A Vision of LIFE Extend — A Powerful Precision Health Mobile App
This week, the LifeOmic mobile team is in Park City for a hackathon to build LIFE Fasting Tracker “2.0” and to lay the foundation for our next app, LIFE Extend. Both apps will roll out with support for iOS and Android devices thanks to our use of React Native, a cross-platform tool that allows us to develop rapidly while maintaining high quality user experience. Follow along via social media, #Hackathon4LIFE!
At LifeOmic, we are focused on revolutionizing healthcare and driving precision health with cloud and mobile technologies. That means that we are bringing clinicians, researchers and patients together to address health issues and promote healthy aging where it matters most — in daily life. We believe the best healthcare technology is the one you have with you at all times, in your pocket.
LifeOmic’s LIFE Extend (LX) mobile app will help users track five types of health behaviors scientifically proven to improve health and increase longevity when practiced on a daily basis. These “five pillars,” as we like to call them, include:
- Eating at least five servings of fruit and vegetables per day
- Getting at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity
- Packing all nutritional intake into a window of no more than 10 hours (or intermittent fasting for at least 14 hours per day)
- Sleeping at least 7 to 9 hours
- Engaging in meditation or other stress reduction activities
LIFE Extend users will be able to earn “LIFE Points” by practicing these evidence-based healthy behaviors, with a target of 10,000 points per day. Users will also be able to track changes in their biological age and interact with friends and health experts.
Our primary goal is to empower individuals to be more involved in and take daily action on their personal health and wellness goals. But the LIFE Extend app is more than an isolated mobile health tracker. It will power precision health by connecting users with people who share similar health goals or issues and pushing just-in-time health recommendations based on insights from healthcare providers and machine learning.
LIFE Extend will ultimately be a powerful platform for healthcare providers, clinicians and researchers, empowering users to participate in health intervention research and clinical studies while securely integrating all data into LifeOmic’s Precision Health Cloud.
Five Pillars for Health: Fasting, Exercise, Nutrition, Sleep, Mindfulness, oh my!
LIFE Extend will carry forward our mission of helping people extend their healthspans by combining powerful tracking of five core health behaviors. Read on as we ask our mobile product manager Matt Ferguson, our scientists Patricia Celestino Soper and Paige Jarreau, and our CEO Don Brown to explain the foundational ideas behind LIFE Extend, including LIFE Points, estimated biological age and how our five pillars can extend lifespan.
LifeOmic: What is the main idea behind the LIFE Extend app and its LIFE Points feature?
Matt Ferguson: The main idea for both is to help people be healthier. That’s such a tough thing for a lot of people, so we are aiming to create a dead simple (and drop-dead gorgeous) platform for health tracking. When a user signs up, we gather data that helps us give them powerful insights into their current health and longevity, and information about areas they can make improvements in. To help drive precision health, LX will look for trends in various health indicators such as blood pressure, weight, overall behavior change, etc., using machine learning. The app will use this data to make personalized health recommendations for users and to alert healthcare providers about associations between these health measurements and other factors such as clinical and genomic patient data.
A health app needs to be something that users want to interact with daily. Giving users the ability to chat with and cheer on friends and family through a social LIFE Circles feature is one way to promote daily engagement. Social components will be woven throughout all of our LIFE apps. For example, the LIFE Points feature will offer a fun way for users to track health progress and to compete with or keep tabs on LIFE friends.
The social and integrative health tracking features of LIFE Extend will allow for many different use cases. Healthcare organizations or companies may use LX as a tool for employee or population wellness, clinical practice or research. And of course, any health conscious user will also be able to download the app from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store to take control of their own healthspan or share lifestyle health data with their physicians… the possibilities are endless.
LifeOmic: What other features will be included in LIFE Extend?
Matt Ferguson: Some of the core components will be the daily LIFE Points tracking, social connectedness, personal health insights that we will provide for users, calculations of biological age, estimated lifespan and more. There will also be a lot of flexibility in these features, for example for organizations or researchers using the LX app for particular health interventions or programs.
LifeOmic: How will LIFE Extend track healthy behaviors and use them to calculate LIFE Points?
