Older Moms. New Babies.

Jan-OlderMother-imageYou see them jogging with strollers or walking in the baby food aisle. Maybe you’re one yourself. Today, more women ages 40 – 44 are new mothers. After decades of decline, there has been a jump in the increase of older moms. In a new analysis of census data by Pew Research Center, 86 percent of women ages 40 – 44 are mothers. And perhaps nearly as striking, 55% of these older moms have never been married.


So why are women waiting to have children later? Taking time for more education, improved job prospects, recovery from the recession, or stagnant wages are among the leading reasons women are delaying having children.


Less obvious reasons are the advances in in vitro fertilization that have allowed older women to develop careers or extend their education before having children. Fertility drops after age 35 with the chance of having a baby at age 40 of about 10 percent. However, improvements in IVF treatments have helped more women become mothers into the early 40’s. And if conception isn’t an option, adoption or surrogacy might be solutions for single women and those pursuing a career.


Becoming a Mother After 35 May be More Difficult

It’s possible for women over 40 to carry a child, but pregnancy can be more difficult because of less frequent ovulation. However, if a woman freezes her eggs before age 35, she has a greater than 50% chance of producing a live birth. Becoming pregnant later in life also increases the risks of pregnancy complications including greater chances of miscarriage, diabetes, or the need for a C-section delivery. Talking to a health care provider and taking care to have a healthy diet and exercise regularly is important.

The Advantages of Being an Older Mom

Older moms with more time or financial stability may be better prepared to care for her baby. Typically, a 40-year or older mom has a good sense of identity and an established career. Life experience is often stated as an advantage over being a young mom who is just starting out. And often for older moms, friends who have already become moms are a great resource.

Forty is the New 30

The average age of first-time mothers has climbed in every state in the U.S. And while the number of babies born to women 45 and older is relatively small, that number has more than tripled over the past decade. With more women choosing to have their first baby at 40, American family sizes are getting smaller. Today the majority of older women, especially those using IVF, are stopping at having one child.


And What About those Babies?

Children are likely to do well when their moms are older. In addition to a more secure financial foundation, children of older parents are more likely to do well in school. Older moms have the advantage of being able to share experiences of their 20s and 30s with their young children. And surprisingly, research indicates that women who have one or two children in their 30s and 40s have a greater chance of living into their 80s and 90s. For many older moms, knowing that they may not see as many grandchildren as a younger mom is something they accept, but wouldn’t change a thing about.

The Biggest Financial Mistakes Millennials Make Today

Jan-YoungManBudget-imageBorn between 1980 and 2000, Millennials are perhaps the most informed of any generation thanks to having grown up surrounded by modern technology—they’re also poised to make up 75% of the workforce by 2025. That said, millennials actually have quite a bit working against them in terms of finding and maintaining stability, from disappearing pensions to growing home-buying difficulties. When it comes to managing money, millennials are quite a bit different from past generations.


Here are just a few of the biggest financial mistakes made by millennials today, all of which can lead to money management headaches.

Not Budgeting

There’s no quicker way to live beyond one’s means than to avoid putting together a budget. For many millennials, however, creating a budget is easier said than done. Other priorities, such as finding a job and paying on student loans tend to cloud the need for creating a budget, which is essential for avoiding problems down the road. Fortunately, there are a number of budgeting tools available online that make putting together a proper budget easier than ever.

Avoiding Student Loan Payments

No one enjoys paying their student loans each month, but the fact is that they’re not going to just disappear. Avoiding loan payments can quickly lead to arrears, penalties and fees, all of which can make getting out of debt even more difficult. If you’re having a hard time paying your student loans each month, call your lender and discuss getting set up on a different payment plan. Whatever you do, don’t just stop paying on them in hopes that they’ll go away—they won’t.

Not Planning for Retirement

As important as it is to live in the present, everyone needs to plan ahead in order to achieve financial comfort later in life. This is where setting up a retirement plan comes in. With nearly 50% of millennials having not yet set up a retirement plan, however, many are also losing out on free money, such as matches from an employer in a 401(k). The longer you wait to start saving for retirement, the more aggressive your saving strategies must be. Starting earlier can help to mitigate stress related to saving for retirement.

