Quantified Health. Part 1: Measuring Physical Health.

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quantified health tracking physical healthThe main problem with tracking your own health is its operationalization: how would you formally define health and express it in numbers? What comprises health? I believe that your personal self-tracking definition of health should depend on what you are trying to achieve.  If you are suffering from a certain ailment, then you may want to track presence and severity of symptoms. If you are interested in seeing how your health affects your overall well-being, perhaps, measuring your overall health condition will be enough.

In my case, I focus on both overall physical health, and particular symptoms. To measure the overall physical health, I use simple “energy level” question:

On a scale from 1 = Dead Tired to 10 = Full of Energy, how energetic were you this morning (afternoon/evening)?

Lately, I’ve been contemplating about supplementing this rather subjective metric with seemingly more objective (but perhaps, dubious) “Control-Pause” breathing test (a.k.a., body oxygen test). The test is described in full detail here . In brief, it operationalizes your overall body health via oxygenation rate (how soon your body consumes oxygen): you time, in seconds, how long you can hold your breath without inhaling. I’ve tried this test a couple of times, and there seems to be some variability in test results. However, but in order to see if these differences were due to my actual energy level, I would have to collect more data. Unfortunately, test is rather uncomfortable, and is better to be conducted at home.

In addition to overall health, I also record absence/presence and severity of specific symptoms. The acid reflux is of a particular interest to me:

On a scale from 1= Not at All to 10 = Very Severe, how would you describe acid reflux (heartburn or heaviness in chest area) this morning (afternoon/evening)?

Measuring muscle pain on the days following workout is another way to gauge the efficiency of the workout routine. Theoretically, the harder I workout, the more sore will my muscles be on the following day:

On a scale from 1 = Not at All to 10 = Very Much, how much muscle pain did you feel this morning (afternoon/evening)

And, of course, I leave room for other ailments that could potentially occur on any given day:

If you experienced any other ailment this morning, please note which one and rate, on a scale from 1 to 10, how severe the symptoms were.

Theoretically, physical health questions should allow me to track how quickly I recover after certain illnesses, if certain food ingredients or regimens result in manifestation of symptoms, or if a given medication or other remedy has any healing effect. In fact, regular monitoring of my acid reflux symptoms helped me to identify the lack of diversity in my diet as one of the causes of acix reflux.

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