Weekly challenge: Become a better health tracker with these 5 apps

About 7 in 10 people track a particular health indicator for themselves or their loved one—like weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, or their diet or exercise routine, according to a survey conducted by Pew Internet and released on Monday. (I can’t really believe 3 in 10 people just don’t care at all about tracking any aspect of their health, but that’s what the survey suggests.)

What’s interesting about the finding, though, is more than 2 out of 10 of health trackers use an electronic device, like a software program or phone app, to monitor symptoms, test results, or progress with lifestyle changes, and this trend is certain to grow exponentially as tech savvy younger folks mature into middle age—and all the aches and pains associated with it.

As with any new technology, there are drawbacks to having constant feedback at your fingertips. While you may become more aware of how much chronic pain or mood problems changes from day to day, you might get stressed if you’re not steadily improving over time—or you’re actually getting worse.

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That’s something to keep in mind when trying any new health tracker: give it a few weeks to see if you like using it and, more importantly, to see whether it’s leading to health improvements or better medical care. Nearly half of trackers told Pew that monitoring a health indicator changed their overall approach to maintaining health, and more than one-third said it led them to get a second opinion or affected decisions about how to treat an illness.

Check out our gallery to see whether 8 new health tracking sensors are worth a try, and here are some tracking apps that have received rave reviews for specific health conditions.

1.GI Buddy. Recently launched by the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, it helps patients with inflammatory bowel disease (which includes Crohn’s disease) track a host of health indicators including their symptoms, treatments, and diet. The app is available for free for iPhones.

2. Asthma Sense. Reminds you to take daily medications and tracks asthma attacks. Will also send an emergency alert if a user’s asthma appears to be poorly controlled with current medications.

3. Glucose Buddy. It’s one of the most downloaded apps on the iPhone site and helps diabetics track their blood sugar. It logs blood sugar, food, activity, and medications, and results can be emailed to your doctor’s office.

4. Healthy Heart Journal. It’s free for the iPhone and Blackberry and helps heart disease patients keep a journal to track their cardiac treatment including medications. The information is analyzed to help users understand personal triggers for high blood pressure and the effectiveness of treatment and medications.

5. WebMD Pain Coach. Helps you monitor your daily pain on a scale of 1 to 10 including treatments and mood. It also provides advice on pain reduction including sleep, exercise, and relaxation techniques. It’s a free download for iPhone and other smart phones.

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