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PDAs -- Personal Diet Assistants?


Richard Miller has always struggled to control his high blood pressure. So last year he turned his Palm (PLMO) handheld computer into a miniature medical assistant. Twice a day, he takes his blood pressure, then taps the results into a software program on his Palm called UTS Blood Pressure. The PDA alerts him when his pressure spirals too high. And it generates detailed charts that allow him to spot trends, such as which activities spark dangerous peaks. Miller can e-mail the info right to his doctor or transfer it to his PC and print it out. "It gives my doctor a good indication of what's going on when he's not around to check on me," says the 60-year-old Miller, who lives in Fresno, Calif.

As handheld computers grow more powerful, they're becoming vital partners for managing your most valuable asset: your health. Today's Palms, Pocket PCs -- and even some cell phones -- are packed with enough memory to store your entire family's medical history. Advanced features such as Bluetooth wireless messaging and the ability to transport data into PC-based spreadsheets and other applications make it that much easier to maintain your health. Whether you're grappling with a serious medical problem, expecting a baby, or simply counting carbs, you're likely to find a program to help. And you can download the software in seconds from such Web sites as palmsource.com, handango.com, and pocketPC.com.

FAMILY MATTERS

If keeping track of your family's medical history is your greatest challenge, HealthFile may help. This comprehensive program allows you to stay abreast of each family member's vaccinations, medications, illnesses, and surgeries. You can also keep track of weight, blood pressure, and glucose levels. Enter doctors' appointments into HealthFile, and they'll automatically appear on your PDA's master calendar. HealthFile also provides one convenient place to store all the information you can never seem to find when your doctor asks for it, from insurance policy numbers to details of your family's disease history.

For those who are preparing to welcome a new family member, Heybaby is a nifty pregnancy aid. Just enter your due date, and each day your PDA will update you on the stages your baby is most likely passing through and provide tips to foster his or her development. For example, around your 26th week, Heybaby informs you that your child can probably hear sounds through the womb and that "a little soft music will be pleasant and calming." There are interactive features, too, such as an ovulation calculator that will help you determine when your fertility is at a peak. The software also includes a dictionary of baby names and educational material.

If diet and exercise are your passions, you'll find hundreds of PDA applications to help you achieve your goals. The gold standard is Diet & Exercise Assistant. Enter your height, weight, and weight-loss goal, and each day your handheld will tell you how close you are to reaching it based on your diet-and-exercise routine. You can tap in the foods you eat at each meal, and the program will automatically give you a count on calories, carbs, proteins, and fats. Then it will tell you if you did enough bench presses or ran far enough to burn it all off. Diet & Exercise Assistant is so comprehensive that it tallies up stats on some foods down to the brand. It warns you, for example, that a cup of Skittles is loaded with 185.8 grams of carbs, while a Baby Ruth Bar has a mere 22 grams.

A good companion program -- especially for fitness fanatics -- is Personal Trainer-PDA. It allows you to build a personalized workout routine and track your progress daily. This isn't just about on-screen stopwatches and other features that help you monitor timed exercises. If you work with a personal trainer who has the same software on a handheld or a PC, he or she can beam your workout instructions directly to your handheld.

Feeling stressed? Yoga might help -- with your PDA acting as teacher. The Yoga for Health program provides step-by-step instructions for the postures that make up this increasingly popular form of exercise. Spelling and grammar mistakes aside, it's a very entertaining program. There's even an animated model who pops up on the screen to demonstrate.

Each pose includes a full description of its therapeutic benefits. For example, the Bridge, explains Yoga for Health, "aids in easing and stimulating the mind" (both at once, no less). This particular program may tie you up in knots. But over all, the PDA's growing medical applications should help smooth out the wrinkles in your health and fitness routines.

By Arlene Weintraub


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