Finding the Positive Impact of Health Tech on our Lives

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Paisleigh and Paislyn Martinez were attached from their lower chest to their bellybuttons at birth. Twins “joined at the sacrum at the base of the spine have a 68% chance of successful separation, whereas, in case of twins with conjoined hearts at the ventricular (pumping chamber) level, there are no known survivors,” reported the University of Maryland Medical Center. Doctors at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital performed the first ever successful separation of two conjoined at the heart newborn sisters, thanks to 3D printing.

The medical team used 3D printing that allowed them to navigate around a connection in the hearts that would cause them to bleed to death if severed. Advances in virtual reality allowed the doctors to confront the unknown before they went into the body. The Washington Post reported, “Like any other roadmap, an x-ray image is an incomplete reduction of reality that can misrepresent challenges or include distortions, which explains why, even in 2017, high-stake surgeries can involve a shocking degree of guesswork and improvisation.”

The Power of Being Tech Empowered

I believe that technology is an aid to our health and wellbeing, and without advances to technology in the new millennium, today’s advanced medical procedures would not be possible, nor would progressions in finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease be possible. Researchers at a University in Israel invented silicon chips that, once delivered into the brain, insert a protein that is known to inhibit the development of the disease. 

Every single day I use technology to help aid with my health through my smart watch. I get a buzz on my wrist at the :50 of every hour reminding me to stand for at least one minute because prolonged sitting has been linked to diabetes and heart disease. I also use my watch to record my runs as I train for a half marathon. After each run I am not only able to see very specific statistics about the run – total time, distance, elevation gain – I’m also able to get immediate metrics on my body. I can compare my heart rate from a run I did today to a run I did in January and see if there are any big changes over that time. Taking a quick glance at these statistics from time to time allows me to be hyperaware of any changes to my body and can prevent future health problems.

Another aid right at my fingertips is the “Health” app on my phone. I use it to see my average heart rate over the last month, and I can monitor for spikes in the chart when I know that I was probably under extra stress.

Risk and Reward

Of course, some people will still argue that technology is ultimately a hindrance to our health and wellbeing. Arguments include physical inactivity and sleep disorders, and The Vison Council reports that 60 percent of US adults report symptoms of digital eye strain. While I can’t refute survey results, I can point to potential solutions based on research. Some doctors recommend the “20-20-20” break, which means that every 20 minutes you should take a 20 second break and focus on something 20 feet away. Indeed, this would only work if people were disciplined enough to take periodic breaks from their computers.

So what are some ways to mitigate disruption from technology and maximize the positive effects on our health and wellbeing? I suggest two things:

1.    If you work in an office setting, allow yourself time to get up and walk around periodically throughout the day. Try a standing desk, or walk and talk with colleagues instead of sitting down during meetings. If not for your physical health, do it for your mental health. Exercise promotes the release of endorphins, and practicing regular physical activity allows you to engage in healthy lifestyle habits including having more energy, improving memory, and increasing sociability.

2.    Take advantage of the technology available. From devices that track your movement to apps that reward you for staying active, there are no shortage of new tools to help combat the ill effects of technology. I’ve even found one that allows me to earn money towards a charity of my choosing the more I work out, allowing me to stay healthy and help my community at the same time.

I expect numerous technological innovations to continue to challenge the way we think about our health and wellbeing. We must focus on reducing the harmful effects of technology, embrace change, and continue to excel as one society.  

Molly Cline
by Molly Cline

Research Analyst, Mercer