Matt Ferguson: The calculation of LIFE Points and estimated lifespan within the LX app has been really fun for me to work on with LifeOmic’s super-smart geneticist and clinical lab scientist Patricia Celestino Soper. At the get-go, we will be focusing on a few key health behavior areas that research indicates can have a really positive impact on both current health as well as longevity: Daily physical activity, healthy consumption of fruits and veggies, intermittent fasting, adequate sleep and stress reduction activities. LX users will collect LIFE Points by practicing these activities on a daily basis. We are dedicated to making tracking of these activities very simple, through the click of a button in-app or automatically via a connected wearable or other device.
LifeOmic: What is the power of LIFE Extend’s biological age calculator?
Don Brown: One question users of health apps frequently ask is, “How do I know that what I’m doing is working?” In recent years, scientists have started to formulate the notion of a “biological age.” This stems from the recognition that different people age at different rates depending upon their lifestyles and genetics. For example, smokers age more rapidly than non-smokers. LIFE Extend can estimate a user’s biological age based on a set of questions related to medical history, health behaviors and lifestyle. This estimate can be checked periodically against commercial tests that use blood or urine samples to estimate biological age and/or telomere length. In this way, LX users can see how the steps they’re taking with diet, exercise, sleep, mindfulness and timing of nutritional intake affect their underlying biology.
LifeOmic: How does exercise contribute to a longer healthspan?
Patricia Celestino Soper: We are thankfully becoming more aware of the fact that routine physical activity is good for us. It increases cardiorespiratory fitness and energy levels, can help with weight loss and improve sleep quality. It strengthens our muscles and bones and helps prevent chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer, among others. Physical activity is one of the most effective, economical and safest approaches to lowering the incidence of cardiovascular diseases and premature death. For example, studies have shown that increased moderate or vigorous exercise, compared to a sedentary lifestyle, is associated with a gain of life expectancy.
LifeOmic: Why does LIFE Extend incorporate nutrition and intermittent fasting?
Patricia Celestino Soper: Food is nutritious and delicious! But is food always healthy? Not at all, and we all know this. An unhealthy diet can increase our weight and likelihood of developing obesity and chronic disorders such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer. Eating healthy foods should be a lifestyle that we start early in life. It’s best to focus on avoiding excessive food intake and intake of saturated fats, sugars and salt, while increasing intake of healthy foods like raw fruits and vegetables, lean protein and dietary fibers. For example, individuals who consume meals with plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains have a reduced risk of developing some chronic diseases. A recent study showed that a healthy diet (for example, low in red/processed meats, sodium and sugars, but high in vegetables, whole grains and fruits) was associated with gain of life expectancy — the healthier the diet, the longer the life expectancy.
Paige Jarreau: In just the last few decades, researchers and healthcare providers have realized that not just what we eat, but when we eat impacts our health and potentially our longevity. Intermittent fasting (IF) involves often a daily cycle of fasting and feeding. IF is an umbrella term that refers to at least three different approaches to restricting calories intermittently, including daily time-restricted feeding. IF, even without weight loss, is a form of hormetic or “good” stress that the body responds to with improvements in metabolic and cellular performance. Human research studies on fasting have focused on its potential benefits for people at risk of developing obesity and cardiovascular disease. These studies have revealed that IF can have substantial positive impacts on weight loss, metabolic and heart health.
IF regimens that involve restricting one’s calories to a narrow, 6 to 8-hour window early in the day, for example, or eating every other day, have been associated with lowered lipid levels, improved blood sugar control, reduced inflammation and oxidative stress. These and other metabolic health indicators are associated with diseases of aging. Animal studies have shown that dietary restriction, including caloric restriction and intermittent fasting, can extend healthy lifespan and delay diseases aging for various species from yeast to mice to monkeys.
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LifeOmic: Why track sleep in LIFE Extend, alongside exercise, nutrition and fasting?
Patricia Celestino Soper: We have all been there. Whether you had to pull an “all-nighter” to study for an important exam or finish a task, were up all night with your newborn or sick child, partied all night or got sucked into your favorite series’ marathon. The truth is, we know that poor sleep is detrimental to our normal functioning and a pattern of chronic low quality of sleep may be harmful to our health. In fact, scientists have studied the effect of poor sleep patterns (including poor quality sleep, too little sleep, too much sleep, or other sleep disturbances) and found that poor sleep affects our health and life expectancy. Poor sleep is associated with cardiometabolic disorders (including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obesity and diabetes), which are themselves associated with reduced quality of life and decreased life expectancy. A recent study showed that individuals with abnormal sleep lost between one and six years of healthy and disease-free years in their lives.
