Why track your health?
Tracking your health early can help you detect problems before they arise, save time and money by having the right information during doctor visits, and help you take action to control your health.
Be Proactive. Don't wait until something is wrong to start caring about your health.
The common approach to health for most people is to go to the doctor when issues come up, otherwise they avoid the healthcare industry as much as possible. Some are a bit more on top of their health and visit their primary care doctor once a year for their physical, while some don't even have a primary care doctor. The problem with a reactive approach is that only caring about your health when something is wrong costs more money, takes more of your time, and in some cases, may be too late for you to change course.
Instead, investing in your health early on with preventative actions such as regular lab testing and early detection screenings can inform you which part of your health is at risk or underperforming, so you can take action before it becomes a more serious health issue. Even if you're young or consider yourself relatively healthy, understanding your health metrics can help you optimize your health and improve your memory, energy, mood, and sex drive.
Save time and money by having the right information during doctor visits
When you're dealing with a new condition or injury, the last thing you would want to do is to navigate the health system to find your historical records.
Your historical health records can provide your doctor with the whole picture to give you a faster and more accurate diagnosis. Instead of trying to remember whether you have any allergies, when you got your last Tetanus shot, or what your previous Albumin levels were, you can bring your full health record to your visit. This prevents you from mis-remembering or accidentally leaving out a piece of crucial information.
Having your previous MRIs, X-rays, and recent blood test results on hand can save you time and money from retaking those tests when visiting different hospitals during your treatment, especially since some of those tests can be quite expensive. Similarly, having a full record of all the medications you have taken in the past can help you avoid being prescribed medications that either didn't work or caused adverse interactions.
Don't let your medical records get deleted
Health systems in the US are not required to keep your data forever. Some hospitals may choose to keep your records around, but depending on the state, your medical records could be deleted after 5-10 years. After that they're gone forever. Start collecting your medical records early to make sure you have a copy of your data before it is deleted.
What health data should I track?
Your largest source of health data is probably your medical records stored in the different health systems you've visited. This includes immunization records, prescriptions, allergies, lab results, X-rays and more. Even if you consider yourself someone who rarely goes to the doctor, health facilities have more data on you than you think.
To begin tracking your health, start by making a list of all the places that hold your health data. Make sure to include your primary care doctor, hospitals and clinics you have visited in the past, pharmacies, student health, and urgent cares. See our article for more information about how to get your medical records.
Health and Fitness Devices
Health and fitness devices provide more continuous metrics that allow you to see trends from day to day, in contrast to medical records which might occur only once a month or less. Common fitness trackers and smart scales such as ones from Fitbit and Garmin can track metrics like sleep patterns, resting heart rate, steps, blood oxygen, and weight. Some devices can also track blood pressure or glucose levels.
Wearable health trackers cannot capture everything, so for certain types of data you may still have to rely on apps for manual data entry. This includes nutrition tracking, workout tracking, alcohol and caffeine logging, female cycle tracking and so on. Device technologies are constantly improving, so keep a lookout for new devices that support new types of health metrics.
If you are older than 10 years old, more likely than not, there are some records of you on a piece of paper collecting dust in a file cabinet in your or your family's homes. They could be paper vaccination cards from when you were growing up, various print outs from different clinics or hospitals, health insurance bills, prescription orders, and results from at-home tests.
It may also be important to note down any important events you remember but your doctors don't know about, such as that injury from a ski trip you went to a few years ago but you didn't go see a doctor about. If you had done a genetics test, that is useful to keep with the rest of your records too since your genetics can inform you and your doctor of any potential health risks to watch out for, and give you insights on how to optimize your diet and energy.
What tool should I use to track my health?
You may realize your health data is scattered across many health systems, patient portals, websites, and fitness apps. Here are some examples of what you might be using:
- One patient portal for each of your doctors and hospitals
- One login for each at-home testing service and genetics testing service
- One app for each fitness tracker and smart scale
- Apps for tracking medications and supplements
- Apps for tracking nutrition, caffeine consumption, and workouts
- Apps for tracking your mood and mental health
- Apps for tracking menstrual cycle
- Apps that manage a specific chronic disease such as Parkinson's or diabetes
- Apps storing photos and PDFs of health documents
We created Guava to help you manage your health records securely in one place. With Guava, you can connect your patient portals, fitness devices and apps, and upload photos of your paper documents. We fetch all your past records from your patient portals, and send you notifications when new records are available after visits. We automatically extract useful health information from your uploads so you don't need to spend time transcribing your paper records.
What should I do after I have all my health data?
With all your records in one place, you can start understanding your health in full by looking at your historical data and doing your own research on your test results, and sharing your health profile with your family and doctors during visits.
Organizing and understanding your data
Visit summaries and lab results may not be the most easy to understand without medical knowledge. They contain a lot of acronyms and display data in a way that leaves you asking your doctor many questions in the little time you have during your visit. If you're interested in diving in yourself, government websites such as the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), NIH (National Institutes of Health), HHS (Department of Health & Human Services), and MedlinePlus.gov, can provide useful information about various lab tests, conditions, health risks, and recommendations. If you're using Guava to track your health, it's even simpler.
Guava organizes and displays your data intuitively to help you understand it. We take reference ranges and risk factors from the CDC and other trusted health sources, summarize and display it beautifully and simply with additional links for those who are inclined to deep dive and read more.
You can also see how your metrics such as resting heart rate, cholesterol, blood glucose levels and weight change over time, which allows you and your doctor to spot trends and issues before they arise. It keeps you accountable and allows you to see concrete progress on how your lifestyle and nutritional changes are affecting your body.
Sharing your health profile with family and doctors
You may want to share your health profile with your primary care doctor, or with your family and other healthcare providers for a second opinion. If you are caring for aging parents or young children, you can help them track their health too. Guava makes it easy to share your profile and manage your family's profiles.
In your next doctor visit, you can look at your health profile with your primary care doctor to spot any issues and put together an action plan. Talk to your doctor about potential lifestyle or diet changes, or any particular areas that may require more frequent checkups.
You can also consider scheduling recurring tests to observe how your health progresses over time. In some cases, based on your family history, genetics, age, demographics, and past tests, you may need to get certain tests and screenings more frequently if you are predisposed to certain health conditions, such as high cholesterol or diabetes.
Maintaining and improving your health doesn't happen overnight. Take the first step now to start managing and controlling your health.