Constantly Renting

Renting an apartment is certainly easier than purchasing a home at face value, but in the end, it’s one of the worst financial mistakes a person can make if they continue renting for decades or longer. While home ownership is an investment (and one of the best available), all of the money that goes to renting an apartment ends up in someone else’s pockets—the renter has nothing to show for it after eventually moving. While renting can be a good means to an end, it shouldn’t be the end-all. Unfortunately, millennials simply aren’t buying homes the way past generations have.


While millennials have a great deal of potential for financial success at their fingertips, they’re often dragged down by issues such as those highlighted above. Fortunately, financial roadblocks can be overcome by adopting a better, more mature mindset about money.

Can a Vegetarian Diet Make You a Better Athlete?

Dec-Veg-Athlete-imageToday it’s hard to miss stories about winning athletes in nearly all sports who are dedicated vegetarians. But is a vegetarian diet just a feel-good eco-fad or does it offer any advantages over a meat-based diet?

A recent Arizona State study shows that a veggie diet can offer you as much physical strength that a meat-based diet offers, and may give you an advantage in aerobic capacity. Even better, vegetarian diets have been linked to healthier hearts, fewer cancers, and longer lifespans.

Unexpected Protein Potential

One of the surprise findings in the Arizona State study was that you could get enough protein from a vegetarian diet to be as big and strong as someone on a meat diet.

“I expected cardiorespiratory fitness to be about the same since lots of endurance athletes say their performance has improved since going vegetarian,” says lead study author Heidi Lynch. “Now this study backs that. I was more surprised about strength, because people often think they need meat to get big and strong.”

For women in the study, a vegetarian diet actually provided 13 percent greater VO2 max scores than their omnivore counterparts. Part of the explanation for that difference is that vegetarians tend to consume more carbohydrates and may provide better fuel efficiency especially for endurance sports such as running, cycling, and distance swimming.

The big nutrient for building muscle of course is protein. Done right, vegetarianism can provide all the protein you need without the saturated fat and cholesterol found in meat or cheese. Green peas, quinoa, nuts, beans, and tofu are great protein sources and there are nearly limitless recipes on how to enjoy them.

Advantages off the Field, Too

If you’re not already a vegetarian, the benefits beyond athletic capacity are worth considering. Most vegetarian diets are low in or devoid of animal products. They’re also usually lower than non-vegetarian diets in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. Many studies have shown that vegetarians seem to have a lower risk of obesity, coronary heart disease (which causes heart attack), high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, and some forms of cancer.

Getting Started

Starting a vegetarian diet doesn’t have to equate with giving up delicious food or enduring boring, brown meals. However, a vegetarian lifestyle does take some planning and understanding. For some people, a semi-vegetarian or pesco-vegetarian diet is an easy way to start. When starting out, be sure to have enough information to ensure that you are not missing any essential nutrients. You may also want to consult with a dietician or your physician if you have any concerns.


Eliminating meat from your diet won’t automatically make you a better athlete. However, when you make healthy, balanced choices, a veggie diet can give you all of the nutritional needs for performing well in any sport or lifestyle.

Setting the Clocks Back: Bracing for the Darkness

Nov-TimeChange-imageThe coming weekend is one that many have looked forward to since March! It’s not relief that Halloween is over, or excitement for the upcoming holiday season. It’s not breaking out the autumn sweaters and warm boots. It’s not even the oversized mug of pumpkin spiced latte they’re planning. It’s the extra hour of sleep!

In the wee hours of Sunday morning, the clocks go back to standard time, which means an extra hour to snooze. That is, unless you have a three year old who doesn’t care where the clock’s hands are, and decides to wake you up, as usual, at 5:00am…only now it’s 4:00am!!!

For those without three year olds, the extra hour might be welcomed. But the disruption in sleep patterns does put a strain on the body, and can contribute to a variety of concerns.


