From heart rate to cholesterol levels, health trackers mean we’re discovering all our vital numbers. We ask the experts what those figures mean
With doctors urging us to monitor our vital health statistics, and with fitness trackers and devices doing just that, health tech increasingly permeates our lives. Read on to discover what those gadgets could reveal about your health, and how you can use the information to improve your well-being.
3 SECRETS YOUR FITNESS TRACKER CAN REVEAL
1 If you got a good night’s sleep
We’re all obsessed with sleep and many trackers tap into that interest. By monitoring wrist movements, they estimate how much time you actually spend asleep in a night and some also claim to measure periods of light or deep sleep, again based on movement. Dedicated sleep tracking devices give more detail but nowhere near the level of information a sleep lab would gather.
NEED TO KNOW:
Seven to nine hours sleep is optimum, but research shows that women aged 40 and above are more likely to have sleep problems than men, probably due to fluctuating hormone levels.
2 How healthy your heart is
Your resting heart rate, measured by many fitness trackers, reveals how your heart is coping with pushing blood around your body. A study of 129,135 healthy post-menopausal women found that those with the highest resting heart rates – more than 76 beats per minute (bpm) – were more at risk of a heart attack than those with 62 bpm or less.
NEED TO KNOW:
Normal resting heart rate is 60-100 bpm. For women aged 46-55, a good resting heart rate is 66-69 bpm. See your GP if your resting heart rate consistently tops 100 bpm (it could allude to a condition called tachycardia).
3 What you’re up to in bed
You may not want to broadcast what happens between the sheets, but your fitness tracker could do it for you anyway. One woman monitored her heart rate using Fitbit while making love for nine minutes and found her heart rate averaged 109 bpm, rising to 123 bpm at orgasm.
NEED TO KNOW:
Sex counts as aerobic exercise as much as going to the gym! Aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week – a heart rate of 50-70 per cent of your maximum heart rate. To find your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220 so, if you’re 50, that’s 85-119 bpm.
3 HEALTH STATS TO UNDERSTAND
1 Blood pressure
Should be 120/80mm/hg or less
What the numbers mean: The top figure, your systolic BP, is the pressure in your arteries as your heart contracts. The bottom figure, your diastolic BP, is the pressure in your arteries as your heart relaxes. At age 40+ raised systolic BP is an important predictor of the risk of heart disease.
Why? Consistently high blood pressure strains arteries, raising the risk of problems from chest pain (angina) and heart attack, to kidney failure, stroke and aneurysms.
2 Blood glucose
Should be less than 40 (HbA1c) mmol/mol.
What the numbers mean: The test measures HbA1c or glycated haemoglobin, which develops when glucose sticks on to haemoglobin. Red blood cells survive for eight to 12 weeks so HbA1c reflects average blood glucose levels over this period.
Why? HbA1c is usually used to test for diabetes or pre-diabetes. A reading of 42-47 shows your body is struggling to control glucose levels; 48+ signifies diabetes.
Should be Total cholesterol 5 mmol/L (millimoles per litre) or less; Non-HDL-cholesterol 4 mmol/L or less; LDL cholesterol 3 mmol/L or less.
What the numbers mean: Cholesterol is a waxy type of blood fat made in your liver but also found in some foods – it travels in your blood attached to proteins called lipoproteins. Too much LDL (low-density lipprotein) is linked with a higher risk of heart disease. HDL (high-density lipoprotein), is known as ‘good’ cholesterol because it carries LDL from your bloodstream.
Why? Your non-HDL cholesterol (your total cholesterol minus HDL cholesterol) as well as total cholesterol, age, sex, BP and whether you smoke can help calculate your risk of heart disease.
Track And Go
Turn to these trusty fitness trackers to help you get fit and live healthier
For Women’s Health
Most fitness trackers can record your step count and heart rate, but how about your periods? Made specially with women’s needs in mind, the Fitbit Versa helps track your menstrual cycle for fertility planning, and also includes an app for parents to track baby’s feeds and diaper changes. At $318, from authorised retailers.
For Easy Maintenance
If you dislike charging your fitness tracker, the Garmin vivofit 4 is for you: Its battery life lasts an entire year! This waterproof tracker is also suitable for use in the shower or the pool, and can track your walks, runs, cycles, swims, and sleep cycles. At $129, from authorised retailers.
For Running Training
If you are looking for something to jumpstart your marathon training, the Polar M200 is like a running coach who tags along and motivates you as you go. The watch comes with a Running Program, which helps chart out a training plan suited to your current fitness level and distance goal. Also waterproof, it tracks your activity and heart rate through the day. At $219, from authorised retailers.
For Heart Health
Need a tracker that does more than do a step count? Then the Actxa spur is for you. It monitors your heart rate throughout the day and works out zones, regardless of the activity. So you can keep track of how much more or less you should be working out for optimum cardio, while also tracking any unusual dips or spikes in your heart rate. At $99, from authorised retailers.
TEXT: BAUERSYNDICATION.COM.AU/ ADDITIONAL REPORTING: LISA TWANG/ PHOTOS COURTESY OF FITBIT, ACTXA, SPUR & GARMIN