December 18, 2019

Closer Than You Think

by Bill Fraser | Chair, Wellness Committee

Advances in science and technology affect our everyday lives. Part of that influence is in the area of our physical health and wellness. Innovations have allowed for the early detection, treatment, and monitoring of many illnesses or physical conditions. Here are just a few of the medical improvements that have been made.

Arrays of sports watches have become popular. In addition to telling time, they can now measure heart rates and blood pressure, count steps taken, stairs climbed, and calories burned. Some will sound an alarm if heart rate or blood pressure registers above acceptable levels.

Those with diabetes can measure glucose levels with the prick of a finger and a glucose monitor or more recently, by simply holding a meter to the monitor on their arm. Insulin pumps also monitor and automatically provide the insulin that a person needs. In much the same way, pacemakers monitor the heart and stimulate it in order to maintain a healthy rhythm. A person with sleep apnea can use a CPAP (continuous positive air pressure) machine to provide a constant supply of air pressure to continue breathing and so achieve a beneficial sleep — and no snoring.

Computers are being used more and more to monitor, track, and facilitate human recovery and health. Work continues on hand, arm, leg, and foot prostheses to make them look and behave like the limbs they are replacing. Muscles, where nerve damage has occurred, are receiving computerized stimulation in the same way that the brain messages the nerves, thus increasing a person’s chance to walk again.

Some advances are almost unbelievable. A toilet developed in Japan has the ability to analyze the urine, measure the glucose and the proteins in it, then send that information to the user or their doctor. There is research in using brain activity to direct a computer, allowing disabled persons to communicate and control their environment. An operation to moderate the effects of Parkinson’s disease has been developed. This surgery involves placing electrodes within the brain to disrupt the brain’s electrical activity and improve physical symptoms.

Even those not hard-of-hearing could benefit from the most recent advancements in hearing aid technology. New hearing aids will take the spoken words from one of twenty-seven different languages and translate them into English through a phone. An English response can be translated back into the other language. This could be a great idea for retirees who travel.

Dialysis machines, robotic surgery, and advanced imaging like MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging), CAT scans (computerized axial tomography), and ultrasound are just a few more science and technology advances from which we benefit. We rely on them to see into our bodies, diagnose, and treat. The day of the bionic man and woman is closer than ever.