March 12, 2019

Monitoring Your Health at Home

ARTA received a wide variety of responses from members after the distribution of ARTA Wellness: The Diabetes Volume. Several requested more information on different tools that could be used to monitor health (and specifically, body fat composition) at home.

In the Diabetes Volume, calculating the body mass index (BMI) was discussed. The Canadian Guidelines for Body Weight Classification in Adults also uses waist circumference to assess a person’s risk of developing health problems. Waist circumference is an indicator of abdominal fat. Excess fat around the waist and upper body is associated with greater health risk than fat located more in the hip and thigh area.

To measure your waist circumference, follow these simple steps:

  • Use a tape measure that is not old or stretched.
  • Take off any bulky clothing (including coats or belts) and empty your pockets.
  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Wrap the tape measure around your belly, directly against your skin, if possible. It should be placed about halfway between the bottom of your lowest rib and the top of your hip bones, roughly in line with your belly button and loose enough for you to be able to slip a finger inside the tape.
  • Breathe out normally.
  • Record your waist measurement in centimetres.

A waist circumference at or above 102 cm for men and 88 cm for women is associated with an increased risk of developing health problems,
such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Waist circumference is a nice check-and-balance to BMI since BMI only looks at overall weight and does not take into account if increased weight is from healthy muscle mass.

Measuring your waist circumference using a tape measure is easy, but if you want a more specific tool, you could consider a body-fat calliper. They are readily available at health stores, drug stores, and even big box stores. They come with charts and graphs and allow you to measure your body composition in a variety of body areas, not just your waist.

There are many medical kits or medical devices available for home use. Using home test kits can help you take an active role in monitoring your health, offer privacy and convenience, and usually provide quick results. There are also many risks. Tests can be defective or provide inaccurate results. All medical devices in Canada need to be licensed; however, some companies may advertise and sell unlicensed kits online or via mail order. You can check to see if a medical device has an active licence through a Government of Canada database before you purchase it.

Your health is a very complex issue. While it is important to take an active role in your health, at-home tests are not a replacement for professional health care. Any at-home testing is best used as an interim method between regularly scheduled medical appointments.

Personal health monitoring devices are not covered by the ARTA Retiree Benefits Plan, so consult with your doctor about whether home monitoring is a good idea for you, and which type of monitor (there are many different kinds of Home A1C tests, cholesterol test kits, or blood pressure cuffs) would best suit your needs.