Use charts and graphs to help you better manage your health!
Graphs provide a more efficient, insightful, forceful and convincing way of portraying important information. Learn why you should use graphs to help you manage your health.
In other articles, I have written about the importance of maintaining good records about various aspects of your health. Doing so is important from several perspectives:
While much of the information you should have on hand can only be kept in a journal form (medications, ailments, procedures, tests, visits, allergies and so on), some of it can and should be kept in graphical form (medication dosages, exercise levels, test results and other measurable things like weight and blood pressure readings).
The old adage or saying that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ is more accurate than you might think when it comes to health related information because in many cases it provides a quick and easy way to communicate a situation.
The thousand word picture I am referring to here is a simple graph – simple in the sense that it is just a picture of some thing or things repeatedly and consistently measured over time.
Time can be an hour, a day, a week, a month, a year or whatever.
The things can be your weight, your cholesterol level, your blood pressure, your vitamin, medication or caloric intake, or whatever. For colitis sufferers, it could be the number and severity of bowel movements. For diabetes sufferers, it could be your glucose levels. For hypertension or atrial fibrillation sufferers, it could be your warfarin dosage and IN ratio. For sufferers of other conditions, there are many relevant measures that are available to you.
There are many advantages of using graphs (pictures) to describe a situation. They can be:
Are there disadvantages? Some people think they are time consuming to make, but that is not necessarily so with the right tools. Others think they are too technical and hard to understand or interpret, but that is not necessarily so either if they are kept relatively simple. Finally, some people think they are costly, but again, that does not have to be so.
In their simplest form, they do three very important things. They show:
A trend is a tendency or direction in which something tends to move and is very easily seen on a chart. For instance, when you measure your weight and chart it on a regular basis, you can easily see if it is going up, going down, or staying where it is.
A relative position is also very easily seen on a chart. For instance, if you are charting your weight, you might also include recommended high and low ranges for your age group or body shape and a personal target you are aiming for. You can then easily see whether you are within the recommended range and if you are trending towards or away from your target weight at any point in time.
A relationship or dependency is also easily seen on a chart. For instance, if you track the number of calories you are consuming or the amount of exercise you undertake, you might easily see the impact of a change in one or both of these measures on your weight.
There is another old adage or saying that goes something like ‘you can manage what you can measure’. I happen to believe this one as much as I believe in the first one about using pictures. Many things relative to your health can be measured, and if you then track the measures in charts, you can use what you see to help you manage your health.
If you are trying to manage your weight for instance, then in all likelihood you are the one in the best position to make the most meaningful decisions about your weight – what you eat, how you exercise, your lifestyle and so on. You can use a chart to help you determine when an intervention is required, or if a previous intervention is resulting in the desired effect.
In other cases, you may not be in the best position to make the most meaningful decisions because the decision may require prescribed medication or surgical intervention, but even in these cases, taking responsibility and actively tracking aspects of your condition may be a big help both to you and your doctors.
Remember also that a measure does not have to be perfect. There are no scales that you can stand on to measure pain or discomfort or tolerance, but that does not mean that you cannot devise your own way of measuring these types of things. For example, it is not difficult to devise a discomfort scale of say, 1 to 10 with 1 being mild and 10 being extremely severe, with other words to describe the in-betweens. Tracking such a measure will show you trends and show you whether other things, such as medication has an effect on it. You can use this type of scale to measure and see the side effects or impacts that certain medications or interventions are having on you.
You can draw the charts by hand but that is not easy and is quite time consuming. You can use any number of basic software programs to help you, such as Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheet program, but again it is easier said than done if you are not proficient with computers. The easiest way is to use a software application that permits you to simply specify what you want to chart and provides an easy way for you to enter your data. There are several available, an example being ‘the RecordsKeeper’ which was designed specifically to help people track all manner of personal information. It has an easy to use charting capability.
But whichever way you choose to do it, just do it. Why? Because first of all, a picture is worth a thousand words. Secondly, you will be better able to manage what you can measure. And finally, your health is too important to ignore and it deserves your attention.Bob Robinson
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bob Robinson is a computer professional and consultant in the data management profession with over 30 years experience in data processing.
As 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.