Category: Health

Apple Health HRV Data & Lyme Disease

I think Heart Rate Variability data (good overview from Harvard Medical Health Blog) can be a strong indicator of health relative to an individual’s baseline. The problem for me has always been “baseline.”

In the early days of HRV, I measured my beat-to-beat measurements using my iPhone (occasionally paired to a Polar heart rate monitor) to gauge my training load. But it was an inconsistent predictor because I needed to make sure to take the reading every morning under the same conditions, etc. Given the challenges that surround our household’s morning routine, that kind of manual, tedious process for gathering HRV data never really let me get confident baseline data.

Now, the Apple Watch collects HRV data and — given how difficult it was to do it manually and get good baseline data — I was skeptical that the Apple Watch would be able to use sampling my HRV throughout the day to generate anything useful. I’m still skeptical, but my recent/current bout with Lyme disease over this past week has given me more confidence in the Apple Watch’s sampling technique to set a good baseline and show variance from that baseline.

I think this picture is pretty self-explanatory but will add that when my HRV fell to its lowest around 11/12, I could barely get out of bed, was sweating uncontrollably and could not stop shivering. By the 15th, after 36hours of doxycycline, I felt about 80% better. I am still not 100% despite a rebound in HRV. 

So, HRV on the Apple Watch is good at showing when you’re REALLY sick. That seems to be all I can take away from it at this point, but at least it shows that the Watch’s sampling approach does reflect reality, even if it doesn’t yet predict or give early warning.

HRV

Diet success with Due App, shortcuts and app launching

Here’s one truth about how I lose weight: nothing is as effective as simply writing down what I eat.

If I track everything I eat in a calorie tracking app (I use one called Track, but there are a bunch of similar apps), I eat less. Maybe seeing what I’m eating makes me more conservative in my snacking or maybe I don’t want to take the time to log that handful of M&Ms so I skip them. Either way, I’ve lost about 15 pounds during this quarantine, all by simply tracking my calories. 

The thing is that I usually stop logging what I eat after a few weeks. Logging what I eat is a nuisance. I regularly forget to open my calorie tracking application right after I eat and by the time I finally get around to it as I’m sitting down to watch a show before bed, I’ve largely forgotten what I’ve eaten throughout the day.

So what makes this time different?

Well, for starters, I’ve been using the Due application on my iPhone to remind me to enter my calories after breakfast, lunch and dinner each day. Due is a persistent reminder application. Meaning, it just keeps annoying you with reminders until you actually do the damn thing it’s reminding you to do. 

Still, after a couple of weeks of using Due, I started just clicking “done” on the reminder because clicking through the reminder and opening my calorie tracker application just seemed like a pain in the ass and was too much friction. So, I solved that friction point by adding a link in the reminder that opens my calorie tracker in one click. 

In other words, tracking what I’m eating has been working for me because I chained together three different, loosely-coupled technologies here:

  • a decent calorie tracking app that makes a tedious task as easy as possible – Track
  • a persistent, annoying reminder application to remind me to log my calories – Due
  • a link in the reminder to make it super-easy, low-friction to open my calorie tracking application right from the reminder. – iOS shortcut

Some apps support a URL Scheme to open the application (for example, music:// opens the Music application). The Track application doesn’t, AFAIK, have URL Scheme support so instead I just created an iOS shortcut to open the application and I call that shortcut in the reminder like this

IMG 9A9E4424A017 1

So, when the alert pops up on my phone, I just click the red link and Track opens up. Nifty.

But, this Reminder + Link to Application has also been helpful for the Day One #photoaday challenge for the month of September. Every day at mid-morning I get an alert to post a photo from today to Day One with a link to the application that opens Day One and creates a new post:

IMG 1D868C3ACF03 1

Here you’ll see that Day One support the URL Scheme directly so there’s no need for me to create an iOS shortcut, I can just call the new post URL and it works (though, why it doesn’t show up in red in Due is beyond me).  You can do a whole bunch of cool things with the Day One URL Scheme, like go right to the activity feed: dayone://activity  or create an entry with a clipboard image dayone://post?entry=Hello Self&imageClipboard=1. See this list if you want more ideas.

