How close is your relationship with your smart phone? Some people can’t live without their phone, while others struggle to remember where it is… or how to turn it on! Regardless of your level of dependency, mobile phones can provide easy access to your personal contacts, directions, even entertainment. And – importantly – they can also help improve and maintain health while supporting your goals of aging optimally.
Here are some of the best evidence-based ways your phone can help keep you healthy. Click on the links for more information about recent research and the study findings.
1. Assistance to manage your medications
We’re all human, which means we can make mistakes or forget to do things. But some slip-ups have serious consequences, such as forgetting to take medications properly (or at all), a common problem for many people. Text message reminders delivered via mobile phone can help ensure medications are taken as directed (1).
2. Motivation to stay focused and on track
We can all use a little help and encouragement sometimes, especially when the going gets tough, like when we’re struggling to quit smoking, eat well or manage our weight. There are many health ‘apps’ available that send information, reminders and motivational messages to our phones and research evidence shows this approach can keep us from getting discouraged as we work toward our goals, including smoking cessation (2) and weight loss (3).
3. Support for managing chronic conditions
Chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, which involve ongoing monitoring, can be challenging for people to manage effectively. Studies show that mobile phone applications (aka “apps”) that involve inputting information (e.g. blood glucose readings, food intake etc.) and receiving personalized feedback help improve blood sugar levels (4). Dietary mobile apps with a focus on self-monitoring may also help folks with chronic diseases reduce their weight, waist circumference, and calorie consumption in the short-term (5). Electronic tools can even work hand in hand with strategies such as home exercise. People with osteoarthritis of the knee engaging in this combined strategy can experience short and long-term improvements in pain, physical function, and health-related quality of life by a small amount. Compared to other electronic tools, mobile apps are especially effective (6).
“Telemedicine” is also a time- and cost-effective way to support people recovering from diabetes-related problems such as foot ulcers (7). Telephone monitoring and support can also be effective for people recovering from stroke (8) and heart failure (9).
Automated telephone communication systems (ATCS), can help patients manage long-term conditions and encourage people to take preventive measures (screenings, immunizations, follow-up appointments etc.) (10).
4. Socialization: talk, laugh, share
Let’s not forget the original use of a phone: to connect and communicate with others! Relationships and contact with people contribute to a full, balanced and healthy life; conversely people who are socially isolated – including many older adults – are at risk of poor health. Telephones and other communication technology can help alleviate loneliness and a sense of isolation (11).
5. Access to your health records
What does the future hold for technology to monitor, maintain and/or improve your health? There is growing interest in making Personal Health Records (PHR) electronically available for people who want secure online access to their medical files in order to take greater responsibility and advocate for their own healthcare. Further research will clarify if and how PHRs impact overall health (12).
6. Find healthy aging information you can trust
Depending on your phone and your data plan, you may have full access to the Internet – including the trusted, evidenced-based health information on the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal! Just be wary when searching for health information elsewhere online: what you read may not be based on credible sources and may not lead to the health benefits you hope for.
Click the link below for tips on how to know if a health-related article is reliable.