The Circadian Rhythm

Our internal sleep/wake clock, or circadian rhythm, regulates our alertness and works most reliably when we maintain regular sleep habits. This built in process is controlled by the hypothalamus, which releases melatonin in response to darkness. Melatonin is a hormone that makes us feel less alert, and helps explain why we get sleepier when night falls. Throwing our circadian rhythm out of whack, whether it be from jet lag, insomnia, or changing the clocks, has impacts on our awareness and can make it hard to pay attention and function normally. Whether we spring forward or fall back, a disruption in sleep patterns is potentially dangerous.


Risks Associated with Setting the Clocks Back

Though setting the clocks ahead in spring raises more obvious concerns–sleep deprivation accounts for a marked increase in car accidents, heart attacks, and more–the extra hour of night we get each autumn also contributes to some of the same problems. The additional early morning sunlight may help us wake up and prepare for the day ahead, but the earlier sunset means sleepiness will kick in sooner.

  • Traffic accidents increase, as evening commuters have not yet adjusted to the darker drive home
  • A study by Carnegie Melon University found that pedestrians are three times more likely to be hit by a car in the days following the time change
  • For those impacted Seasonal Affective Disorder,  the annual struggle with “winter depression” intensifies
  • Despite gaining an hour of night this weekend, insomnia and other sleep difficulties increase in the days following the return to standard time
  • Children get less exercise–a study out of Great Britain indicates that vigorous physical activity among kids is reduced by nearly two minutes per day; this doesn’t sound like much until you realize they only engage in this level of activity for 30 minutes


Why Do We Change the Time?

We can thank (or blame) Benjamin Franklin for promoting the idea of changing the time by an hour each spring. But it didn’t actually become common practice until 1918, as a way of helping to save fuel during WWI. It was abolished at the end of the war, but reestablished at the outbreak of WWII, also to help conserve fuel.

In the years since WWII, most of the country has continued setting the clocks forward and back each year (Hawaii and Arizona being exceptions), though calls to end the practice are getting louder. As newer technologies have made energy use more efficient, the argument that an extra hour of daylight has a meaningful impact on fuel consumption is being challenged. Perhaps one day this biannual disruption will be a thing of the past. But for now, make the most of the extra hour this weekend, and get ready for the darkness.


And for those crawling out of bed at 4:00am Sunday morning to whip up some oatmeal for a wide awake three year old, take heart. A little coffee will help, and your circadian rhythm will adjust in a few days.





Improving Productivity with Mindfulness Meditation

Oct-meditation-imageBoosting workplace productivity is priority for many CEOs, HR leaders and management alike. Some look to the newest trends in hiring as a way of improving worker productivity, such as working with remote employees, who are 14% more productive on average than their cubicle-bound colleagues. When it comes to leveraging your existing workforce, however, one effective tool to consider is mindfulness meditation.

Mindfulness has been shown to improve attention—particularly, stability, control and efficiency. Incorporating mindfulness meditation into the workplace doesn’t have to be hard—simply hiring an outside consultant to come in and run sessions during the morning is all it takes—and the benefits of doing so in terms of boosting productivity are more than worth the costs.

Here are just a few reasons to offer mindfulness meditation sessions during the workweek, all of which can lead to a calmer, more productive workforce.

Stress Reduction

Stress is one of the most omnipresent issues faced by professionals both in America and throughout the rest of the world today. In the U.S. alone, fallout from stress costs an annual $300 billion!. One of the core functions of practicing mindfulness meditation is the reduction of stress, which seems to melt away after even a short session of 10-15 minutes. Just about any office can benefit from an added sense of calm—especially high-stress environments.

Improved Cognition

For those who find themselves tasked with “knowledge work” on a daily basis—that is, work based around critical thinking processes—getting through an eight-hour day can be easier said than done. As mindfulness has been linked with improvements in cognition, it serves as the perfect practice for keeping “brain drain” and burnout at bay. Just as a professional musician would never step out on stage without first tuning his or her instrument, your staff should greet each workday with fresh headspace, and mindfulness meditation is the perfect catalyst for doing so.

