Currently browsing Posts Tagged “health”

Talking 20 – Take a Look Inside

This is a guestpost from Winslow Strong, author of the blog Biohack Yourself. Winslow was one of the early backers of the crowdfunded startup Talking20 and describes the service and his experience of taking his blood sample.

Talking20 is a recently founded direct-to-consumer biomedical testing company. Their mission is to transform useful biomarker diagnostics into do-it-yourself at-home tests. As a biohacker, I love this idea. It allows me to get enormous amounts of useful data on how my self-experiments in diet, exercise, sleep, supplements, etc impact my biology. Plus, it saves me a moderate amount of time and a ton of money (I wouldn’t be able to afford it) compared to getting these tests done in a doctor’s office or lab. Furthermore, a doctor will probably only give you results on a printed sheet, and probably only upon request (after looking at you strangely). Talking20 will give you a web-accessible graphical presentation of your values over time, which is much more convenient, especially for those of us who tend to move around frequently.

T20 raised some initial crowdfunding via an Indiegogo campaign. What particularly caught my eye, and I ended up purchasing, was their Gold Card package of 36 cards, each of which will give you results for every single test in their catalog at the time when you use it. You can use each card whenever you want – e.g. use one weekly as you intentionally overtrain yourself, in order to get a signature for the hormonal changes that occur, so that you can ID them more easily in the future. Or use one once a year if nothing big is changing in your life, and you just want a nice complete blood panel done at a fraction of the price. It’s your choice, but you can take as long or short as you desire to use your Gold Cards.

What you get

My initial package contained 6 Gold Cards, (the other 30 will be sent as needed) 6 addressed envelopes for mailing them, instructions, 14 lancets (for pricking your finger), and a bunch of alcohol swabs and band-aids. They rushed these packages out to the Indiegogo campaign funders, so we have to wait a bit longer for the storage box that will help us keep all our supplies organized. This is fine with me, as everything needed to get started was in this initial shipment.

At the time of this writing (March 2, 2013), the tests that Talking20 offers in various packages are:

  • Heart biomarkers – Total, HDL & LDL cholesterol, homocysteine, CRP, & HgA1C
  • Hormones – Cortisol, estradiol (the most important of the estrogens), progesterone, testosterone, and Vit D3 (the 25-OH test)
  • Vitamins – A, B6, B9, B12, C, D3 (25-OH), E

They say on their website that they hope in the future to add:

  • All Hormones: including cholesterols, cortisol, testosterone, DHEA, estrogens and progesterone
  • All Vitamins and Minerals: including all fat and water soluble vitamins, and circulating minerals, amino acids, and electrolytes
  • All Disease Proteins: including current and future indicators of cancers, including colon prostate, breast, kidney, and lung cancers
  • All Organ Function related proteins: including current and future indications of organ function, including liver, kidney, pancreas, and autoimmunity problems
  • All future biomarkers discovered that we include in all new retail panels

Gold card holders will receive the new tests automatically as they become available.

Collecting the sample

The technology that T20 uses only requires drops of blood on the absorbant thick-paper cards they supply. There’s no need to stick a large needle into your arm, as often happens at the doctor’s office, so no worries there. They request 5 drops of blood to fill the 5 circles on each card. Their instructions are rather minimal, so let me provide you with some elaboration that I found helpful after some experimentation:

  • Middle finger – Talking20 advises either using the tip of your middle finger or the outside of your ring finger. Visually, my middle fingers look like they carry more blood, so I chose them.
  • LARGE drops of blood. The drop should be so large as to be about to fall off from your downward-facing finger. It was surprising to me how large a drop could become before it started to look unstable enough that it might fall. To facilitate this, it’s advisable that:

    • After washing your hands thoroughly with soap, soak the collection hand (and wrist if you can fit it) in a large pot of very warm water. This will help dilate the capillaries of your finger with blood, and keep it coming as you squeeze it out.
    • After drying your hand thoroughly, use an alcohol swab to disinfect and clean the collection finger.
    • Prick your finger with the lancet, pressing firmly. The lancet is spring-loaded, so when you push your finger sufficiently into it, a spring releases, generating enough momentum for a prick. I found that I had a natural flinch instinct to overcome, because I knew I was pressing my finger into a spike. But the lancets are very well-calibrated, not particularly painful, and to get a deep enough prick, I found I really did need to press quite firmly into it.
    • “Milk” the finger. Use firm but not ferocious pressure to squeeze your finger as you simultaneously slide down it from the base towards the tip. I found it better to not actually squeeze right around the prick site, as this mimics the “apply pressure” advice you hear for wounds to get them to stop bleeding. It worked best for me to apply pressure up until I approached the prick site closely, but was not quite bracketing it. Repeat this many times and your blood drop will grow in size.
  • As the blood drop starts to hang unstably from your finger, try to delicately let the center of it touch the center of one of the circles.
  • You may need multiple pricks. I only got two circles out of each prick, so I had three pricks in total.


