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Keep track of your health with apps

Health is a numbers game. Cholesterol level, body mass index, pulse rate, daily calorie intake and a host of other numbers reveal much about how you're doing, health-wise. But keeping track of it all can be a chore, especially for those who aren't detail-

oriented or mathematically inclined.

More and more often, people are turning to apps for this -- software that brings the data right to their smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer. Health-oriented apps can help users track personal statistics, learn about the healthiest behaviors and figure out how to treat medical conditions.

Given the vast number of apps now available, medical experts suggest caution. "Patients should make sure that the apps they are downloading and the information they contain are coming from an organization that bases its content on medical guidelines and research," said Dr. Jean Cacciabaudo, president of the American Heart Association's Long Island board of directors and chief of cardiology at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore.

And patients should feel comfortable sharing information about their favorite apps with their doctors and vice versa, said Dr. David Battinelli, chief medical officer of the North Shore-LIJ Health System. A partnership between patients and doctors "is the best way to ensure clear understanding, patient engagement and patient motivation," he said.

Heart attacks and strokes often produce symptoms as they're happening, and a quick response can save a life. Apps from the American Heart Association allow you to do more than call 911 and stand by, Cacciabaudo said. "Medical apps can be helpful to the public because they can give them the basic skills to help themselves or others until professional help arrives."

She recommends:

POCKET FIRST AID & CPR

"This app provides quick, concise and clear first aid and CPR instructions that can help a user save a life in the event of an emergency," Cacciabaudo said. It's available for $1.99 for iPhone and Android.

SPOT A STROKE F.A.S.T.

The first three letters of the acronym suggest signs to look for -- face drooping, arm weakness and speech difficulty -- and the last suggests what to do: time to call 911. "You can call 911 straight from the app and find the nearest hospital," Cacciabaudo said. "Knowing these signs is important because the sooner a stroke victim gets to the hospital, the sooner they'll get treatment. And that can make a remarkable difference in their recovery." The app, which is free, has been available for Apple devices and became available for Android devices, too, on May 6.

HANDS ONLY CPR

Medical professionals have learned that successful CPR doesn't require mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. "The app gives you the two steps to help you save a life if you see an adult suddenly collapse: It tells you to call 911 and push hard and fast in the center of the chest until professional help arrives," Cacciabaudo said. It's available free for Apple and Android devices and the Palm Pre.

Battinelli is a big fan of these apps:

EPOCRATES

This app provides information about over-the-counter and prescription drugs, including guidelines for usage and details about drug interactions. It also includes a tool that allows patients to identify mystery pills. Basic versions are available free for Apple, Android and BlackBerry devices.

CDC VACCINE SCHEDULE APPS

Two apps from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide info on who needs what vaccinations, and when. The CDC offers a schedule for adults in a free app, and a schedule for adults and children in an app that costs $4.99. Both are available for Apple devices.


WEIGHT AND FITNESS APPS

Apps aimed at helping people lose weight and get fit -- and stay that way -- are ubiquitous. Among popular options:

MYFITNESSPAL

These calorie-counting and exercise-tracking apps are available free for Apple, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7 devices. The apps allow users to track their calorie consumption -- more than 2 million restaurant items and types of food are included -- and scan bar codes to get details about store items. Users can synchronize the apps with their website versions so both stay continuously up-to-date. Users can use their smartphone app to update their calorie counts at a restaurant and use their desktop computer at home to update meals eaten there.

CALORIE COUNTER

This free app allows users to count calories and get information about foods by scanning bar codes. It's available for Apple, Android and BlackBerry devices.

LOSE IT!

This app, available free for Apple, Android, Nook and Kindle devices (and on the Web), allows users to track calories and exercise. It allows bar-code scanning and goal-setting, among other things.

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