Enhanced Collaboration

No matter how siloed your office happens to be, chances are your employees are going to have to work together on projects at one time or another. Not everyone excels at collaborating with others, and management often overlooks the importance of honing this skill. Mindfulness meditation, however, may prove to be successful in enhancing collaborative efforts, particularly in teams where listening skills leave something to be desired. If you’ve encountered roadblocks due in large part to poor communication, mindfulness may just be the solution you’ve been looking for.


Nondenominational, easy to integrate into the workday and backed by science, mindfulness meditation at work is all the rage among business leaders and professionals across all industries—and for good reason.

What Every Business Needs to Know About Anti-Discriminatory Laws

Oct-Antidiscrimination-imageEvery business should have a basic knowledge about anti-discriminatory handicap and disability laws. At a very general level, the following definition can be proposed: discrimination is any violation of the principle of equality in relation to prohibited criteria. Older discrimination laws used to provide sanctioned regulations which did not sufficiently take into account the differences of the situations to which they applied and were unjust. The related discrimination laws are also classified by the impact of the disability on the amount of the applicant’s resources.


In case-law, the U.S. courts in the 1960s considered that the application of a uniform rule to different situations might violate the principle of equality and be discriminatory. The first category of disability concerns disabled persons able to engage in gainful employment. A classification in a category may not be final. Also, handicap and disability laws entitle a disabled person to obtain a disability card allowing him or her to benefit from certain advantages in the course of everyday life.


A disabled person must attach all the documents requested within a disability discrimination claim letter. A disability discrimination claim letter must also indicate the date from which the person concerned may no longer claim the daily disability benefits due to the stabilization of his state of health. The problems they designate may of course be much older, but they were usually either denied or addressed in some other way. This conception, moreover, is not unique to the US alone.


However, access to the disability discrimination court is only reserved for applicants who have a disability at the time of their application for a disability discrimination claim. The second category of disability includes disabled persons who are absolutely incapable of practicing any profession. The disabled person must also complete a form for the disability discrimination court in which he provides information about his tax situation.


Disabled persons are divided into categories to determine the amount of their payments. In the absence of a reply, the disability discrimination application must be considered as having been refused. Harassment is considered to be a form of discrimination when undesirable behavior related to a disability has the purpose or effect of infringing on a person’s dignity and creating a humiliating, intimidating, degrading, hostile or offensive environment.


In practice, a number of disabled workers who are potentially eligible for a disability discrimination claim are unable to obtain the necessary supporting documents for the administrative recognition of their claim in the course of their careers. If this is the case, the disabled worker is usually informed of this decision by registered mail. It is also possible to switch from one disability category to another according to the evolution of a disabled worker’s health. The disability discrimination court must also reply to a disability discrimination application request.


Indirect disability discrimination occurs when an apparently neutral provision, practice or criterion is likely to result in a particular disadvantage to persons with a particular disability. Depending on a disabled worker’s situation, they should consult a lawyer in order to estimate the amounts they can claim. In U.S. law, this adaptation of the law does not require different situations to be treated in different ways.


However, the plurality and complexity of the contemporary world has led the US courts to take notice of the multiplicity of concrete situations and to adapt, if necessary, the application of the law to realities. Indeed, US law accepts, when there are differences of appreciable or even objective situations, that the general rule should take them into account and is therefore applied differently depending on the situations in question. Therefore, there are different concepts of discrimination, and between law and the social sciences, a multiplicity of concepts of discrimination have been defined.


More concretely, in any situation of choice, decisions and practices will be fair when they are based only on objective criteria and which will appear to be legitimate in the situation in question: qualifications used to choose an employee, resources used to choose a tenant, etc. Therefore, decisions should not depend on the health of the applicant on the one hand and on certain administrative data on the other.


The law also provides various conditions for receiving a disability discrimination claim. In the absence of an initiative by the court, it is the responsibility of the disabled person to carry out the necessary formalities directly.

