Health Life

First wearable device continuously tracks key symptoms

Credit: Northwestern University

The more we learn about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the more unknowns seem to arise. These ever-emerging mysteries highlight the desperate need for more data to help researchers and physicians better understand—and treat—the extremely contagious and deadly disease.

Researchers at Northwestern University and Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago have developed a novel and are creating a set of data algorithms specifically tailored to catch early signs and symptoms associated with COVID-19 and to monitor patients as the illness progresses.

Capable of being worn 24/7, the produces continuous streams of data and uses artificial intelligence to uncover subtle, but potentially life-saving, insights. Filling a vital data gap, it continuously measures and interprets coughing and respiratory activity in ways that are impossible with traditional monitoring systems.

Developed in an engineering laboratory at Northwestern and using custom algorithms being created by Shirley Ryan AbilityLab scientists, the devices are currently being used at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab by COVID-19 patients and the healthcare workers who treat them. About 25 affected individuals began using the devices two weeks ago. They are being monitored both in the clinic and at home, totaling more than 1,500 cumulative hours and generating more than one terabyte of data.

About the size of a postage stamp, the soft, flexible, wireless, thin device sits just below the suprasternal notch—the visible dip at the base of the throat. From this location, the device monitors coughing intensity and patterns, chest wall movements (which indicate labored or irregular breathing), respiratory sounds, heart rate and body temperature, including fever. From there, it wirelessly transmits data to a HIPAA-protected cloud, where automated algorithms produce graphical summaries tailored to facilitate rapid, remote monitoring.

“The most recent studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggest that the earliest signs of

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The hidden epidemic of prediabetes

You could have prediabetes and not even know it. More than one in three adult Americans—approximately 88 million—have the condition, but 90% don’t realize it.

Recent research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reports that nearly one in four young adults (ages 19 to 34) and half of people over the age of 65 are living with prediabetes.

What is prediabetes? And if so many people don’t realize they have it, what can you do—especially if diabetes runs in your family?

Prediabetes means your blood sugar levels are higher than normal. The levels are not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes, but it’s a warning sign that, over time, you could develop the disease. That’s why learning about risk factors is so important.

Eating healthier food and becoming more physically active can help you lose weight, feel better, and lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Prediabetes indicates a problem with the cells in your body. It means that those cells are not responding in a normal way to insulin, an important hormone that helps sugar in the blood get into cells and be used for energy. If a person’s body can’t make or respond to insulin, blood sugar levels rise.

Certain factors can make you more likely to develop prediabetes. You are more at risk if you have a parent or sibling with diabetes and are age 45 or older. Race and ethnicity are also factors: African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, Native Americans, and some Asian Americans are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes. Additionally, you’re more at risk if you are overweight or obese and are physically inactive. This is just a short list of risk factors. To see more and to take a test to learn about your own risk