We are in the process of going from a time when critical information about our bodies will go from being measured occasionally/rarely to a time when they will be measured continuously. This capability will be a significant transformation in maintaining and improving our health. But, unfortunately, the medical professional unsurprisingly is lagging.
I have been monitoring my heart rate continuously throughout the day for some time. I have used the Oura Ring to monitor my heart rate at night and the Apple Watch to monitor it during the day. With the 3rd generation of the Oura Ring, I can now measure heart rate 24 hours a day using that device. I have also been using the Oura Ring to monitor important aspects of my sleep. The Oura Ring and the Apple Watch were my main methods of monitoring many psychological parameters. Recently, I added continuous monitoring of blood glucose because my doctor insists that I am pre-diabetic (it turns out she is wrong. I am looking forward to the ability to measure my blood pressure continuously which I suspect will happen in the next few years.
As consistent readers of this blog will know, I started my career developing equipment for EEG biofeedback (brainwaves). I am a firm believer in biofeedback.
Measuring is not an end in itself. Measuring should allow for actions like changes in behavior that improve one’s health. I can say, for instance, that the Oura Ring has had a significant impact on the quality of my sleep. From using it, I learned that what and when I eat can considerably impact the quality of my sleep. I only eat vegan most nights because that improves my sleep quality; longer sleep, more deep sleep, and lower resting heart rate.
In measuring my glucose, I expected to make changes to my diet to lower my blood sugar levels. Most of you will have had fasting lab tests. The idea behind having your blood taken in the morning before you eat is to get a sense of your lowest glucose level. For years, mine has been slightly above 100, which is an indication that you are pre-diabetic. There is also another test called A1c that indicates glucose levels for the last 90 days. Mine is consistently five, which is not an indicator of being pre-diabetic.
Using the Abbott Labs continuous glucose monitor for several months, I learned that my glucose rises in the morning just before I wake up. It turns out that some people, I am one, have blood sugar levels increase just before they wake up. In these people, the body increases blood sugar to give them the energy to start their day. I guess that I have always been like this. I describe myself as a morning person, but now I know why. I always wake up without an alarm at around the same time, 6:00 am. I used to joke that I would wake up standing up because I had so much energy in the morning.
My average glucose level is about 97 mg/dl, which is normal’s high side. But then again, I am 77 years old. So glucose levels do increase slightly with age.
Currently, we have several devices that can give us essential information about various physiological parameters. Improvements in devices will only increase over time. For instance, I believe that 50% of adults suffer from poor sleep quality. Other than those that snore, most are not aware of this. But almost all of these people are now using smartphones. Wishing five years, I predict, smartphones will be able to use sound (sonar) to analyst the quality of sleep without the need to be wearing anything, for instance. Even such mundane appliances as a toilet will become diagnostic devices. Our phones will tell if we have cognitive decline long before our loved ones or our doctors know.
Coupling all these measurements, the results of no- continuous measurements from blood tests, and using AI has the potential on transforming medical diagnostics substantially.
I imagine that will be medical services that can offer deep diagnostic capabilities, way beyond what traditional doctors can offer.
How will the medical profession adjust to all these changes? I am not optimistic.