How to Put Tech to Work For Your Health

Eat Well and Still Manage Your Weight

Today’s foodie apps take the guesswork out of cooking for your family or eating out on the town. You can check calorie counts, plan a week’s worth of meals, or find healthy restaurants in your area. To track your progress, you could add a high-tech bathroom scale. It can evaluate body fat, check your heart rate, and even link up with your phone.

Get on Track

Wearable fitness trackers monitor everything from calories burned to heart rate to signs you've been still too long. Sync yours with a phone or tablet to keep up with the info, and to set and meet health goals. Want some friendly competition? Look for a fitness app that lets you join a group and compete against other users.

Catch Better ZZZs

A restful night's sleep may be a click away. If your phone sits on your nightstand at bedtime, use it to cue up an app that tries to lull you to dreamland with low-frequency sounds. A white noise machine can cover up household sounds that keep you awake.

At some point, you’ll need to rise and shine. Many apps aim to wake you up during your lightest sleep phase -- the best time to get up.

Break the Craving

Want help giving up tobacco or cutting back on alcohol? Stop smoking with an app that helps you set realistic goals and stick to them. When you crave a smoke, use your fingers to tap the app instead. Or sign up for daily text messages that offer tips and encouragement, and set them to start on your quit date. A breathalyzer app syncs with your phone to help you know when you’ve had too much to drink.

See Your Stats

Check your blood pressure with a smart monitor that links to your phone or fits on your arm. You can keep tabs on your numbers on your mobile device. With blood-sugar tracking apps and web sites, just plug your numbers in after you check your levels. Allergies or asthma? You can check the pollen count or air quality before you leave home.

Get Organized

Let an app help you organize your day. There are ones to break down tasks into manageable chunks, send you a daily to-do list, or track how much time you spend on social media.

Another app uses a process known as mind-mapping to turn your ideas into a workable, visual plan. Try one out and see if you can finally write that novel.

Check In With Your Doctor

Doctors’ offices are going high-tech. Many have offered online appointment-setting and prescription refills for years, and now many doctors will email you, too. Concerned about a mole? Re-create the look of it with an app, track any changes, and you’ll get a suggestion about when to get it checked. But always have your doctor check any new moles or changes to existing ones first.

Go Back In Time

Want another reason to create a family tree? Your family’s past can hold the key to your health future. Most apps that trace your background offer access to huge databases of historical info, from photos to death certificates to census reports to newspaper clippings. Or you can go to the U.S. surgeon general’s web site, which offers a program to help you trace your family’s roots -- and health.

Get Ready for Baby

If you're trying to get pregnant, you may want to check out an app to track your ovulation cycles. Already expecting? You can track your bundle of joy's movements, see what size the baby is at any time, watch birth videos to get ready, record your baby's heartbeat, and even get a checklist for what to pack on delivery day. Hang onto this info when your child is older. She’ll enjoy seeing it.

Power Up Your Parenting

You can find trustworthy information about common childhood ailments on computers or devices, or check your child’s vision via tablet. Some apps also turn your phone into a baby monitor -- a great solution for travel. If potty training is a struggle for older tots, you can use an app to track and reward their efforts with kid-friendly graphics.

Prepare, Just in Case

Some apps let you record your medical and contact information in case of an emergency. Having this info on hand could save crucial time when you get to the ER. You can also find out how to give first aid or CPR, or learn ways to prepare for -- or respond to -- a man-made or weather disaster.

Hit the Road

Vacations are good for your health! You can plan yours with apps that let you book travel in the U.S. and abroad, manage your spending, and even send texts free of charge, all over the world. Others offer thousands of interactive maps to get you where you’re going. Want to pack light? Use an app to add extra features to your smartphone camera without extra gear.

Unplug Now and Then

Who is the rudest person in a restaurant or at the dinner table? The one talking loudly on the cell phone. With the online world at our fingertips, it's easy to lose track of real life. Try to disconnect for a while -- even an hour -- and see how you feel. You may stress less and sleep better if you cut back screen time, especially before bed. 

Shingles (Herpes Zoster) Vaccination

Shingles is a painful rash that usually develops on one side of the body, often the face or torso. The rash consists of blisters that typically scab over in 7 to 10 days and clears up within 2 to 4 weeks. Some people describe the pain as an intense burning sensation. For some people, the pain can last for months or even years after the rash goes away. This long-lasting pain is called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), and it is the most common complication of shingles. Your risk of getting shingles and PHN increases as you get older.

