This story is part of CNET's Health by the Numbers project, which takes a deep dive into how we measure health.
According to statistics from the 2018 National Health Interview Survey, about half of Americans have at least one chronic illness. Health tracking is a serious problem if you have a chronic illness or are at high risk of developing one. Being equipped to do so correctly can make a world of difference for your health.
Choosing which health metrics to track can be difficult at first, let alone finding the best equipment for precise results. Here's all you need to know about some of the most common health conditions in the United States, including diabetes, asthma, cardiac disease, and more.
Keep in mind that these tools are most effective when used under the supervision of a health professional, and no at-home device can replace the state-of-the-art equipment at a health care facility.
Sugar in the blood
If you have diabetes or hypoglycemia, monitoring your blood sugar may be very helpful, as well as for those with prediabetes. Depending on your condition and your doctor's advice, you may need to check your blood sugar once a day or even many times per day.
The most straightforward and inexpensive way to monitor your blood sugar at home is through a glucose test, which involves a simple finger prick. You may also purchase a continuous glucose monitor for more intensive all-day monitoring, depending on your insurance.
Cholesterol is a powerful regulator of cholesterol.
Too much bad cholesterol (or LDL cholesterol) puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke, according to age and gender. Ideal cholesterol levels vary.
Many home kits only measure the total amount of cholesterol in your blood, rather than separating the bad from the good, according to Harvard Health.
The Mayo Clinic advises you to get a home exam that is accredited by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If your results show concern, consult a professional for a follow-up.
Blood pressure is high.
According to the American Heart Association, blood pressure is one of the first health parameters that a nurse checks when you go to the doctor. It is an important health measure in general, but especially for people with hypertension or high blood pressure, as well as people at high risk for it. It may also be appropriate for anyone with other heart-related health conditions or pregnancy-induced hypertension or preeclampsia.
The American Heart Association recommends an upper arm blood pressure monitor for the best accuracy; use a wrist monitor if you cant fit an upper arm cuff. Like other home tests, youll need to measure properly to get useful results.
Heart rhythm and rate
Your heart rate is one of the easiest health metrics to monitor at home, and you can do it yourself without any equipment by simply monitoring your pulse. However, if you suffer from atrial fibrillation or another type of irregular heartbeat, you may need a more robust method of monitoring your heart rate and rhythm.
Personal electrocardiogrammonitors, also known as ECG or EKG monitors, measure heart rate and rhythm and display the results on a chart. They are useful for getting readings at home that you may refer to a doctor if you notice anything unusual. Look for one that has been approved or approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Note that some smartwatches include ECG technology, including Apple, Fitbit, and other brands. Smartwatches aren't medical devices and shouldn't replace an actual ECG monitor, but this may be a useful feature for some people.
Oxygen in the blood
During the COVID epidemic, measuring blood oxygen at home became more popular. Low blood oxygen (below 90%) is a sign that it is time to seek urgent medical treatment. Blood oxygen can also be a helpful health measure to monitor if you have other lung- or heart-related health problems.
Blood oxygen is best measured with a pulse oximeter, which you can find at most drug stores or online. Some smartwatches can also measure blood oxygen, although most have not been approved by the FDA for this purpose.
Even FDA-approved pulse oximeters arent perfect. Studies show that they are less effective on darker skin, leading to potentially missed warning signs.
If you have a dry complexion, it's important to take multiple tests throughout the day to look for physical signs of low oxygen, such as shortness of breath, a rapid heart rate, or a rapid breathing rate.
The lung function is crucial.
If you are experiencing breathing difficulties or a lung condition, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or even asthma, you may benefit from doing your lung function at home alongside your doctor testing in the office.
For two to three weeks every day, you may acquire a peak flow meter, which is available at most drug stores. Your health provider can assist you in determining whether or not you should take a healthy reading.
The weight of the fish has gotten a lot of attention.
With any standard household scale, weight is another easy measure to keep track of at home. Usually, small, day-to-day weight fluctuations (think 5 pounds or more) are related to the digestive process, hormonal fluctuations, and other normal bodily functions.
If you have certain health conditions, such as heart failure, it may be necessary to weigh yourself regularly to see how well your treatment is progressing or whether your condition is worsening. Unintentional weight loss or gain is also a sign of a wide range of illnesses, and a side effect of some medications.
Weight monitoring may also be hazardous for some peoples mental health. Your doctor can advise you if monitoring your weight is a good idea.
The information provided in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult with a physician or other qualified health provider if you have any questions about a medical condition or health goals.