Summary

If you haven’t taken your own blood before, then you might need some trial and experimentation at first to get it right. Hopefully, my advice above will prove useful. I would rate the difficulty of this procedure as moderate for first-time users, but that should change to easy by the second or third time as you get the hang of it. It’s not rocket science, nor is it very painful. Overall, I’m pleased with the blood sample collection process.

This product is currently one-of-a-kind and is more convenient and potentially much cheaper than a trip to the doctor’s office to get the same results, depending on your insurance coverage. I’m really looking forward to having a huge array of biomarkers available through Talking20 in the future. I’ll cover that part of the T20 service when the analysis is ready, projected to be in April.

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with Talking20 at the time of this writing, March 2, 2013.

This is a guestpost from Winslow Strong, Entrepreneur, Biohacker and Organizer of the Zürich Quantified Self Meetup. For more information about Biohacking visit his blog Biohack Yourself.

Further information

Talking20 website

Facebook

Twitter: @Talking20tweets

Indiegogo (completed)

Philips goLITE – Make Yourself a Brighter Day

Philips goLITE BLU – based on the concept of light therapy – is a cool gadget. The small LED lamp shines blue light similar to a clear and sunny sky. In doing so, it increases your energy levels and helps alleviate symptoms of the winter blues.

Philips goLite Blue
The goLite is a light therapy product, which can be placed at an angle in front of you, in order to stimulate your body. Since it only emits light from the blue spectrum, you might want to use additional light sources to illuminate your work space. I’ve been using the goLITE for 4 weeks now and already I feel really good about it. Turning on the blue light feels like an energy boost, which is really helpful because according to my startup’s soon to be launched first product, my nights have been shorter than my sleep sensor suggests. But as soon as I switch the goLite lamp on, I immediately feel more alert and focussed. To be sure that I’m not just running into a placebo effect, I gave the goLite to my colleagues to try. They came to the same result as Phillips, who has clinically proven that their range of light therapy products really do work at a physiological level.

Philips goLite Blue light therapy deviceThe goLITE has about the size of 2 stacked CD trays and comes with a built-in battery that makes it perfect for taking along wherever you go. One full charge lasts for at least three phases of 30 minutes light exposure, which Philips suggests as a daily minimum in order to generally improve your well-being. The tiny device also works as an alarm clock and will wake you up simply with its blue light or with an additional ringtone if needed. All of its functions can be controlled with a touch display, which gives the device quite a modern feel.

The goLite’s price of 200$ may seem a little high for a product that is actually just an additional lamp to stimulate your well-being and doesn’t even replace proper light sources. But either way, I find the effect of the blue LED light so positive, that I would recommend it to everyone who wants to boost their mood and energy level in the winter days. Now that I have been surprised by the power of light stimulation, I am really looking forward to future light therapy products that can be integrated into smart home control and health management systems. So far, I enjoy goLITE’s benefits in the busy days before lauching our software. If you want to know more about that and other innovation in health and personal development, come back soon and follow or like igrowdigital.

Withings Blood Pressure Monitor – A Review from the Heart

Withings Blood Pressure Monitor is designed to operate with your iPod, iPhone or iPad, making the product’s concept totally different to blood pressure monitors as we know them. It’s a new approach to measuring blood pressure and using the data for health benefits.

Withings Blood Pressure Monitor makes the hearts of design and tech lovers beat faster

Getting my blood pressure measured was something that I only ever had done at my routine annual check-up or when donating blood. As blood pressure monitors are usually designed either for doctors’ offices or for best agers, why should a man in his early thirties like myself go for such a device?

Actually, my experience with the Withings WiFi Body Scale, which I reviewed earlier was what got me interested in buying another Withings gadget. Being a tech enthusiast in general, I fell in love with the stunning visualization of my bodyweight and just had to go for the company’s blood pressure monitor as well. Just as with the body scale, from an aesthetic point of view it is a deeply satisfying product. Evidently, it was made especially for self-quantifiers and health-hipsters.