Celebrate National Coffee Day

Sept-coffee-imageMore than half of American adults drink at least one cup of coffee each day. If you aren’t one of them, you may want to consider giving it a try. Although for years doctors warned people about coffee, those concerns were based on flawed, decades old research. Current studies have shown a broad range of health benefits associated with drinking coffee in moderation.


Whether you drink it hot or cold, at home or on the go, that cup of joe provides more benefits than you may realize. Unique elements in coffee have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, and the benefits may start as soon as you open the bag of fresh beans and first smell the aroma. And that’s reason to celebrate.


1. Improved Heart Health

Apart from a morning boost to get your day going, regular coffee drinkers have a lower risk of heart failure than those who don’t drink the java. Results show that two 8-oz. cups of coffee a day would be associated with an 11% drop in heart risk. Drinking less than that showed a lower risk reduction. But you must be moderate — over five cups and risk increases.


2. Coffee Drinkers Live Longer

Studies have been done in both the U.S. and in Europe, following the coffee-drinking habits of over 700,000 people, focused on African Americans, Japanese Americans, Latinos and whites. The risk of dying early was lower for coffee drinkers than non-coffee-drinkers. Good news whether you drink one cup or four cups a day across all populations, whether people drank caffeinated or decaf.


3. Live a Happier Life

While a fresh cup of java obviously makes a dedicated coffee drinker happy, there’s scientific research that backs up that feeling. Yes, the caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, but it also may act as a mild antidepressant by increasing production of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin and dopamine. In fact, a study showed drinking several cups of coffee daily appears to reduce the risk of suicide in both men and women by about 50 percent.



Additional benefits include protecting against Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes and liver disease, including liver cancer. So, make sure to raise a glass — or a mug — to celebrate today’s holiday, and toast to coffee and good health.


How Employers Can Support Caregivers

Sept-caregiver-imageDoes your company have a comprehensive “Family Caregiver Leave” policy in place? If not, it might be time to start thinking about one. 44 million family caregivers currently reside in the U.S. providing care for ill and disabled loved ones – tasks may include everything from transportation to doctor’s appointments to providing more skilled nursing care like administering medicine and dressing wounds.

As the second largest generation, Baby Boomers, ages into the post-retirement bracket, the responsibility of their care in old age and in ill health will fall to more and more of their children, the people who make up the largest percentage of the workforce. Don’t miss these four key ways to support and empower family caregivers in your company:

Paid Leave

Microsoft was in the news recently when they announced on LinkedIn a transition from a 12 weeks unpaid family caregiver leave policy to a four weeks paid and eight weeks unpaid policy.  This not only helped bolster their company’s image, but follows industry trends that reflect a new understanding of what is coming down the pipeline when it comes to employees needing to take on caregiving roles. Previously, companies like Deloitte and Facebook had announced updated caregiver leave policies for more paid time off to care for a sick relative.

Paid Family Caregiver Leave policies are intelligent reactions to what employees are asking for – better work life balance and the ability to work remotely when needed at home. Acquiring top talent and the best employees for your team may come down to the benefits you offer, and this isn’t just maternity and paternity leave anymore, but family caregiver leave as well.

Provide Better Telecommunication

If an employee needs to work remotely from their home while providing care for a loved one, it is critical to set communication pathways in place that keep the whole team united and in touch. There are a host of free and low-cost tech tools that are answering this call for virtual connection:

Instant messaging and conversation tools like Skype and Slack help team members stay in constant chats, share files, and more.

Conference call services like Join.me, Zoom, and UberConference help employees hold virtual meetings with call-in lines and the ability to share screens.

Live video chatting platforms like Skype, Google+ Hangouts, and Viber let team members call in and hold meetings where they can see themselves and share screens.

Emotional Intelligence

What makes your employee a loyal family caregiver could possibly be what makes them a top contributor to your company – dedication, work ethic, empathy, and detail orientation. Recognizing these qualities and molding your own response to their leave (be it for a death in the family or a traumatic emergency like a parent having a stroke or heart attack) can make a huge impact on the experience they have with your company.