Best Apple Watch App for Running

Part of the problem with Strava’s ubiquity on the workout/app front is that once you start using it you don’t often look around to see what else might be available. That said, I’ve never loved the way strava worked on my Apple Watch so did a little digging and found this amazing gem of an application called WorkOutDoors.

So good. Such a better alternative to Strava.

Especially if you run. Even more so if you adhere to the MAF running method (low heart rate, high cadence).

I’ve been using WorkOutDoors consistently for a few weeks now and it is a joy. It required a bit of tweaking/settings modifications that might be a bit complex for a non-tech savvy person but once I got the settings dialed in, it does exactly what I want it to do, reliably and WAY better than Strava.

WatchStripOverview

The app allows you to configure multiple watch screens for each activity (Running, Cycling, etc.). And you can do those configurations from your phone, so no futzing around with the tiny watch interface.

I only use it for running and created a single screen that shows me:
– cadence
– heart rate
– distance
– pace
– time.

So much density of readable data on that screen!!!! Amazing.

I also set up a couple of alarms so that if my cadence falls below 170 or my heart rate exceed 145 I get some haptic feedback on my wrist. I love it. This app is great. If you run, totally worth trying it out.

Oh, and after you get done with your run you can also very easily press a button and upload the activity to strava. So you’re not cut off from the social part of strava, either.

Water.

A while back I wrote an iOS shortcut to log how many 32-ounce Nalgenes I drank throughout the day. I stopped using it after a while because drinking 3-4 Nalgenes per day had become a habit for me but I’ve noticed lately that I’ve fallen off drinking as much water so I’m using it again, partly inspired by this Outside Podcast on drinking water.

Day One Morning Health Shortcut

Some folks over on the Day One Community FB group were interested in this shortcut I wrote. It computes your 7-day average for active energy and steps, asks you a few questions and creates a Day One journal entry. You will need to modify this shortcut. It’s a little tricky as it pulls health kit data which is really fiddly. You can drop me a note if you get in too deep but I can’t promise I’ll be able to make it work for you. Download the shortcut here.

I find the seven-day average data more interesting and useful. It was this podcast with Jim Collins that got me thinking about using multi-day averages to track certain metrics (e.g. as long as I’m average about 40 minutes per-day singing and playing guitar, I’m making progress, if my seven day average slips below that I am just treading water). Collins uses a 3month, 6month and 365-day average as opposed to 7, but the gist is the same. Very interesting approach to self-quantification. Go to the podcast and fast-forward to the 45-minute mark, great information.

Ed Boyden on Minding your Brain

I listened to this absolutely fascinating podcast yesterday. Tyler Cowen is a great interviewer and he and Boyden cover such a huge range of neuroscience topics: from mental illness to optogenetics to ketamine to meditation to blowing up bits of your brain using a material like the use in diapers so that the bits are large enough to study under a microscope. Really, really great discussion. Definitely worth your time, give it a listen.

BOYDEN:I think one of the things we have to figure out is how can you detect consciousness, and how can you create consciousness? Alan Turing proposed the Turing test, where you would converse with something and you could try to decide whether it was conscious. But with Siri and Alexa and all this stuff in homes and on phones nowadays, I think everybody would agree that’s probably not enough. You need to know something about the internal state as well, but we don’t have a firm grasp on that yet.

I also loved this exchange:

COWEN: Is there a puppet master in the theater, or is it a kind of nominalist reality, where all there are are the different desires? And maybe the film involves a kind of illusion that someone’s in control, but that’s just another actor in the play?

BOYDEN: Here’s another way of looking at it, which is there’s so many things that we’re consciously aware of, but the vast majority of the things that the brain is doing, we’re probably unconsciously aware of.

For example, here we are in my office, and there’s all sorts of stuff around. Your brain has been processing a lot of it. If I point at that blue highlighter over there, you probably saw it earlier but were not paying conscious attention to it. But now that I point at it, you are consciously aware of it.

I actually think that something that we have to understand is, how are all these unconscious processes — this roiling sea of stuff that we have no access to — how are those processes contributing to the emergence of consciousness?

That’s one reason why I’m very excited to study the process of consciousness, if you will. What are the processes in the brain that lead to it that happen beforehand and that might help us understand, in a causal way, what gives rise to consciousness? But again, this is just an idea right now.