Once a year, one of my favorite aerobics leaders asked her participants to look at their bodies in the mirrors that lined the room. She would then tell us there were two very important things we should understand about our bodies.

The first was that a body was not like an automobile or other consumer good. What she meant was that we can’t trade it in or buy a new one when it breaks down. It is the only one we are ever going to have.

The second is that we have no right to expect or assume that someone else will take responsibility for it if and when it did break down. What she meant is that we have to take on that responsibility ourselves. Yes, medical practitioners can advise, patch and prescribe, but the responsibility is really ours and not one that can be handed off.

How right she was. It has been years since I have been to one of her classes – I haven’t stopped exercising, she retired – yet to this day I often think about her words.

It is difficult to argue against an exercise regimen, healthy diet and good lifestyle habits as the best means to a healthy body. But is there more you can or should do? No doubt there is. There are probably a lot of other things you can and should do, but I would like to share one additional thing that I do, and which I believe to have significant value.

I keep meticulous records of things related to my health. I keep the data current and I keep it formally. I use a computer program to manage the data because there is quite a bit of it even though I am in good health.

You may wonder what kind of information I keep, what I do with it, why I do it, and how I do it. Well, let me try to explain.

What Do I Keep Track Of?

I gather five categories of information and they are:
1. medication and supplemental regimens, prescribed or not
2. past, present, emerging and potential medical conditions
3. surgeries, exams, tests and other medical procedures
4. past and scheduled visits with health professionals, and
5. important health measures

The first 4 categories are fairly static in nature – that is, the information does not change once captured and does not require much time or effort keeping it current.
1. In the first category, I keep track of the common name of a medicine, its technical name, the prescribing physician, the dosage and the date I started and/or stopped taking it.
2. In the second category, I record childhood diseases, phobias, allergies, accidents and potential hereditary conditions incurred by my family, such as cancers, heart and other conditions.
3. Next I keep a record of all of the tests I have undergone – ultrasounds, colonoscopies, allergic, etc. – the dates, referring physicians and results if available.
4. And of course a record of my visits with all the doctors and related practitioners I see – when I visited, when I next visit, what I want to discuss so I don’t forget, questions I have, what was discussed, the outcomes, and so on.

The last category can be much more dynamic in nature – that is, the information may change quite frequently, depending on what I am keeping track of. I refer to this type of information as time-series data because there are many records of the same measure taken at different points in time - daily, monthly, annually or whenever. This data is repetitious so I use it to generate graphs and charts that allow me to see trends and correlations to other data.
5. In this category, there is always a date, then the specific measure taken, and sometimes a target and an upper and lower limit. Examples include the results of blood work (HDL and LDL cholesterol and triglycerides), pulse, blood pressure, PSA for men, blood sugar levels, body mass index, and any other meaningful health measures. One can also track physical activities such as miles run or pedaled, laps swum, hours of exercise and so on – anything one can measure. If one suffered irritable bowel syndrome, for example, tracking the number and severity of daily bowel movements and medication dosages taken for the condition may help to evaluate the effect of various treatments.

What Do I Do With All This Information And Why Do I Keep Track Of It All?

First and foremost, I use the time-series data to help me better manage my health. I believe that one can better manage something if one can measure it. For years, I asked my family doctor for a copy of my blood tests results for HDL and LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and my PSA, among others. I make a note of my blood pressure, weight and height when they are taken. So right off the bat, I have 6 measures that I track. I also track the hours of cardiac intensive exercise I take part in each week and regularly record my weight.

Where I live, medical associations publish recommended targets and limits for health measures based on sex, age and so on. I enter this data so that I can compare my own measures to what is normal or expected. I also look for trends to see which direction my measures are heading in, if any.

I do two things with the results: I find myself changing my diet, exercise pattern or whatever when I see a trend that I do not like. Quite often, this is enough to bring the measure back to where I think it should be. I also bring the charts when visiting my doctors so we can discuss the implications of a specific measure or a trend in a measure, as there may be a need for medication or other options to help me bring the measure back into line.

I bring all of the information with me to every appointment I have with a medical practitioner. When asked about medication or supplements I am taking, for information about past conditions or family history, or for past procedures and surgery, I simply hand the relevant report over, or use them to help me fill in any required forms. I bring a copy of all of this data whenever I am traveling. I believe that well organized medical records like these could be life-saving should I find myself in a foreign hospital or having to see a physician as the result of an accident or illness while away from home. I am convinced it will also help should the time come when I have to deal with insurance companies.

How Do I Do It?

As I mentioned earlier, I use a computer application to help me. You can use paper, note pads and graphing paper, but a computer system makes it so much easier. I use one called ‘the Recordskeeper’. It stores all the information I talked about. It is relatively easy to use and provides me with all the reports I need. I use it for other things also, but that is another story.

So! Is diet, exercise and a proper lifestyle enough to help you manage your health? It may be, but I feel that this additional effort keeps me one extra step ahead in managing my own health. It is my responsibility. I accept that and I feel a lot better and healthier for taking on that responsibility and doing what I do. Perhaps you can and should too.

Bob Robinson

Author's Bio: 

Bob Robinson is a computer professional and consultant in the data management profession with over 30 years experience in data processing.
As the founder of RecordsKeeper Software, Bob’s passion is to provide ideas and software that helps people get control of their lives, to function better and to improve the ability to manage their affairs by having well organized information about everything that is of importance to them.
Presently, Bob is writing articles and building his business.
You can reach Bob at rbtrobinson@rogers.com or visit the RecordsKeeper website at http://www.therecordskeeper.com