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Biofeedback devices increase body awareness while improving health

Athletes and health enthusiasts have been tracking their health data for years, but now health-monitoring devices are becoming more accessible for everyday people including seniors. Biofeedback is a treatment technique in which individuals are trained to improve their health by using information gathered from their own bodies.

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Fitness devices like Fitbit, jawbone, moves, Nike+, Basis B1, iHealth activity, misfits wearable shine and a number of other trackers are inexpensive biofeedback options to help the average person measure calorie burn and set fitness goals.

Selecting the right tracker depends on your personal health goals and budget. There are a number of biofeedback devices to choose from and they vary in price and capabilities. Free and inexpensive biofeedback health apps are available for your mobile phone, meaning price is no excuse for not using a bio-tracker to help monitor and improve your overall health.  These apps use the technology sensors built into your personal smartphone to collect and track personal health data such as distance traveled and time elapsed.

Medical devices that can be attached to iPhones were introduced by a company named iHealth in 2011. iHealth offers self-monitoring biofeedback medical devices like wireless scales, sleep monitors and blood pressure monitors that integrate with an app on your phone to monitor, track and share your personal health data. At CES 2014 the company launched a new wrist-worn pulse oximeter, an ambulatory heart monitor, and an ambulatory blood pressure monitor, though the ambulatory heart monitor and ambulatory blood pressure monitor have yet to be cleared by the FDA.

In a pilot study by Case Western Reserve University's Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, 20 grandmothers were able to significantly decrease stress, negative emotions, and depressive using a biofeedback device that tracks breathing patterns. The grandmothers used the device in the comfort of their home for a number of weeks.

The biofeedback study involved the grandmothers placing sensor clips on their left index finger while inhaling and exhaling, and watching the feedback waves on the devices screen to coordinate their heart rate with their breathing. Significant improvements came after two weeks, eight weeks and fourteen weeks of use. After weeks of training the improved physiological changes may be maintained without the use of the biofeedback equipment.
The research regarding the study can be found in the article, "Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback in Grandmothers Raising Grandchildren: Effects on Stress, Emotions and Cognition," in the special issue of Biofeedback from the Association for Applied Psychophysiology & Biofeedback.

While the study only had a small sample of grandmothers, it shows promise and encourages more research into the benefits of biofeedback self-monitoring devices for seniors. Biofeedback devices when properly used can allow users to become more aware of their bodies to better improve their health, while reducing associate health risks, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and depression. 

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