Wearable technology has come a long way since its inception as a pedometer for tracking steps. Today, wearables have become an integral part of our lives, from keeping track of our fitness goals and sleep patterns to monitoring our heart rate and stress levels. But with advancements in technology, wearables have the potential to do more than just measure our everyday activities. They could save lives by detecting diseases early and preventing them from progressing.
Early Disease Detection
Detecting diseases at an early stage is crucial for successful treatment and recovery. With traditional medical practices, diseases are often diagnosed in their later stages, when they have already advanced significantly. In many cases, this makes treatment more difficult, expensive, and less effective. Wearable technology offers a solution to this problem by providing early detection of diseases.
Wearables can detect subtle changes in our bodies that may indicate the presence of a disease. For example, the Apple Watch has a heart rate sensor that can detect irregular heartbeats, a sign of atrial fibrillation (AFib), a condition that can lead to stroke. By detecting this condition early, doctors can prescribe medication or perform surgery to prevent stroke and other complications.
Another example of early disease detection using wearables is the detection of diabetes. Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) systems such as the Dexcom G6 monitor glucose levels in real-time, giving people with diabetes insights into how their bodies are responding to food, exercise, and other factors. If someone’s glucose levels are consistently high, it can indicate that they have diabetes and need to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
Wearables can also be used for continuous monitoring of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and asthma. In the past, people with chronic conditions had to rely on occasional visits to the doctor to monitor their symptoms. This often led to missed opportunities for early intervention when symptoms changed, resulting in more severe health problems.
Wearables such as the Biostrap and the Fitbit Sense can monitor heart rate variability (HRV), which can be an indicator of stress and overall health. By monitoring HRV, people with chronic conditions can detect when their bodies are under stress and take action to prevent symptoms from worsening.
Wearables can also monitor medication adherence, which is a major problem for people with chronic conditions. Studies show that over 50% of people with chronic conditions do not take their medication as prescribed. Wearables such as the MedMinder and the Memo Box can alert people when it is time to take their medication and track whether or not it has been taken.
Wearables can also be used for disease prevention by monitoring lifestyle factors that can lead to health problems. For example, the UV-Sense patch from L’Oreal can be placed on a person’s fingernail to monitor UV exposure. Overexposure to UV radiation is a major risk factor for skin cancer, so the patch can alert people when they have reached their daily limit of sun exposure.
Another example of prevention through wearables is the detection of sleep apnea. The SleepScore Max and the Withings Sleep Analyzer are wearables that monitor sleep patterns and can detect when someone has stopped breathing during the night. Sleep apnea is a major risk factor for heart disease, so early detection can lead to intervention and prevention of heart problems.
Wearables can also be used for workplace wellness programs to promote healthy habits among employees. The Vitality GlowCap is a medication bottle cap that reminds people to take their medication and rewards them for doing so. The rewards can be used for healthy activities such as gym memberships, yoga classes, and other wellness programs.
Wearables for early disease detection, monitoring, and prevention are not just theoretical concepts; they are already being used in real-life situations. For example, the Apple Watch has already detected numerous cases of AFib, leading to early intervention and prevention of stroke.
Another example is the use of wearables in clinical studies. Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) conducted a clinical study using the Fitbit Charge 2 to monitor physical activity in patients with lung cancer. The study showed that increased physical activity led to better outcomes and fewer hospitalizations.
Wearables are also being used in workplace wellness programs to promote healthy habits among employees. Johnson & Johnson’s wellness program, Vitality, uses wearables to track employee fitness and offers incentives for healthy behavior. The program has been successful in reducing healthcare costs for the company and improving employee health.
Wearable technology has the potential to revolutionize healthcare by providing early disease detection, continuous monitoring, and disease prevention. With advancements in technology, we can expect to see more wearables that can detect and prevent diseases in the future. As more people adopt the use of wearables, we can create a more proactive approach to healthcare, leading to better outcomes and improved quality of life.
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