Wearable technology

Many people will have wearable technology of some sort. People who buy wearable tech for themselves are usually health conscious and want to understand their body better and improve their health. Wearable tech can track your blood pressure, heart rate, blood oxygen, and even glucose levels in real time. The main limiting factors are the battery life and queries whether the wearable tech devices meet quality standards so that users know that the readings are dependable.

Wearable tech is any technology device that a person can wear on a part of their body. A commonly worn example is a fitness tracker watch. This type of watch-like bracelet can monitor someone’s heart rate, sleep pattern, calories burnt, number of steps taken or ‘floors’ climbed. Some record past trends. Are you more active now than you were last week for instance?

Popular smartwatches contain other features too like calendars, messages and email notifications, maybe paired with a smartphone.

A wide range of clever health-linked devices exist and many more are under development. These include necklaces to monitor heart function and check for fluid in the lungs. Or smart contact lens that relay real-time measurement of blood glucose levels for someone with diabetes.

Assistive technology for a frail person can support their independence. When they pull an emergency cord worn around their neck because they require help this activates a camera in their house to record their situation and notify a carer or family member through a video-link. Shoes can be set up to analyse someone’s gait. This might help a person with Parkinson’s disease to understand how well their medication is working; or be used to alert a carer whether or when the person is at risk of falling.

Unless wearable technology is supplied and set up by social carers, it’s really for the person who buys the wearable technology or is given it, to take responsibility for interpreting the data it gives out and acting upon it. Doctors & nurses might be aware of the range of wearable tech that’s out there, but they’ll not necessarily know how it can be used and how reliable are the readings and data generated. Some wearable tech devices might skew the data they generate about a person’s bodily measurements and be unreliable.

Q1. Since I got a fitness tracker watch for my 50th birthday from my family I’ve gone beserk trying to run five miles a day, several times a week with my son. Sometimes this gives me chest pain- probably my muscles groaning. Should I keep going and be more healthy or is this a sign of pushing myself too hard?

A.Self-monitoring devices like your watch can have unforeseen consequences like encouraging overly- competitive urges like yours sound – racing too fast to reach extreme exercise goals. That might induce a heart attack and that would definitely be unhealthy. Consult your GP about your chest pain in case it’s angina - and put your new watch in a drawer until you’ve had the all clear.