hours before having to be charged again.

It’s a smart cigarette lighter that tracks how much you’ve smoked.

* Quitbit

Price: $129; available online

It’s a smart cigarette lighter that tracks how much you’ve smoked and stops you from lighting up too often by displaying information such as the amount of time since your last cigarette, money and the years of your life save based on cigarettes not smoked. The rechargeable battery can be charged weekly with a microUSB. A companion app (iOS and Android) tracks progress and helps you set goals to quit.

Digital fixes out in 2016:

It helps measure stress, caloric burn, sleep quality, and contextual heart rate, among other health predictors.

* Vital Connect Health Patch

Peel and stick Band-Aid-like wearable strip worn on the chest captures clinical-grade biometric measurements in a continuous, configurable and non-obtrusive way. Eight core health metrics -- single-lead ECG, heart rate, heart rate variability, respiratory rate, skin temperature, posture, steps and fall detection/severity – are tracked to measure stress, caloric burn, sleep quality, and contextual heart rate, among other health predictors.

It records ECG and measures the heart rate, heart rate variability, oxygen saturation, blood pressure, core body temperature.

* Vitaliti Medical Monitor

The Vitaliti medical monitor continuously records ECG and measures the heart rate, heart rate variability, oxygen saturation, blood pressure, core body temperature, as well as parameters like respiration, movement, steps taken and calories spent through the day. The main sensor is worn over the shoulders, with pads touching the chest. The data can be retrieved using a smartphone or tablet.

It monitors breast health to detect breast cancer early when it’s treatable

* iSono Health

A small sensor placed inside the bra monitors breast health to detect breast cancer early when it’s treatable. Using 3D ultrasound technology, the device tracks changes in breasts without any radiation exposure. Each scan takes 2-3 minutes, and the software compares images month to month to give real-time feedback. It’s iOS and Android compatible.

It tracks cravings and synchronises the delivery of transdermal nitcotine-replacement therapy to prevent them.

* Chrono Therapeutics Smart Stop

To boost your chances of quitting smoking, SmartStop tracks cravings and synchronises the delivery of transdermal nitcotine-replacement therapy to prevent them. It comes with a reusable base that can be worn on the wrist, arm or torso, and replaceable nicotine cartridges. Hooking up to a smartphone app provides real-time guidance.

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