Health Gadgets

By: Ms Li Jia Hui, Pharmacist at Unity AMK Hub

First seen in Lifestyle Magazine (July 2013), pg 89. This article is an unbreached version of the printed edition.


Health gadgets are devices which help us to monitor various health parameters such as blood pressure (BP), blood glucose (BG), body mass index (BMI) and even our heart rate (HR). They are suitable for all ages and are beneficial for people who are already diagnosed with certain medical conditions such as hypertension (HTN) and diabetes mellitus (DM). Health gadgets can help in self-monitoring one's condition and track progress of reaching their target goals.

For individuals without the above stated medical conditions, health gadgets can act as a screening method for early detection, especially for elderly who are more prone to these diseases. These individuals can be referred for further diagnosis and can be treated early to prevent further complications. Health gadgets are useful for ladies who are pregnant and are at risk of gestation HTN and DM which may occur only during pregnancy.

1. Gadgets measuring BMI

There is equipment that can measure both weight and height and thereafter calculate BMI accordingly. There are also weighing balances which will measure weight and after manually imputing height, calculate BMI as well. BMI = weight / (height x height). BMI is a good parameter to determine obesity and risk of related health condition. A higher BMI above 23kg/m2 may suggest higher risk of obesity related diseases such as cardiovascular problems. Low BMI less than 18.5 kg/m2 may increase chances of osteoporosis. The usual target for a healthy BMI for Asians ranges from 18.5 – 23.0 kg/m2. BMI can help to monitor if our weight is within target, hence suggesting whether we should exercise more to decrease our weight, or build up more muscle mass to gain weight back to target range.

2. Gadgets measuring BP and HR

Devices to measure BP are most commonly used by individuals diagnosed with HTN to monitor their condition closely as advised by their doctors. All devices measure both the systolic BP (pressure on the arteries when the heart contracts) and the diastolic BP (pressure when the heart relaxes). Both values are used to determine if one has hypertension. If the systolic BP exceeds 140mmHg and/or the diastolic BP exceeds 90mmHg for multiple measurements at different time points, there is a possibility of HTN and one is advised to consult a doctor. The usual BP goal for HTN patients is less than 140/90mmHg. However, the goal could be stricter; less than 130/80mmHg if the patient has co-existing conditions such as DM or proteinuria (protein in the urine).

For measurement of BP, there are various devices available in the market. One type is the mercury containing BP machine, which require the use with stethoscopes and is usually used by doctors who have been trained. There is also the aneroid type which works in a similar fashion to the mercury type, and is only recommended for those who have been trained. These two types have a better accuracy than the last type of device which works via automation, whereby one will only have to press the start and stop button to obtain their BP readings. However, the automated ones are more user-friendly and can easily be used even by the elderly with minimal training. It is recommended that patients do daily monitoring of their BP to have a better understanding of their own condition. The best time to measure BP is to do it every morning for consistency. For devices with the memory function, patients can review their readings to mark a trend and monitor if their condition is well-controlled.

Most of the automatic BP devices can also measure HR. There are also devices such as watches or portable heart rate monitors which can be worn during exercise to monitor one’s HR. HR is usually defined as the number of time the heart contracts in one minute. It can be used to determine how vigorous an exercise/activity is, and whether we are exercising sufficiently. We should aim to have at least 75 minutes of vigorous activity or 150 minutes of moderate activity per week in order to keep the body healthy.

Determination of exercise intensity by HR:

- Subtract your age from 220 to get your maximum heart rate.

- Vigorous activity:70 – 85 percent of maximum heart rate

- Moderate activity: 50 – 70 percent of maximum heart rate

- Light activity: 40 – 50 percent of maximum heart rate

3. Gadgets measuring BG

There are many devices in the market which can measure BG and are usually recommended for patients who are diagnosed with DM. By using the devices, patients are able to detect whether their basal BG and/or post-meal BG need to be corrected and thereby helping doctors in deciding the appropriate medication dosing regimen. In addition, some patients self - titrate their insulin levels according to their measured BG level. By closely monitoring their BG, patients can have a lower risk of microvascular and macrovascular complications. BG measurement is a better indicator of DM than urine dipsticks which measure glucose in the urine and will only be detectable at much higher levels of glucose in the body. Thus BG will allow for earlier detection of DM and thereby allowing for quicker treatment.

For all devices measuring BG, the strips and lancets should be discarded after every use. Some devices also require changing of the code chip for every new bottle of strips used. It is also important to note the expiry of the strips as they may give inaccurate readings once expired. Lancets should be discarded appropriately after use to prevent hurting one self and others. To have a better grasp of their condition, one should monitor their BG a few times each day and a more regular monitoring regimen can help determine if the condition is well-controlled.