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A Less Expensive Solution to Healthcare?

A Less Expensive Solution to Healthcare?

Wouldn't it be nice if we didn't have to spend as much on healthcare, as individuals and as a nation? The HP Palmtop and some inexpensive software might be part of the solution.

By Rich Hall

The medical tab in the United States alone is over a trillion dollars yearly, and it's growing. Over 1,000,000 people in the U.S. will die this year from heart disease and hundreds of thousands from cancer. So concerned are we that we elected a president who promised to guarantee health coverage for everyone. But there are no free lunches -fulfilling that promise will cost billions more.

A simple, perhaps less expensive solution is to reduce the number of sick people. The development of heart disease and cancer is significantly impacted by the food you eat. Fortunately, what you eat is a personal decision. That means that you don't have to depend on your senator or political party to make that decision. You can do it yourself -if you've got accurate information about the nutrients you require, and what your present diet is providing.

Simple Diet Systems

My first diet system involved counting calories. I kept a 3 x 5 card in my shirt pocket and carried a paperback book listing foods and the amount of calories they contained. The book showed me how to figure out how many calories I needed to maintain my weight. I cut that by 15%, planned my breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners. I lost weight by guzzling diet soft drinks, and eating the wrong foods in smaller quantities.

It turns out that dieting isn't that simple because calories aren't the only thing you have to consider. Your body uses carbohydrates to give it energy; protein and minerals to repair and build itself, and vitamins to help these processes along. In addition, over-consumption of fat is a major contributor to disease. Monitoring all these factors on a 3 x 5 card can become rather complicated.

Computer Solutions

Computers were invented to make complex tasks easier. In fact, software programs for monitoring food intake have been available on desktop PCs for years. Unfortunately, a desktop solution is just a little inconvenient. You either have to plan out your meals ahead of time (and stick to your plan), or tuck a desktop PC under your arm when you head to the Italian deli for lunch.

The advent of the Palmtop made computer dieting more practical. Nutritional information can be in your pocket when you need it. One HP Palmtop Paper subscriber created a PHONE database of the foods he eats, along with information on their calories and fat content (see DIET.ZIP<ON DISK ICON>, page 36 of the Nov/Dec 93 issue).

You could also create a Lotus spreadsheet that tracked different nutrients and compared totals with your predetermined goals. A commercial program designed for the Palmtop provides both a database of foods and a way to monitor and analyze your food intake.

Personal Food Analyst

PFA from Mirical Nutrition Corporation, helps you monitor and analyze your food intake. The program is available on ROM card or floppy disk and works on both the 95LX and 100LX. (See Medical Products section, page 36, for more information.)

It contains a BUILT-IN database of over 4,000 foods and 27 nutrients. PFA's Profile screen lets you enter personal information and calculate your ideal caloric and nutrient requirements. The Display screen displays your daily goals for 27 nutrients.

Personal Food Analyst:  Graphic

 The Enter food screen shows a seven-day calendar and daily food goals. As you enter foods, PFA records calories and nutrients you have consumed and displays remaining calorie and nutrient needs for the day.

PFA Data Entry Screen: Graphic

 PFA's Preview key lets you take a look at the caloric and nutritional value of a food before you eat it.

Finally, you can pop up PFA's Analysis screen to show you the results of your daily or weekly eating habits. You see the caloric and nutritional values of the foods you have entered and how they compare to your ideal profile.

PFA Analysis Screen:  Graphic

 The results can be displayed numerically, as percentage values, or graphically as a bar graph (see screen above).

A program like PFA helps make you more aware of where you are, where you want to go, and shows you the sign posts of your progress along the way. It doesn't replace discipline, but it does give you objective facts upon which to make your decisions.

Other dietary software

[Contact information on these products can be found in the Medical Products section, page 36 this issue.]

Food, from Snappy Software is a simpler dietary database of over 1,500 foods with information on calories, cholesterol, and other nutrients. You can add, edit, or delete food items in the database. The package also includes a food calculator.

DietHelper, from Timberlake Industries helps track intake of calories, sodium, cholesterol, fiber, and 20 other variables. The program is for 100LX users only and is available on PCMCIA Type II card.

Pocket RD II from Poly-Bytes is a nutrition analysis program for nutrition, health, and fitness professionals. It includes a database of over 5,000 foods and calculates, sorts, organizes, and graphs clinically relevant data, and prints client and personal reports. There may be other PC-compatible software programs that work on the HP Palmtops.

Inexpensive Solution?

Diet isn't the only part of the health equation. If you sit at a desk all day long, maybe you'll want to take some long walks in the evening and work up to some more strenuous activity. If your job is tense, set aside time to relax in the evening with a good book, music, meditation, whatever. A health care professional may be able to help you with these, or at least point you in the right direction.

The important thing is to begin. And diet's as good a place as any. You say the Palmtop isn't cheap, and the software costs money. That's true, but compare the cost of a Palmtop and nutrition software to the cost of triple-bypass heart surgery. The ball's in your court!

Short review of Personal Food Analyst

Using Personal Food Analyst and the HP Palmtop

iPhone Life magazine


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