How beneficial would it be if we could assess the state of our health on a daily or weekly basis? Most of us would agree that it would be a better system than what we are accredited to – going to the doctor once a symptom, pain or condition appears. Recognizing and correcting a problem before it becomes a disease or syndrome could change our lives in a dramatic way. That could be called real 'health care' rather than 'disease care', which is basically what we have now. Are there any methods or tools that will assess health? If yes then how objective, specific and sensitive are they?
Health assessment: a traditional approach. Most of us became concerned about our health at some point. As a rule, this happens when we notice something is going wrong with our bodies, whether it is something visible or it sends us other alerting signals. These are called "symptoms" in both common and professional language. Most of our problems develop slowly and are very silent for some time. This is due to the fact that nature has equipped our bodies with the power to adapt to environmental changes. This ability hides common signs of the problem from us. In a simplistic sense, we treat the absence of any symptoms as a condition of health. When any symptoms appear repetitively, we are forced to visit a doctor to seek professional help. What happens then? The doctor will perform an initial checkup and come up with an initial diagnostic hypothesis. If there are any unanswered questions or it's not possible for the doctor to make a diagnosis, the doctor will then call for more in-depth instrumental (special testing, lab works, etc.) evaluation until the hypothesis is created and provided or explained. In any case, this is a process of finding a specific disease. In other words, the health assessment is limited to finding specific maladies. However the effects of more complex factors causing health problems or influencing how they are progressing remains obscured, or their importance is not adequately considered.
Health assessment: a new approach. A more commonsense way of thinking would be to shift from a paradigm of assessing the level of "unhealthiness" or diagnostics of already existing diseases to a new paradigm of preventive health assessment. This approach would not limit the professional to physical exams with traditional blood work, EKG, etc., but implement the use of additional proactive methods to allow a broader view on health. Such methods must be more effective at the early stages when no clinical symptoms have occurred. Are there any key signs that will give a more in-depth health assessment? Modern science believes that the status of the autonomous nervous system can be considered as such an indicator. The autonomous nervous system is responsible for complex dynamic non-voluntary control of most of the body's vital functions and processes of its adaptation to ever-changing internal and external factors affecting the body. It is very important to not only assess its current regulatory function but also what it costs to the body to adapt. In other words, it is important to be able to measure its adaptation reserves. Because of these reserves, the organism can remain in condition of adequate regulation for a long time. However, a prolonged strain on these regulatory mechanisms to ensure an adequate body function leads to exhaustion of the body's adaptation reserves. Finally their total exhaustion is followed by regulatory failure and causes the development of a specific pathological process (disease) in the weakest link of the affected body function. Thus periodic assessment of the automatic function and its adaptation reserves allows for a full and adequate health assessment way before any typical clinical symptoms occurrence.
Health assessment: how to do it. It is agreed then that we need to measure the level of the automatic regulatory function and its adaptation reserves for proper health assessment. But how to do it? In the past two decades biomedical scientists have developed fairly simple yet effective methods of assessment of the body's automatic regulatory function using analysis of the heart rate variability (HRV). These methods utilize very simple records of either EKG or pulse wave signals and their corresponding processing using special mathematical algorithms. As a result these methods produce data indicating the level of functional activity of the autonomous nervous system and its balance and reserve capacity. Scientists showed that these methods produce very objective and placebo-free results. Although these methods do not produce any specific diagnostic conclusions, they are extremely sensitive. They quantitatively evaluate the level of the mechanical dysfunction much earlier than any clinical symptoms occurring and solve the problem of early detection of various functional disorders. This helps the doctor take proactive measures to fix the problem.
Health assessment: available tools. At this time one of the most effective instruments to assess the automatic regulatory function, its adaptation reserves and thus give a comprehensive health assessment is the
Heart Rhythm Scanner system developed by Biocom Technologies . The system is based on innovative technologies which were developed and improved within the past 10 years by a group of specialists in biomedical research and development. This system is successfully used by many medical professionals and researchers in leading clinics and universities in the USA and other countries. The Heart Rhythm Scanner provides three important testing capabilities for comprehensive health assessment: automatic balance test, cardiovascular health test and baroreflex sensitivity test. The automated balance test evaluates the automatic regulatory function. It may change under the influence of both natural factors and chronic effects of dangerous health risk factors. Regular testing may show how often and how significantly the automatic function deviates from its normal condition even though there are no clinical symptoms yet. The other two test types are challenge testing procedures measuring reserve capacities of the body's automatic regulatory function and ability of the cardiovascular system for an adequate physiological adaptation. Upon completion of these tests, the system generates detailed reports showing all measured parameters and conclusive interpretation of the test results of this comprehensive health assessment.