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We're gaining an ever-growing range of tools to monitor our health, meaning that in the future we could receive more proactive care, according to researchers from Karolinska Institutet and the University of Helsinki. Researchers have investigated how a combination of digital tools, classic laboratory tests and new biomolecular measurements can keep us healthier.
"Instead of focusing on the treatment of the later stages of the disease, the health care of the future could focus on more proactive and individualized interventions as well as on early detection of diseases. It may sound a bit futuristic, but the technical prerequisites are already in place", says Francesco Marabita, researcher at Karolinska Institutet and the study's first author, in a press release.
To see how this could work in practice, the researchers followed 96 people in an age range of 25–59 years old. These people underwent health examinations and had their health metrics measured using a smartwatch. Participants gained access to health data such as genetic risk scores, blood fats, BMI, and level of physical activity. In addition, all participants received continuous guidance from personal trainers.
At the end of the study, participants were asked to report on whether, and if so, how their lifestyle had changed. The researchers also performed a bioinformatics analysis of molecular variables to see if the lifestyle changes also produced measurable changes in the body.
The result was that 86 percent of the participants said that their lifestyle had changed for the better. It was a matter of factors such as better diet, exercise, sleep and drinking, and smoking habits. The bioinformatics analysis confirmed that the changes had medically measurable results. In addition, the study showed a link between health risks and molecular factors that the researchers did not know about before.
The researchers now hope to be able to use the new knowledge to create a method where a data-driven, individualized approach can motivate people to take better care of themselves.
"From a care perspective, in the future it would be possible to focus on, for example, people at high risk for diabetes or cardiovascular disease. The cost of molecular profiling is now the biggest clinical challenge for large-scale implementation. As with sequencing of human genome, the cost of advanced laboratory technology can be greatly reduced over time. This study shows that the concept works and can be seen as a preparation for future implementation of data-driven methods in health care", says Francesco Marabita.