Going the extra mile for employees by sending flowers to their loved one in the hospital, donating to a related charity with the loss of a family member, and checking in regularly to ask how they are doing and if they need anything, speaks volumes. If you’re not sure what comes with caregiving duties for an aging parent, ask! For example, an elderly parent returning from the hospital may require more in-home safety equipment, and having a new shower chair or step stool delivered for them on behalf of the company shows that you get it.

Understanding your employee’s new schedule and the balancing act required when working and caregiving as well will help you avoid misconceptions and missed opportunities to foster a team-first environment.

Don’t Forget Other Benefits

Perks that may seem like simple additions to a job description to help your company find top tier talent can also benefit employees who are family caregivers. Benefits like contributing to student loan repayment can help off-set burdens that millennial caregivers often face in losing money, time, and career freedom to help care for an ill loved one. Reimbursements for fitness programs and gym memberships also prioritize employee health and can encourage family caregivers who so often put their needs last to take care of themselves and exercise on the company’s dime.

When it comes to speculating about the future of company growth and employee retention, keeping family caregiver needs in mind is a must.

The Dirty Dozen™: Twelve Foods with High Pesticide Residue

The Dirty Dozen™: Twelve Foods with High Pesticide Residue

Every year since 2004, The Environmental Working Group updates their Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™. The guide tests 48 popular fruits and vegetables and ranks them according to their level of pesticide contamination. The 12 fruits and vegetables with the most pesticide residue are termed the Dirty Dozen ™.

The results of more than 35,200 samples tested by the FDA is the foundation for the guide.

The Dirty Dozen ™: 2016

For 2016, the Dirty Dozen™ includes strawberries, apples, nectarines, peaches, celery, grapes, cherries, spinach, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers.

Different pesticide residues contaminated each food on this list. Their high concentration of pesticides (compared to other produce) confirmed a slot for them on the Dirty Dozen ™ 2016 list.

Should You Purchase Organic Versions of the Dirty Dozen  Instead  

Dr. Andrew Weil believes that one must eat produce for many of the nutrients that support health. However, the health concerns that pesticides present, especially children and those with existing health issues trouble him.

In animals studies, pesticides disrupted the nervous and endocrine system and enhanced risks of cancer.

If one chooses organic produce, one can avoid the pesticides while obtaining the nutrients.

An Opposing Viewpoint On Dirty Dozen 

A look at The Environmental Working Group’s methodology reveals that the Dirty Dozen is based on the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program. The USDA samples for pesticides and ranks each fruit or vegetable. Six criteria including the number of different pesticide residues identified and the total amount of detected pesticide determine the ranking.

There is a flaw in EWG’s scoring system—it considers all pesticides equal, regardless of each pesticide’s varying toxicity.

Two food scientists checked EWG methodology and pesticide numbers. The scientists compared the level of pesticides on the Dirty Dozen to the chronic reference dose (the maximum amount one can eat every day and remain safe). This dose is one percent of the amount that animals were able to handle without effects. Not one of the Dirty Dozen exceeded this extremely small dosage. Here is the scientists’ report.

An Opposing Viewpoint on Buying Organic

So why wouldn’t one want to buy organic just to ensure there are no pesticides?

One reason is organic farming is not pesticide free. The list of acceptable chemicals to use includes some relatively harmless substances such as dairy cultures or vitamin B. But some should cause suspicion, such as copper sulfate, elemental sulfur, and borates. One of the acceptable synthetic pesticides used in organic farming are the questionable pyrethrins. The list of acceptable chemicals for organic farming can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations, here.

Should I Avoid All Produce Due to Pesticides

No, you should not avoid eating fruits and vegetables. The benefits of a diet replete with fruits and vegetables outweigh pesticide risks.

The Dirty Dozen and the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ help you decide for yourself where potential hazards can be found. If anything, it will get you to start a garden of your own so you know exactly what is and what isn’t in your fruits and vegetables.

Beyond Healthy Behaviors: Using Wearables in a Clinical Setting

Beyond Healthy Behaviors: Using Wearables in a Clinical Setting

By Howard J. Luks, MD

An increasing number of people are buying wearables, e.g., fitness trackers and smartwatches, to keep tabs on their healthy behaviors.