Two vaccines are licensed and recommended to prevent shingles in the U.S..  Zoster vaccine live (ZVL, Zostavax) has been in use since 2006. Recombinant zoster vaccine (RZV, Shingrix), has been in use since 2017 and is recommended by ACIP as the preferred shingles vaccine.

Two vaccines are licensed and recommended to prevent shingles in the U.S..  Zoster vaccine live (ZVL, Zostavax) has been in use since 2006. Recombinant zoster vaccine (RZV, Shingrix), has been in use since 2017 and is recommended by ACIP as the preferred shingles vaccine.

Your risk of shingles and postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) increases as you get older. Two vaccines are licensed and recommended to prevent shingles in the U.S..  Zoster vaccine live (ZVL, Zostavax) has been in use since 2006. Recombinant zoster vaccine (RZV, Shingrix), has been in use since 2017 and is recommended by ACIP as the preferred shingles vaccine. Zostavax may still be used to prevent shingles in healthy adults 60 years and older. For example, you could use Zostavax if a person is allergic to Shingrix, prefers Zostavax, or requests immediate vaccination and Shingrix is unavailable.

What Everyone Should Know about Shingles Vaccine (Shingrix)

Shingles vaccination is the only way to protect against shingles and postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), the most common complication from shingles. CDC recommends that healthy adults 50 years and older get two doses of the shingles vaccine called Shingrix (recombinant zoster vaccine), separated by 2 to 6 months, to prevent shingles and the complications from the disease. Your doctor or pharmacist can give you Shingrix as a shot in your upper arm.

Shingrix provides strong protection against shingles and PHN. Two doses of Shingrix is more than 90% effective at preventing shingles and PHN. Protection stays above 85% for at least the first four years after you get vaccinated. Shingrix is the preferred vaccine, over Zostavax® (zoster vaccine live), a shingles vaccine in use since 2006. Zostavax may still be used to prevent shingles in healthy adults 60 years and older. For example, you could use Zostavax if a person is allergic to Shingrix, prefers Zostavax, or requests immediate vaccination and Shingrix is unavailable.

Who Should Not Get Shingrix?

You should not get Shingrix if you:

  • have ever had a severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine or after a dose of Shingrix

  • tested negative for immunity to varicella zoster virus. If you test negative, you should get chickenpox vaccine.

  • currently have shingles

  • currently are pregnant or breastfeeding. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should wait to get Shingrix.

If you have a minor acute (starts suddenly) illness, such as a cold, you may get Shingrix. But if you have a moderate or severe acute illness, you should usually wait until you recover before getting the vaccine. This includes anyone with a temperature of 101.3°F or higher.

How Well Does Shingrix Work?

Two doses of Shingrix provides strong protection against shingles and postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), the most common complication of shingles.

  • In adults 50 to 69 years old who got two doses, Shingrix was 97% effective in preventing shingles; among adults 70 years and older, Shingrix was 91% effective.

  • In adults 50 to 69 years old who got two doses, Shingrix was 91% effective in preventing PHN; among adults 70 years and older, Shingrix was 89% effective.

Shingrix protection remained high (more than 85%) in people 70 years and older throughout the four years following vaccination. Since your risk of shingles and PHN increases as you get older, it is important to have strong protection against shingles in your older years.

What Are the Possible Side Effects of Shingrix?

Studies show that Shingrix is safe. The vaccine helps your body create a strong defense against shingles. As a result, you are likely to have temporary side effects from getting the shots. The side effects may affect your ability to do normal daily activities for 2 to 3 days.

Most people got a sore arm with mild or moderate pain after getting Shingrix, and some also had redness and swelling where they got the shot. Some people felt tired, had muscle pain, a headache, shivering, fever, stomach pain, or nausea. About 1 out of 6 people who got Shingrix experienced side effects that prevented them from doing regular activities.  Symptoms went away on their own in about 2 to 3 days. Side effects were more common in younger people.

You might have a reaction to the first or second dose of Shingrix, or both doses.  If you experience side effects, you may choose to take over-the-counter pain medicine such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

If you experience side effects from Shingrix, you should report them to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Your doctor might file this report, or you can do it yourself through the VAERS websiteexternal icon, or by calling 1-800-822-7967.

If you have any questions about side effects from Shingrix, talk with your doctor.

The shingles vaccine does not contain thimerosal (a preservative containing mercury).