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Surprising Science

Living the Measured the Life

Do you know how much R.E.M. sleep you got last night? New types of devices that monitor activity, sleep, diet, and even mood could make us healthier and more productive than ever. 

What’s the Latest Development?

A new movement known as the Quantified Self is measuring every aspect of their members’ lives with the belief that collecting data will help them make better decisions. “In meetings held all over the world, self-trackers discuss how they use a combination of traditional spreadsheets, an expanding selection of smart-phone apps, and various consumer and custom-built devices to monitor patterns of food intake, sleep, fatigue, mood, and heart rate.” While athletes and the ill have used self-tracking devices for years, a new generation of consume products have make the process both simpler and more rigorous. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Wearable sensors that measure vital signs such as blood pressure and heart rhythm around the clock could lead to applications we haven’t thought of yet, says cardiologist Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Institute for Translational Medicine. Perhaps they could help people get a handle on health concerns such as headaches or fatigue, which don’t qualify as diseases but can have a huge effect on quality of life. “People often get light-headed in daily activities,” Topol says. “Is that symptom linked to an abnormal heart rhythm? Are headaches linked to abnormally high blood pressure?”


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