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Body Monitors for Healthy Empowerment

written by kyle roderick

Body Monitors for Healthy EmpowermentGiven that stress, hypertension, heart disease, infertility, obesity and diabetes are epidemic, it seems only natural that body monitors for managing these conditions are becoming must-haves for many. These monitors put significant medical power into the hands of the people: for a relatively small investment, you can now use a monitor to compile medical data that formerly could only be collected during repeated paying visits to doctor’s offices, laboratories or hospitals. Today, various easy-to-use instruments are being used in health clubs, spas and at home as people grow more committed to tracking their health.

The best tools can be effective in evaluating fertility, recording caloric intake, energy expenditure, heart rhythms, respiratory volume, etc. While monitors are being used to help observe and remedy hypertension, diabetes, obesity, respiratory diseases and other conditions, they’re also used during workouts to register heart rate, the number of calories burned, and the number of laps or miles covered.

Miniaturization of the sensing technologies makes it possible to wear them in garments or unobtrusive strap-on devices. These monitors give the wearer a chance to record a range of physiological changes in real-life situations, as opposed to only when they are sitting in the doctor’s office, thus creating a detailed and realistic survey of conditions in the body.

Take for example the LifeShirt. The LifeShirt System (http://www.vivometrics.com/site/index.html) is a sleeveless spandex shirt that contains multiple sensors with a sophisticated computer program. It measures the volume of each breath that the wearer takes, while electrodes track heart rate and rhythm. A motion detector tracks posture, seeing whether the wearer is reclining, sitting up, moving or still. A mini-computer in the shirt continuously records all data, storing it on a microchip. If you are a serious amateur athlete or starting a conditioning regimen with a personal trainer, this could be an excellent tool for you.

The LifeShirt comprises the first non-invasive, continuous ambulatory monitoring system to collect data on cardiac and respiratory function and other physiological readings, plus correlate them over time. Its circuitry features an enhanced, ambulatory version of the technology that is currently the gold standard for in-hospital, non-invasive respiratory monitoring and sleep apnea detection. The LifeShirt can be worn while sleeping to record respiratory rates in order to help diagnose common sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, during which breathing stops for anywhere from a few seconds to a full minute. Another factor that makes the LifeShirt so user-friendly is its diary function. This notes subjective patient experiences and can record and correlate various physiological data.

For those concerned about cholesterol or diabetes, the FDA-approved CardioChek™ Blood Chemistry Analyzer may be a valuable monitor. Available for $159.95 at http://www.chponline.com/chpstore.asp?WCI=wciProduct&WCE=46, this measures cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, glucose, triglycerides and ketones. Just one drop of blood on the test specific test strip generates results after about a minute on its digital readout. CardioChek can memorize 300 Glucose tests and 30 of each of the other tests. Including a one year warranty, the CardioChek comes with 2 instrument check strips, a user’s manual, warranty card and carrying case. Other items are sold separately.

For anyone into weight management and/or athletic training, the Bodybugg™. Armband, which debuted in August 2005, may be an excellent tool. Smaller than an MP3 player, the sleekly designed, lightweight bodybugg (www.bodybugg.com) looks more like an entertainment gizmo than an advanced continuous body monitor.

Worn on the upper arm, the bodybugg’s sensors collect data on the wearer’s physical state, such as the way the body releases heat. Everyone who buys a bodybugg gets a personal Web site to keep track of the data. The information is uploaded once a day or once a week. The wearer types in all the food he or she consumed. The computer tallies the calories in and calories burned and shows the difference. Finally: an easy and effective way to monitor weight loss by keeping track of your eating and exercise. The bodybugg also measures room temperature, core body temperature, skin temperature and movement. Although bodybugg is licensed through health clubs and gyms around the country, it is also available for purchase at www.bodybugg.com; it costs around $350.00.

On a more low-tech front but highly useful front, women may be pleased to know about the user-friendly, widely available fertility monitor called Ovulite™. This at-home fertility monitor can predict to a 98% degree of accuracy a woman’s likelihood of becoming pregnant on a specific day within her monthly cycle. A miniature microscope that allows you to check on fertility, Ovulite (http://www.ovulite.com/) helps predict, on a daily basis, when you are most likely to conceive following sexual intercourse. The monitor tracks the ovulation cycle, or the period of time which passes between peak fertility periods. Each woman will have a different cycle and a different duration in which they are actually at their peak fertility level.

The microscope works in synch with a saliva sample: hormonal changes in a woman’s body just before ovulation are detected by viewing a sample of dried saliva through the Ovulite ocular lens. (Much persuasive research indicates that studying the changes in saliva is one of the most accurate methods of fertility testing.) Tiny crystalline structures resemble fern-like patterns. When fern leaf patterns dominate in the sample, ovulation is already occurring or is about to happen; meaning conception is highly likely. This is your optimum fertile period, and fertility lasts from 3 days before to 1 day after ovulation.

The correct way to use Ovulite is first thing in the morning and never after brushing your teeth, eating, drinking or smoking. (These all affect the salinity level of your saliva and may falsify your reading.) Users are advised to test every day with Ovulite for two months while maintaining a record of results in order to understand their ovulation cycle. This way, users will begin to recognize the normal patterns for their own bodies; a Fertility Tester Diary card is included to help them on their way. The test costs $39.99 on the Ovulite Web site.

When it comes to stress management, the Freeze-Framer™ is a major boon: this teaches you how to switch out of the damaging stress response and into the soothing relaxation response, the medically confirmed state where blood pressure decreases, heart rate slows and brain waves slow down. Using a fingertip pulse sensor and interactive software, the PC-based Freeze-Framer racks heart rhythms in real time to illustrate your immediate emotional and physical state. An on-screen graph of spiky, erratic lines shows you’re angry or stressed, while flowing ones signify serenity or happiness.

Freeze-Framer’s exercises quickly teach you how to lower your heart rate, which in turn helps reduce blood pressure and stress hormones while increasing anti-aging hormone production. (It is so user-friendly that even children use it for managing anxiety.)

At the office or at home, you can use Freeze-Framer to foster clarity and mind/body calm, while promoting productivity and creativity. “Practicing stress reduction is crucial since stress is a documented, major co-factor in widespread illnesses such as depression, hypertension, insomnia, heart disease and cancer”, says Tucson, AZ.-based physician Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D., an anti-aging specialist and the author of “Meditation as Medicine”.

This desktop biofeedback program was invented by a team of scientists and stress reduction experts at the non-profit research think tank, the Institute of HeartMath in Boulder Creek, CA. Freeze Framer is used by corporations such as Shell, Mattel and Cisco Systems to help foster employee health and well-being at work and out of the office. Featuring free technical support and a 30-day, money-back guarantee, Freeze-Framer costs $295.00 and is available at www.heartmath.com.

If you are a motivated person who is ready to take on responsibility for managing your health and wellness, today’s user-friendly monitors are all here, ready and waiting for you. The technologies in these units give you expanded powers to track your vital signs and body systems and enhance your health in a holistic, safe and effective way.

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