Welcome to another edition of the Doctor’s Note where we talk about what’s on our minds when it comes to your health.
As we head into the holiday season, I want to share some of my favorite gift ideas for health. I’m not talking about our Black Friday sales (which you should definitely take advantage of), I’m talking about electronic devices that people wear to track and monitor their health.
In this Note, my focus will primarily be on two wearable monitors: the Apple Watch and the Oura Ring. Both devices are amazing and deserve attention on how they can be used to enhance your overall health.
It’s estimated that people spend about 46 billion dollars each year on wearable devices, and it’s estimated that by 2027 it’s going to be over 100 billion dollars. What can these devices do?
- help with early diagnosis
- remote patient care (telemedicine)
- monitor and store data
It’s not just your heart rate. It’s way more than that. I used to wear a heart rate monitor when I would race road bikes. I wanted to see my heart rate while I was riding and what my heart rate recovery (HRR) was after. What I used then, seems “antique” now. Today, you can monitor just about anything. The sky’s the limit.
The phenomenal technology behind the Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) has been a game changer for my two diabetic kids. A sensor inserted just under the skin measures your glucose levels 24 hours a day and a transmitter sends the results to a wearable device or cell phone. That’s amazing! I’ve even used one myself to see what different foods and drinks did to my blood sugars. I used the Freestyle Libre and it was incredible. Through this device, I learned a lot about what I should be eating/drinking and what I should stay away from (because it’s different for everybody).
The Apple Watch is another technology phenomena. I can’t tell you the number of people who have come to my office, wearing an Apple Watch, telling me it says they are in Afib, (or have been in Afib) and sure enough they are! I will listen to their heart and it’s obvious they’re in Afib, which is a dangerous rhythm that requires immediate attention. The Apple Watch can actually save your life. The technology is giving us really accurate data, which is mind boggling! I think the new one tells you how often you’re in Afib, what time of day, etc. This information is very helpful for both the patient and the doctor.
The Oura Ring
Technology continues to improve. I love my Oura Ring. I rely on it a lot. Note: I’m on my second Oura Ring! During the night it measures my oxygen saturation, helps detect sleep apnea (when you stop breathing) and checks my body temperature and heart rate variability (which is really a measure of how fit your heart is).
Note: Heart rate variability is not just resting heart rate and how fast you can get it back up and how high, it’s the tiny “beat to beat” difference that shows you how fit your heart is.
The Oura Ring, also, shows you the stages of your sleep, which is the main reason I have the Oura ring. Sleep is important as you age. I want to see what type of sleep I’m getting, and whether sleep aids (i.e., Melatonin) are helping. The Oura Ring technology shows how long it took me to get to sleep (sleep latency), what time I went to sleep, and what time I woke up. It also shows how much REM sleep (deep sleep stage) I got and at what time I was in REM.
Note: I also pay attention to Stage 4 (the deepest sleep stage) and how much I’m getting of that. I even look at how much light sleep I had and how much I moved at night. All of this is valuable information. You need to sleep to recover.
Beneficial uses of the Oura Ring:
- Being able to check my body temperature from the previous night is incredible. Note: I remember last Thanksgiving when I had Covid, the day before I had any symptoms I looked at my Oura ring in the morning, and my temperature had gone up a degree and a half during the night, so I knew something was going to hit me.
- For women, it tracks ovulation. It even has a period tracker on it that syncs with your smartphone. For menopausal women, it tracks hot flashes.
- It tracks workouts. How far you’ve walked, run, or biked. It also shows the particular route in case you liked it and want to do it again.
- If you’ve been in an accident, the Oura Ring can alert people to help you, which may save your life in certain situations.
- In regards to exercise, it tells you if you need to take it easy that day, or if you need to go hard with a workout. Remember, the recovery phase is just as important as the workout phase.
- It monitors respiration and breathing patterns. Note: I think my average heart rate at night is 49 or 50, and it shows that I breathe 13 or 14 times per minute. If that number goes up, then I know something is either going on, or I’m not recovering well.
The Oura Ring works by using LED sensors and actuators that penetrate skin and capture the flow of blood. I’m sure it’s way more complicated than that (with the use of artificial intelligence, etc.) so I don’t know EVERY detail, but I do know they’re incredibly accurate and it’s getting even better.
The most common devices on the market are:
- Apple Watch
- Oura Ring
I like the Oura Ring because I always have it on, and I hardly notice it. I use it several times a day, especially in the morning when I wake up. I use it to tell me what kind of day I can predict healthwise. Do they emit EMF that some people worry about? Yes. But you have to weigh the risks versus the benefits. I think the benefits are just phenomenal, and it’s just going to get better.
Note: Stress is another huge factor in your overall health. Anxiety and stress play a major role in almost every disease and these devices can pick up on stress indirectly.
The Future Is Bright
There are trials undergoing now to detect nervous system diseases, cardiovascular diseases, infectious diseases, nutritional diseases, and metabolic diseases (like high blood pressure). There’s a few wearable 24 hour blood pressure monitors out now. They’re just not quite where I want them yet, but it’s going to be incredibly useful, because high blood pressure is a silent killer. It’s so important.
Respiratory diseases will soon be detected, and maybe even cancer and hematologic diseases. Some day they’ll be able to measure your blood sugar through your sweat (no blood sticks or indwelling blood catheters).
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Tracking your health is the future of preventative medicine. I hope you’ll think about getting (or gifting) a wearable health monitor for yourself or a loved one this holiday season.
Till next time.