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Personal wearable fitness devices may be able to detect when you're about to get sick

You may be using your personal wearable fitness device, whether an Apple Watch or Fitbit, to simply track your fitness or how many steps you take in a day. However, it turns out that these personal wearable fitness devices are much more powerful and able to do more than most may think.

Recent research published in PLOS Biology discovered that wearables that continuously log information such as heart rate, skin temperature, and even oxygen saturation can help detect when someone is about to get sick.

Michael Snyder, a professor and chair of genetics at Stanford University and the senior author of the study published in PLOS Biology said in an article that his team was surprised that these wearable devices were effective in detecting the start of the flu or even Lyme disease.

The article explained that because these personal wearable fitness devices continuously track and monitor vital signs like heart rate it produces a dense set of data meaning that when abnormalities arise they stand out.

Over the course of two years, participants monitored their vital signs using personal wearable fitness devices, the article said, and one participant included the senior author of the study, Snyder himself.

Snyder said in the article that during that two-year period at one point the wearable device he wore detected marked changes in his heart rate and skin temperature that was different from his baseline. It turns out that after a test two weeks later he had contracted Lyme disease.

Snyder added in the article that he and his team are interested in exploring the role wearable technology can play in achieving personalized or precision medicine and genomics given its ability to detect illnesses. He pointed out that genomics and personalized medicine are really all about detecting and catching diseases early and he believes that wearable devices are set up to do just that.

Explore the aforementioned PLOS Biology research here.