All together it consists of a cuff and an aluminum tube that acts both as a handle as well as the housing for the batteries and the pneumatic pump. The cuff itself consists of white faux leather fitted with a fresh green inside. In order to work, the blood pressure monitoring cuff has to be connected to your iPod, iPhone or iPad. By thus using an external device both as its display as well as its internet connection, the Withings Blood Pressure Monitor is a lean and resource-efficient product that enables measuring and synchronizing on the go.

Measuring your blood pressure becomes a mobile experience

Once you’ve twisted the cuff around your arm and connected it to your i-device via the doc connector, the app is automatically launched. All you have to do is press the start button to run the pneumatic pump and let it squeeze your upper arm for about 30 seconds. After the measurement, your systolic and diastolic blood pressure and your average heart rate during the monitoring period appear on your display. Once you’ve collected several measurements, you can scroll and zoom your way through the details of how your blood pressure has varied over time simply by swiping and pinching the screen. If you are simultaneously tracking your weight with the same app, you can get an overview of some of your most important health factors gathered in one chart.

Sharing options for your blood pressure data

Since this product is a serious health device, users can send their data via email to their doctors or sync them with their favorite personal health records. This helps build a solid basis of personal health information and bears great potential for analyzing personal metrics and their co-influence in the future. The fun factor definitely comes with the option of sharing your data on Facebook or Twitter. Imagine status updates like “I just lost my job due to inappropriate use of social media” followed by “my blood pressure is now 152/114”.

Buy it or leave it?

Looking at the 129 $ price tag may be frustrating at first and will probably not convince the ones who don’t care too much about their blood pressure. Still, I believe that some day soon a solid basis of health data will create a number of benefits for many of us. When considering buying a blood pressure monitor, you should think about such factors as operational convenience and the value of your data. According to the Withings partnership strategy, all your data can easily be made accessible for third party services such as Runkeeper or Fitbit. This can make their products more valuable by being able to create a rich data-set aimed towards more comprehensive health awareness. I hope more of the established and soon to come biosensors will follow Withings positive example!

Withings WiFi Body Scale – Weight Watching for Aesthetes

I’ve been tracking my weight for over a year now with Withings free smartphone app WiScale.  Monitoring your weight on a regular basis can become a tedious task when you have to record your data manually, making it hard sometimes to maintain a regular overview. After reading Tim Ferris’ The 4 Hour Body, I decided to loose a few pounds with his slow carb diet. In order to obtain a genuinely accurate feedback on my progress in losing weight, I treated myself to a Withings  WiFi Body Scale and started tracking my weight routinely. Having a rich set of measurements then was a great support for reaching my goal. But now, let me tell you something about the product which helped me with that.

Withings WiFi Body Scale comes with great design and usability

The WiFi Body Scale consists of a glass slab, metal encasing and a wifi connection that is a breeze to set up and sync with your computing appliances. Within minutes, my phone, iPad and home computer were all linked up, and the scale’s setup assistant promptly asked me if I wanted to share my data with my followers on twitter. Well, no, I didn’t, but for those of you who want to add a little peer pressure, this might be an option. The scale measures data such as weight, body fat and BMI and reports it to your free profile on Withings’ website or mobile applications where you can see it displayed in beautiful graphs. Especially the data visualization on iPads, which have interactive navigation features you can access with simple touch gestures, is stunning and certainly a best practice for self-tracking technology to date. Seeing how the diet worked for me in the fancy charts really boosted my motivation to stick to the diet rules.
This caused a positive feedback loop, which made cutting back my eating habits easier than never before. On the other hand, it’s really fun to watch the effects that an isolated binge at a 2-day party had on my weight. After using the scale and app for quite some time now, it’s just beautiful to have all that data visible.

Take it or leave it?

My verdict? The beautiful design, along with its user-friendly, intuitive handling and in-depth tracking and charting possibilities put a whole new playful, and convenient spin on how to lose weight smart and effectively. For me, the investment was worth every dime. Even when not on a diet, it’s just great to follow your weight in that amazing visualization on the mobile apps.  After my truly positive experience with this product, I went for Withings Blood Pressure Monitor as well. Both these devices combined with the smart biosensors, which should be available in the near future, are great ways to gain intimate insights in your physical condition. Next, read more about the Quantified Self and how new technologies can provide support in developing body and mind.