Tracking My Health Data

Steve’s _IMG_2907I’ve been tracking my health data for many years now, using  combination of blood tests every month, tracking in a variety of IOS apps and using a fitbit and Moves apps to track my activity.  It’s trivial in terms of time, taking maybe a few minutes each day, but it’s gradually identifying patterns and trend that are proving very useful.  My long term goal is to increase the level of ‘mastery’ I have over my mind and body, but long before mastery comes understanding and I’m approaching that point now in some areas.  Last week I started writing up my yearly health report which I use to prepare for my 15 minute appointment with my specialist at the hospital and to demonstrate to my employer that I’m meeting my top objective to ‘manage my health effectively’.  As part of that review I used the Chronic Pain Tracker apps to generate a comparison report between the last 12 months and the previous 12 months and the last 6 months and the previous 4 years.  I also generated a number of graphs that plotted the relative mix of good, moderate and bad pain days over the last few years.

This post explores what I’ve learned from this analysis and the tools I used to do it.  Using Chronic Pain Tracker on the iPad it’s possible to compare last years pain distribution to this year’s.  The graph below shows (weakly) that the very worst days have gone, but also the number of good days has reduced significantly.  This is actually a pretty good deal.  Very bad days are something I’d prefer to never have to experience.  Very good days are euphoric, but they also show me what I’m missing, so in a way not experiencing them makes it easier to bear the normal pain days.

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If I take a look at the trend data that’s pretty interesting too.  After a long period of improvement due mainly to changes in work and lifestyle tt shows a significant increase in average pain levels starting a few months after I reduced my Methotrexate dose.  Methotrexate is a slow acting drug so this lag affect makes sense and the worsening is only gradual and in the scheme of things, not all that significant.  Of course averages lie, so I needed to big into the data in a bit more detail.

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For that I looked at the distribution of low pain days, medium pain days and high pain days for each month of the last year.

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This graph is much more interesting because it clearly shows that the average pain trend is actually made up of two trends that are shown weakly in the first comparison graph.  A significant reduction in high pain days and a significant reduction in low pain days.  Result a significant increase in medium pain days.

The ultimate result for me is that I feel like I’m coping better.  I’m not knocked for six by really bad days and I’m not depressed by having a few no pain days that are cruelly taken away every few months.  There is an uptick in low pain days (green line) caused by a few weeks on steroids, but if I average out those days the green line clearly trends down.

This post was inspired by a tweet from Vince who recommended this excellent TEDTalk

I wrote this post in Caffe Nero Manchester, Debbie, Anna, Thom and I are staying here for a night because the kids are going to a concert, we are going to a movie.  The picture is of the Manchester canal that we walked along at a similar time last year.  I’m not up to such a long walk today as I’m still recovering from quite a bad flare triggered ironically by the yearly flu jab.

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

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