Biohackers take their health into their own hands

Published 26.06.2018
Author Sanna Sevänen
Photos Mikko Käkelä
Biohacker Teemu Arina believes that health centres may cease to exist in the future.
Biohacker Teemu Arina believes that health centres may cease to exist in the future.

In the future, our health and wellbeing will increasingly become our own responsibility as well as the responsibility of the devices monitoring us, biohacker Teemu Arina believes. He spoke at Labquality Days in Helsinki on February 8th 2018.

In the future, health centres may no longer exist. Instead, we will have smart devices at home, artificial intelligence analyzing our health information and remote access to a doctor.

The picture that Teemu Arina paints of future health care sounds futuristic, but his everyday life is nearly there already. He constantly monitors his body with a smart ring that measures his sleep, recovery and activity.

The ring trains you to find your body’s natural balance. It advises you to rest if you need to or to go full steam ahead if you seem to be at peak performance, Arina explains.

Every six months he orders analyses of one hundred different biomarkers, such as blood counts.

Arina is a biohacker who measures his performance, health and wellbeing and seeks to optimize them. Biohackers swear by health technology and believe that constant monitoring and measuring is the key to healthier lives.

Measuring and medicalization are phenomena of the developed world and will only continue to grow. The increasing amount of available information enables research that simply was not possible before, Arina believes.

Investments in health technology are on the rise and businesses’ opportunities to do research are improving.  Research will seek to provide evidence of the benefits and efficiency of smart devices and applications, since such proof is insufficient at the moment.

In future, will doctors prescribe smart devices and phone applications that could increase wellbeing? Finland does not yet have a database of applications tried and trusted by doctors, but this already exists in the United States, Arina confirms.

Long-term monitoring instead of random sampling

Few will be surprised to hear that future health care will be based on data. According to Arina, this could mean in practical terms that a smart toilet bowl at home would examine the state of the intestinal flora. Or that a kiosk to take your daily blood test is available at the entrance to the shopping mall.

Already it is possible to get a fork that monitors how much you eat, a mug that measures how much fluid you drink or a sensor that you can attach to your belt to monitor your breathing.

Arina says that smart devices will teach us to sleep and exercise again, because we have lost the ability to understand the needs of our bodies.

Numbers are one way that we can become aware of things. They are not meant to heal, instead they are an equivalent to meditation. When values are measured and combined over a long period of time, you can become more aware of your body and what is happening to it, which then improves your ability to make choices about what to do with your life.

For instance, a device could tell you that if you continue to sit this much, your risk of getting cardiovascular disease within five years increases by this much.

Many doubt the efficiency of smart devices and have criticized the accuracy of measurements, for example. Arina believes that a 75 to 80 percent accuracy when measuring sleep or number of steps, for instance, is sufficient for monitoring health in the long term.

Now a person’s health is measured using laboratory tests, among other things, which are only random samples after all. Or maybe the entire picture is reduced to only one figure, such as the level of cholesterol, which does not ultimately say much about the individual’s wellbeing. Long-term averages and deviations from them, on the other hand, can be telling.

 

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