In fact, manufacturers shipped more than 78 million units in 2015, up 171.6 percent from 2014. Fitbit sales increased 50 percent last quarter alone.

Healthcare Applications

While market forecasts are generally rosy, sentiments on their healthcare applications are more pessimistic.

A recent article highlighted “why doctors and administrators don’t love wearables,” concluding that commercially available wearables like Fitbit and Apple Watch will remain “self-help” technologies.

Although there are challenges to address when using these devices in a clinical setting, wearables present a huge opportunity to prevent, manage, and cure disease. In addition, wearables could dramatically improve the quality of research in healthcare.

Promotion of Healthy Behaviors

Wearable devices are already being used as tools for promotion of healthy behaviors and behavioral change. Although the devices alone are unlikely to change behavior and create healthy behaviors, they can be an important component of a broader engagement strategy.

Recognizing this potential, many insurers and employers are using wearables in their wellness programs to track and incentivize healthy behaviors. Doctors also have a key role to play in the prevention of chronic disease and encouraging the uptake of healthy behaviors using technology.

Few Maintain Healthy Lifestyles

With less than three percent of Americans maintaining a healthy lifestyle, there are hundreds of millions of people in the US alone that stand to benefit from technologies that promote and encourage a healthier lifestyle.

In addition to disease prevention and modification, wearables and other personalized health technologies can also help individuals (and their doctors) manage chronic diseases.

Empowering People to Use Data

Last month, Apple introduced CareKit, an open-source development platform that aims to empower people to use data to understand the impact of healthy behaviors and lifestyles.

CareKit’s initial modules include features like medication reminders, symptom trackers, health insight dashboards, and a Connect feature, which allows users to share data with their doctor.

Data Sharing

As sensor technology advances beyond step counting, this data-sharing feature will become particularly useful. Medtech startup AliveCor recently unveiled the Kardia Band, a medical-grade EKG band for Apple Watch, with pending FDA approval. The band works with an accompanying Apple Watch app, which automatically processes the data from the device sensors and allows wearers to also record voice memos that are sent along with the EKG to their doctors.

Wearables Improve the Quality of Healthcare Research

Many studies still rely on self-reported data for physical activity, which is subject to significant bias. While research-grade devices provide extremely accurate readings, they are often prohibitively expensive, which is problematic when funding is tight.

Seeking a reliable but affordable alternative, researchers are turning to commercially available products as evidence emerges that these devices perform within a reasonable degree of more expensive research-grade products.

Fitabase, a web platform for the collection, analysis, and export of data from Fitbit devices, says it has assisted researchers and other healthcare institutions in more than 100 research studies using Fitbit products. Other researchers are using Apple ResearchKit in concert with Apple Watch.

Implications of Data from Wearables

There are of course many ethical, legal, and social challenges to address when using these technologies.

Specific to their clinical applications, many doctors and healthcare administrators are particularly concerned about data privacy and security.

With the widespread adoption of electronic health records (EHRs), information overload is another concern for doctors. As Dr. Bob Watcher, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco put it, “Most primary care doctors I know, if they get one more piece of information, they’re going to quit.”

Howard Luks, MD an orthopedic surgeon based in New York, believes that with the appropriate dashboards, EMR plugins and buy-in by the MD community, wearables present themselves as a means of helping patients recognize the changes to their health that are brought forth by incorporating healthy behaviors into their daily routines.

Self-Help Devices

A 2014 Nielsen survey found that users of wearable technologies tended to be young and wealthy. This demographic of early adopters has given them a reputation as “self-help” devices for the “healthy wealthy.”

However, as the market matures, new value propositions are emerging and wearables are migrating into the clinical realm. This presents new challenges for device manufacturers, including more scrutiny on data accuracy and security.

Engaging in dialogue with doctors, the healthcare IT industry and professionals as well as other healthcare workers is essential to ensure that these challenges are addressed so wearable technologies can achieve their potential.

A version of this post originally appeared on howardluksmd.com

Image Credit: Shutterstock