The Quantified Self: Why Your Personal Data Matters For Your Health

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A Health & Wellbeing Interview with Health Expert Dr. Comite [Podcast]

In this podcast, Pat Farnack interviews health expert Dr. Florence Comite about the quantified self and what implications it has for our health.

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The Quantified Self: Why Your Personal Data Matters For Your Health

Dr. Florence Comite is an endocrinologist and founder of the Comite Center for Precision Medicine and Health in New York City and the personalized health app, QUANTIOME. She also wrote the bestseller, Keep It Up! Connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.

Pat Farnack is a news anchor, health correspondent, and is a host of the Health and Well-Being podcast on WCBS News Radio. Connect with her on Twitter and Linkedin.

What Is the Quantified Self?

The quantified self is a trend, and it’s growing by leaps and bounds. All of us are capturing data that can improve our lives.

We capture data without even realizing it. A smartwatch or a smartphone has ongoing apps, and if we’re not careful to turn those apps off, it captures data. It tracks what we do, where we are, and how many steps we’re taking.

Fitness trackers and wellness apps make the quantified self sexy and easy, but where does it go from here? And what kind of help is it?

One of the questions we need to look at is whether self-tracking will improve our health. And that’s where we fit in.

We believe that once you get that information, interpreting it and connecting the dots can lead to better understanding. We can use that knowledge and understanding to know how to apply healthcare to make a difference.

How Does the Quantified Self Relate to Precision Medicine?

What medicine has been and what it continues to be, is a one-size-fits-all approach. Whether it’s medication or advice, what works for one person won’t always work for another.

With specific, precise data and using it precisely for each individual, we can shape your health future and your aging trajectory. And that’s what we do here at the center all the time.

Aside From Tracking Diet and Exercise, Does Data Tracking Have Other Healthcare Applications?

Beautiful Woman Athlete Wearing Sports Bra with Electrodes Attached to Her | Aside From Tracking Diet and Exercise, Does Data Tracking Have Other Healthcare Applications? | The Quantified Self: Why Your Personal Data Matters For Your Health

We can use data tracking to predict and reverse chronic diseases. And, collecting data from your family about how they eat and how they live makes it easy to do so.

People can begin to understand more about who they are, where they come from, and what their genes say about themselves. More importantly, they can learn what genes express in their family.

By combining this information with specific conventional tests, enables us to interpret data correctly. And as a result, we can give better guidance to an individual.

With that type of information, we can figure out what steps to take so you don’t develop diabetes, osteoporosis, or cancer. If you can prevent or reverse those kinds of age-related disorders, you’re going to live a much healthier life and be able to enjoy that life. It may even add longevity to that trajectory.

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You've Mentioned Chronic Disease, but What About Conditions Like Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease can be hard to detect because sometimes you don’t get the bullet-like rash. Symptom tracking may pick it up.

For example, you now get wearables that signal sugar-level or heart rate changes. Signals like that can also change when you’re ill. These changes need to be quite dramatic for you to notice them, but with wearables, you start seeing patterns that suddenly look different. Because you start knowing yourself better, you pay more attention to feeling a little off.

I have a monitor that tells me what my sugar is, connected to an app on my phone. When my sugar measures above 100, I know something is happening in my body. I might think I probably had a bad night’s sleep. But, seeing my sugar is high forces me to pay attention and take action.

You might go to a spin class, and you notice your heart rate is not going up like it usually does. It could be a sign that you’re ill or recuperating from an illness and that you need to take it easy for a few days.

That’s one way we can adjust what we do and the decisions we make to take better care of ourselves.

Will This Data Replace a Doctor?

With medical information, we don’t know what we don’t know, and we’re still figuring it out. So, when we collect information from our clients, we are connecting the dots and basing it on the knowledge we have. We’re also hoping for the wisdom to see those patterns.

QUANTIOME is going to take that knowledge and wisdom and automate it. Doctors will use it to interpret data in a sophisticated way for each individual.

For example, Amy is a woman in her 20s who has trouble losing weight. She has no energy, and it turns out she has a gene that wakes her up early in the morning. As a true New Yorker, Amy stays up past midnight every night. She’s also developing a pattern for early diabetes because she has metabolic syndrome.

Based on all this data, we can tell her she needs to go to bed before 10 pm, at least five days a week, to be productive at work. Or she’ll burn out.

However, if Amy were 45 and going through changes in her body that might lead to menopause, the hormonal shift her body may tell us something altogether different.

That would entail a doctor looking at those patterns and connecting those dots. Right now, we look at information to that, but with QUANTIOME connecting those dots will be much simpler in the future.

The information may be delivered directly, but a doctor is still needed to connect the data points or draw blood. There’s a lot of pieces that may require partnering with a clinician, physician, or trainer. But there’ll be so much more information the individual can get just by using a tracker or app to monitor these variables. And, it will be so much easier to get this information in a timely fashion.

What Advice Do You Have Regarding Quantifiers?

Don’t sweat the details because it does seem overwhelming at the start. You don’t need all the fancy gadgets to start.

Start tracking how much water you drink and make sure your urine is clear. Or write down what you eat throughout the day.

Those trends and habits start piling up, and then we can begin to shift a little.

If I wake up with moderately high sugar, I need to exercise, and I’ll be fine. Each of us has specific patterns, and if we learn those patterns, we can adjust and adapt our habits.

The quantified self can help us live healthier lives. It enables us to track and change our behaviors, so we can extend our lifespan to match our lifespan and enjoy life to the fullest.

Are you following the quantified self trend? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

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