Monitoring your health on a smart phone

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Meghan Cooper is a busy mom.  She's juggling a newborn with dishes, laundry and taking care of her other daughter.  So, she's a fan of phone apps that help save her time and stay on top of her family's health.

"I use a handful of apps on my phone to help me lose baby weight, to keep track of my health along with my baby's," she said.

Cooper has to keep an especially close eye on her infant.

"She has a condition called SVT that I need to be able to check her heart rate on a regular basis so I'm able to do that with the camera and the flash," she explained.

That's right.  Her smart phone is a stand in for a stethoscope.  It's also ideal for monitoring her own caloric intake as she tries to lose her baby weight.  It also keeps up with her fitness routine.  In fact, there are a growing number of apps geared toward health and medicine.  There are 13,000 apps now and more are added every day.

"There's an additional 5,000 to 6,000 apps for physicians, nurses, medical students, really medical professionals," said Brian Dolan with MobiHealthNews.

And now, many of the apps are talking with your tools, so to speak.  For example, there's a wi-fi enabled scale for your home.

"It actually sends your weight, your BMI, body mass index, as well as your body fat percentage," said Dolan.

There's also a high tech glucose meter that plugs into your iPhone.  Results are then sent to the phone and charts created.

"It's very easy for you to then send those charts to your care provider, your family friends, and others that are helping you manage your condition," said Dolan.

There's also an app to monitor your blood pressure.

"The app itself inflates the cuff and then takes the reading," said Dolan.

Worried about skin cancer?  You can send a picture of your moles and freckles through your phone to find out if they're a threat.

"These apps aren't going to specifically diagnose you with anything they will let you know if maybe that mole has an irregular shape, irregular color, and give you a sense to how risky that mole might be," Dolan explained.

The Food and Drug Administration is working on guidelines that will regulate certain apps, just as it does medical devices.  Meantime, the Federal Trade Commission keeps an eye on the claims being made.

"Last year the FTC, the Federal Trade Commission, actually removed a handful of apps from Apple's app store that claimed to help users cure their acne just by shining a blue light on their face using the iPhone screen," said Dolan.

Cooper certainly counts on her apps to ease her load, if nothing else.

"I don't have to carry around extra things like a stethoscope, or a calorie counter or a pedometer," she said.

A word of caution: With this many apps, you will find some much better than others.  You should start your search with trusted sources similar to those you'd refer to on the web.  Also, discuss the apps with your doctor or caregiver when dealing with life-threatening or chronic illnesses.

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