A crucial component of self-empowerment in healthcare is to be able to measure various health parameters. More and more measurement tools are entering the direct-to-consumer arena.

Quantification of various phenomena is important in managing many aspects of health. Imagine a carpenter trying to build a house without the use of a tape measure, level, or other measuring tools. In health, as in building a house, measurement, adjustment, and correction are critical.

Among the most helpful health measurement tools:

Blood glucose meters--Blood glucose meters aren't just for diabetics. They are among the most powerful weight loss tools available.

Blood pressure cuffs--There's no better way to assess blood pressure than to assess it under all the varied conditions of life: When you're tired, when you're excited, when you're upset, when you're happy, hungry, stomach full, morning, night. This is a lot better than the one isolated measure in the doctor's office.

Digital thermometers--Your first a.m. oral temperature is a great way to assess thyroid status. We aim to maintain first a.m. oral temperature around 97.3 degrees F, the normal human temperature upon arising that reflects normal thyroid function. (No, Dr. Broda Barnes fans, axillary temperatures should NOT be used due to flagrant variation from right armpit to left armpit, modifying effects of clothing and ambient temperature, etc. Oral temperature tracks internal, "core," temperature fluctuations reliably, including circadian variation, far better than axillary temperatures.)

Fingerstick blood tests--An incredible number of blood tests are now available just by performing a simple fingerstick in your kitchen or bathroom. You can get 25-hydroxy vitamin D, lipids, thyroid measures (TSH, free T3, free T4), hormones (DHEA, testosterone, estrogens). And the list is growing rapidly. Salivary tests are also growing in number for many of the same measures.

A variation on fingerstick blood tests are devices like CardioChek that allow you to do a fingerstick, but also run the test on your own device at home. (The CardioChek device tests total cholesterol, triglycerides, and HDL.)

Urine pH--You can dipstick your own urine to assess the relative acidity or alkalinity of your lifestyle. Acid pH (7 or below) suggests that diet is weighed too heavily in favor of animal products and grains. An alkaline pH (above 7) suggests plentiful vegetables and fruits, not counteracted by animal products and grains.

There are many more, including the ZEO device to monitor sleep quality, RESPeRATE for reduction of blood pressure, HeartMath to manage stress and augment the parasympathatic (relaxation) response. We've come a long way compared to the health monitoring devices of just 25-30 years ago.

Anyway, that's a partial list. Given the rapid advances in technology that allow such home tests, I anticipate a much longer list in the coming few years.

For some perspective on how far these devices have come, here's a great graphic of an early sphygmomanometer, or blood pressure gauge.

Courtesy Wellcome Library, London

Comments (9) -

  • Anonymous

    1/4/2011 1:01:48 AM |

    Are you familiar with StressEraser? It seems to be like HeartMath but not as sophisticated. I have used it some but have not used mine in a while.

  • Darrin

    1/4/2011 4:09:37 AM |

    I'd add a scale and body fat calipers to the list as well. Both can be found for pretty cheap.

    Although BMI is pretty worthless by itself, it can be an extremely valuable metric when looked at alongside body fat %.

  • Anonymous

    1/4/2011 4:30:52 AM |

    I have huge veins in my arms without flexing. Does this mean my arteries are clean?

  • qualia

    1/4/2011 1:01:57 PM |

    i know of pretty much no one else (incl. thyroid experts) who still believe measuring temperature is a "great" way to assess thyroid status.. it's certainly not. there are too many other metabolic, nutritional and lifestyle factors that influence temp.

  • Anonymous

    1/4/2011 1:24:16 PM |

    That looks more like a mechanical pulse-o-graph. The stylis is drawing the pulse as the waxed paper strip is run by a wind-up clock movment. The waxed paper strip (black wax on white paper) was used in many physics lab experiments before there were ocilloscopes ca. 1800's.

  • Dr. William Davis

    1/4/2011 4:05:26 PM |

    Thanks, Darrin.

    How could I have forgotten those?

    Hi, Qualia--

    Sorry, but I disagree. For one, I don't care what the prevailing view among endocrinologists happens to be. A more recalcitrant, unwilling group to learn I've never seen.

    Two, the notion of thermoregulation is not bizarre or unconventional, but grounded in good science. The correlation with thyroid function just requires better validation. On a practical level--and having suffered through substantial hypothermia myself from hypothyroidism--temperature assessment can be a useful adjunct.

  • Might-o'chondri-AL

    1/4/2011 6:37:45 PM |

    Age is a time when the horomone cortisol hormone "runs" higher. A few hours before dawn it's level is also programed to rise and rouse us at daybreak .Hypo-throid jacks up the sympathetic nervous system; and thus adrenaline, which normally peaked at +/- 1 to 2 a.m. provokes yet more cortisol in circulation.

    Poor sleep and fits of coming awake are symptoms worth mentioning; older people complain about this. Infants and the young show stable metabolic temperature; they sleep through anything.

    With age hypo-thyroid patients can have 30 times the hormone adrenaline than normal. The hormone produces skin vaso-constriction as part of a survival mechanism to save our core body temperature, heart and brain. Upshot is you feel cold hands, feet, etc.

    Morning, upon arising, our bodies are "fasted" overnight and in a state similar to hypo-glycaemia. Hypo-glycaemia also coincides with increased adrenaline. First meal gives blood sugar, and the adrenal/cortisol stimulation normally (ie: thyroid good) lets off from "trying" to keep us alive.

    The confounders of a low morning temperature indicating hypo-thyroid are rare paradoxical endocrine and/or extreme conditions. Schizophrenia, manic depressive, during hot flashes, extreme protein deficiency and major sodium deficiency are clinical cases that might cause an a.m. reading to be  high despite hypo-thyrnoidism.

  • Anonymous

    1/4/2011 8:20:43 PM |

    I have to quarrel with your "97.3 is normal" statement. That may be true for men, but for a healthy woman of childbearing age who is not on hormonal birth control, waking body temperature can vary quite a lot depending on where in her menstrual cycle she happens to be. If her temperature were always around 97.3 in the morning, it would mean she was likely not ovulating.

  • David

    1/5/2011 6:20:27 PM |


    I'm certain that Dr. Davis is aware of the fluctuations in temperature during a woman's menstrual cycle.

    The most accurate temperatures (for assessing true lows) are obtained during the first week of the follicular phase.