Five Apps that Can Improve Your Health

It’s pretty empowering to have your health in your hands‚Ķliterally. In fact, if used right, these apps can help you manage your healthy food intake, track your exercise, and find the right doctor, and it’s all in the palm of your hand (the one holding your tablet or smartphone).

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There are a number of mobile apps that can help make you healthier.

Here are five apps to download for better health:

Stress Check

Manage your stress levels by measuring your heart rate with this cool app. Cover your smartphone camera lens with the soft pad of your fingertip (not your thumb!) and press gently. The app will assess variations in your heartbeat and allow you to keep tabs on your stress. If your levels are high, you’ll know to breathe deeper, get yourself to a yoga class, or ask your husband for a spa day (heck, it’s worth a try).

Free. Works for iPhone 4, 4S, 5, and iPod Touch 5.

MealSnap – Calorie Counter

Shoot a picture of whatever you’re about to eat (or type its name), input the restaurant where you’re eating, and MealSnap will give you nutritional information for each food item, perhaps motivating you to make different choices (a Big Mac looks pretty, but holy cow, its numbers are ugly). If you get into the habit of using MealSnap to “scan” your food, it could lead you to eat healthier just to shut it up. MealSnap also works as a food diary.

$2.99. Works for iPhone 4, 4S, and 5; iPod Touch and iPad.

MyFitnessPal

If you’d rather track your food without needing to take a picture, MyFitnessPal does that and more. The app works with the popular MyFitnessPal website and gives you access to a database of over two million food and restaurant items (any updates you make on your phone can be synchronized to the website and vice versa). The app allows you to set a daily calorie goal and record your food intake and exercise output to track your weight loss.

Free. Works for iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, and Windows Phone 7

iTriage

Record your symptoms and then view the possible causes of your illness or injury. Depending on whether the app defines your issue as mild or severe, it will then suggest how to handle treatment (go to the ER, visit a retail clinic, and so on). iTriage will also direct you to nearby facilities and medical professionals using a virtual Yellow Pages function. Created by two ER docs, iTriage is perfect for those who are proactive about their health (or are hypochondriacs).

Free. Works with iPhone and Android devices.

Vitals

We may own this one, but we know a great app when we see it. The Vitals app finds you the right doctor for you based on your customized requirements for medical specialty, education, gender, insurance, and more. Drawing from its enormous database of more than two million doctors, Vitals gives you top 10 lists of the best local doctors as determined by patients who review them, as well as contact information, location maps, and comprehensive background information. Just search by your symptom, condition or practitioner type (general medicine, pediatrician, etc.) and you’ll be directed to qualified professionals based on your criteria.

Free. Works with iPhone 3Gs, 4, 4S, 5; and iPod Touch 3, 4, and 5, and iPad.

These are just a small sampling of the mobile health apps that are out there today, and we sure do like the trend toward proactive health management. What are your favorites?

Debbie Anderson is a 44-year-old freelance writer and editor who blogs at her slice-of-life site, sandiegomomma.com.