Stub your toe and the brain signals pain quickly from the injury. “Ouch,” the body says. The brain has processed it and told you where the hurt is.
Now think of illness. The brain is built to fight back, to marshal the body’s resources and conquer infections and viruses, even heal broken bones and open wounds. The brain also informs our emotions, and when damaged, harbors the hurt and magnifies the fight or flight response creating anxiety and depression. It’s complex, and modern medicine has made great strides in understanding how the brain learns, adjusts, processes, and improves.
The communication we currently get in times of ill health manifests itself as pain, or even discomfort or itching. It’s the brain’s way of pointing to the hurt body part and saying: “Hey, fix this!”
But what if we had a conversation with the brain and body before we started to hurt? Or what if our body told us what the root cause of the hurt was? Doctors do this all the time. They take our blood pressure, check our oxygen levels, heart rate, and breathing. Think of these as the body’s health leading indicators. “Yea, i’m breathing OK, my heartrate is a little high.” That rising heart rate could be nervousness, or it could be more. We don’t know unless we are out of a nervous situation, like say, sitting in a doctor’s office. A truer measure would be able to check these leading indicators at any time, anyplace, when you first wake up or just finish exercising. A whole picture begins to emerge—the body and mind in synchronicity, sending out signals we just have to listen to.
This is the philosophy of self-monitoring. You do it yourself, for free. The data is aggregated and sent to your doctor who can track any dramatic changes. She might want to make some suggestions, a few lifestyle changes in diet and exercise, or prescribe a medication. Again, getting to the most effective solution depends on this continual monitoring.
But it has to be easy. No brain scans. No arm cuffs, no pin pricks, not even a stethoscope.
Like a toddler who can’t get enough attention, our bodies and minds are always nudging us. We just have to develop tools that capture those signals, real-time. Now imagine just staring into the screen of your smartphone and getting a readout of all the leading indicators: average heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels, even blood sugar. How would that revolutionize the way you take care of yourself?
And how would that revolutionize the way we interact with doctors?
It’s time we created a better relationship with our bodies, one that makes it easy to talk about anything.