I took a holistic health coaching program last year, and one of the instructors urged us to go out into the world and “make health and wellness sexy.” He emphasized that people need to view taking care of their own health as an attractive, worthy, (sexy) pursuit, otherwise they won’t bother. I’m a bit of a health and wellness lit junkie, so I read a lot of advice in this realm, but I don’t think I’m the only one who’s bored with overused platitudes like ‘eat leafy greens’ and ‘get more exercise.’ Good tips, but not the most compelling.
Dr. David Agus’ book ‘A Short Guide to a Long Life’ offers, in my opinion, fresh, practical habits to tangibly develop and measure a higher quality of life. He based his “set of rules for living wisely” on Michael Pollan’s ‘Food Rules,’ famous for distilling food industry complexities into palatable tips, such as ‘Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.’ Although Agus’ tips aren’t all focused on digitizing (it’s a word) personal healthcare, including tip #29 – Smile, and tip #10 – Have a glass of wine with dinner, I find the following recommendations to upgrade our personal healthcare with the help of technological tools worth mentioning.
1. Tip #4 – Mobilize your medical data: We use our phones and computers for almost everything today, except for storing our up-to-date medical records. Agus suggests we get our records from the doctor, scan them, keep them updated, and pick someone to have password access to our digital files/mobile cloud. Or better yet, upload our files to a USB stick and take it everywhere. Medical emergencies don’t always happen Monday-Friday between 9:00-5:00 when physicians’ offices are open and our records are accessible. Emergencies can happen in the middle of the night, while traveling, with a doctor who knows nothing of our history, allergies, or health profile, so having personal records on hand and accessible 24/7 can be lifesaving.
2. Tip #2 – Measure yourself: To date, there are more than 7,000 self-tracking smartphone apps measuring everything from calories burned to whether you’re entering a ‘danger zone’ of stress, allowing you to personalize any health-related info to your device.1 The list is constantly growing, but some of the apps out there are Eat Local, listing local in-season produce, 23andme, detailing personalized genetic information, and Philips Vital Signs Camera App, measuring heart rate and breathing through the iPhone or iPad camera. He lists more mobile health apps and tools on his site, and points out that these tools aren’t meant to make us (even more) self-absorbed, but to help us take better care of ourselves.
3. Tip #3 – Automate your life: The body loves predictability, and keeping a regular schedule of sleep-wake cycles, eating, physical activity, and taking any prescribed medications, helps maintain balance in the body (homeostasis). As above, there are several digital devices that can help sustain a healthy rhythm. Although this isn’t on Agus’ list, the Sleep Cycle app is a bio-alarm clock that analyzes your sleep patterns and wakes you when you’re in the lightest sleep phase, catering to the body’s natural preferences.
Although you might not agree with all of Dr. Agus’ recommendations (after all, the late Steve Jobs’ doctor was touted as “the most controversial doctor in America” after appearing on Dr. Oz in 2012),1 this short guide book is worth a read if only to start a discussion with yourself and your physician about what health means to you, and what resources are at your disposal to increase your wellbeing (and, let’s be honest, sex appeal).
1. Agus, David B. (2014). A Short Guide to a Long Life. New York: Simon & Schuster Ltd.