Wriddhee Maitra, 35, an HR professional in a leading pharma company, was diagnosed with diabetes two years ago. He travels on work for around 12 days a month. "Once I was travelling continuously for four to five days from Mumbai to Chennai to Coimbatore," says Maitra. "I began feeling low. It was then my gluco meter came in handy. I could check my blood sugar levels. I always travel with it."
For people like Maitra, the gluco meter is vital. For those who are hypertensive, the electronic blood pressure monitor is equally important. Their cost is reasonable: the gluco meter costs around Rs 800 to 1,000, the blood pressure monitor Rs 2,400 to 2,800. But how accurate are they? Doctors maintain that while both devices are fairly reliable, there are limits to the blood pressure monitor's accuracy. "The electronic device gives a crude reading," says Dr Vivek Nangia, Head, Pulmonology Department, Fortis Hospital, Delhi.
"It is always better to compare its reading against the manual device, under a doctor's supervision." Most important : people should not start using these devices just because they suspect they have high blood pressure or high blood sugar. They should always consult a doctor first.
There is, however, no need to panic, if the readings on these devices deviate slightly from the normal. "A variation in the range of five to 10 is all right," says Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, Senior Consultant, Internal Mediciine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, Delhi. But if it is the opposite, if the body is sending you alarm messages, while the device's readings say all is well, do not ignore your body, "If you experience symptoms like increased thirst, excessive or greatly reduced appetite, sudden weight gain or loss, do visit your doctor even if your blood pressure and blood sugar monitors tell you all is well," says Dr Nangia.
Blood pressure has two levels: systolic, when the heart contracts to pump out blood, and diastolic, when, having done so, it relaxes. Systolic blood pressure is normally close to 120 (mm of mercury), while diastolic is close to 80. Normal blood glucose levels before meals are in the range of 70 to 100 (mg per decilitre) and after meals between 120 to 140.
Newer technologies are also being introduced in India, among them iPro 2, a small, discreet device, attached to the skin, which measures glucose levels all day revealing patterns that may be missed in random checks. "It gives 300 readings per day," says Milind Shah, MD, Medtronic India, which manufactures the device. Bluetooth-enabled self check-up devices, Wi-Fi-enabled cuffs for hypertensives, calorie counters and sleep quality trackers which are increasingly used abroad may also enter India soon.
"The ingredients of health and long life are great temperance, open air, easy labour and little care," wrote the 16th century English poet Sir Philip Sidney. Devices gain ground because, in our time, only the first is within an individual's control - though that too is a control we frequently fail to exercise.