6. Studying a million hearts, one at a time
The Health eHeart Study intends to collect massive amounts of data from 1 million people around the world using sophisticated smartphone apps and sensors, as well as simple Q&As to track blood pressure, heart rate, sleep habits, exercise, diet and more. The collected data will travel wirelessly to the cloud and into the study's data servers. "We'll sift through for information that can accurately predict the development of heart disease in people who don't have it now, and slow its progression in those who do," notes Jeffrey Olgin, M.D., chief of cardiology at the University of California, San Francisco and the study's lead researcher.
For example, one project will look at thousands of people who send in blood pressure readings wirelessly. "We'll know whose pressure is controlled," Olgin says, "and send reminders to those who haven't checked it in a while."
People with poorly controlled blood pressure will be prompted to see a doctor to have their medication adjusted. The project hopes to develop new strategies to help prevent or treat heart disease. "We're trying to create a little health-o-meter or check-engine light for the heart," he adds. "The results of this study will change the way we manage heart risk."
The fine print: Anyone over 18 can sign up for the study. The researchers are looking for both healthy people and those with heart conditions. Participants don't have to come to the study center; they can complete all information and follow-up on a secure website from a computer, tablet or smartphone. The apps and certain study-related devices are free to participants. If you're interested in taking part, you can join at health-eheartstudy.org. San Francisco's nonprofit Salesforce.com Foundation provided initial funding for the project.
7. Bracelets that urge you to exercise
Imagine having a personal health coach to prod you and motivate you to eat well and exercise. Now you can — and you wear it around your wrist. These wearable fitness tracking bracelets let you know how active (or lazy) you are when you're awake, how many calories you chow down each day and how well you sleep at night. The Fitbit Flex and the iHealth Wireless Activity and Sleep Tracker even wake you in the morning with a silent vibrating alarm so your bedmate can continue to snooze while you greet the day.
The fine print: The waterproof Fitbit Flex is yours for around $100. The device keeps track of the number of steps you take, the calories you've burned and how well you sleep at night. Once you download the free app, it syncs with your smartphone or computer so you can check your progress simply by tapping on the bracelet. Battery life ranges from five to seven days before you need to recharge.
A device called iHealth Lab's Wireless Activity and Sleep Tracker comes as a wristband or belt clip and costs around $60. The sweat-, rain- and splash-proof device syncs with an app that allows you to set goals and measure your activity in steps, calories burned, or distance. You can also keep track of diet and sleep. The company that manufactures the iHealth Tracker notes that it has a three-year battery life, so you probably won't have to recharge it.
The Nike+ FuelBand wristband will set you back around $150. It syncs to an iPhone or computer, measures general physical activity and allows you to compare your achievements with those of your friends over Facebook and Twitter. Decide how active you want to be, set your goal, and the band's red-to-green LED display shows your progress throughout the day. The battery holds a charge for about three days. If you decide to invest in any of these devices, shop around before you buy, because prices vary.
Nissa Simon is a freelance health reporter and writer.
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