LifeOmic: How does mindfulness contribute to longer, healthier life?
Paige Jarreau: In fascinating research covered in depth by Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel in The Telomere Effect, chronic stress can actually create inflammation and oxidative stress that lead to telomere shortening. Telomeres, the protective ends of our chromosomes or the genetic material in each of our cells, have been implicated in the aging process — they tend to get shorter with age. But practicing mindfulness, meditation or stress reduction activities over time appears to preserve healthy telomeres and improve general health and well-being. Stress, especially chronic stress and critical negativity, is strongly connected to declines in physical health. Practicing mindfulness, meditation and similar activities may improve stress resilience and dampan the negative impacts of stress on our health.
There are also some interesting connections between telomere length and metabolism, where periods of lowered metabolic rates (such as during hibernation in animals, and perhaps longer fasts in humans) reduce oxidative stress and cellular senescence, preserving telomere length over time!
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LifeOmic: How will tracking behaviors like fasting and exercise in the LIFE Extend app help people improve their health?
Matt Ferguson: The act of tracking itself is an important first step to being successful with any lifestyle change. You can’t improve what you aren’t measuring (also a key product management tenant). I have some acquaintances who run weight loss and diabetes clinics and they have demonstrated such a strong correlation between tracking and success that they won’t admit people into their programs unless they track certain behaviors and outcomes, and keep doing it regularly. In addition to the tracking the gamification aspects of LX, social connectedness will also play a large role in health improvements via the app.
LifeOmic: How will LIFE Extend be used to drive research and precision medicine?
Matt Ferguson: We have been scoping out a data collection question engine that, when coupled with our Precision Health Cloud (PHC), will give researchers an amazing opportunity to interact with their patients and research participants, run health interventions, collect data and engage users on an ongoing basis. LIFE Extend users will eventually be able to volunteer for health interventions and other research studies. Researchers will be able to identify and reach out to potential volunteers who qualify for particular studies and clinical trials. LX users will be able to decide whether or not they want to be health research volunteers or not, of course, but this will be a cool way for our users to make a little money, find out about new treatments, or simply contribute to the greater good of mankind. Most disease treatment breakthroughs come from basic science research.
As for precision medicine, just wait until we put the full force of our PHC and machine learning teams behind the app!
Don Brown: LIFE Extend stores every conceivable type of personal health information via our Precision Health Cloud, including electronic medical records, medical images, blood test results, genetic sequences and even real-time telemetry from wireless devices. Such wireless devices can provide weight, body fat percentage, heart rate, blood pressure and even EKG traces. The Precision Health Cloud uses machine learning and other techniques to analyze this information and generate personalized health alerts and recommendations. LifeOmic is working with researchers to allow them collect additional information from volunteers interested in contributing to their research, via the LX app.
We believe that LIFE Extend will set a new standard for precision health. Technology is in the process of democratizing healthcare. The days of physicians and hospitals acting as the gatekeepers to healthcare delivery are coming to an end. With the advent of cloud computing, big data, machine learning and mobile devices, individuals can and are taking more responsibility for their health. We hope that LX can accelerate this trend and bring the latest science to bear on curing and even preventing many diseases.
LifeOmic: What are you most excited about in working on the LIFE Extend app, and thinking about its impact?
Matt Ferguson: I’ve been in the digital population health space for a while, but I’ve never been in a situation quite like this. I am completely confident that this incredible team can do amazing things. Our ability to securely store, analyze and use a person’s shared health data to make their life better is what gets me so geeked up about our LIFE apps. Being able to put clinical, genomic, wearable and mobile health data to work to help people improve their lives is pretty much a dream job. I’ve tried to do this working at other places, but there have always been “data silos” that make it extremely difficult. We’ve solved that problem here at LifeOmic. Now it’s full-speed ahead to get something useful and delightful into our user’s hands, and iterate from there. It’s going to be quite a ride.
Designing LIFE Extend
At LifeOmic, we are dedicated to creating health apps that delight users and meaningfully change behavior to help users realize longer healthspans. To do this, we need beautiful user interfaces that promote engagement — enter our Head of Design Doryan Algarra. We asked Doryan to tell us more about the design vision of LIFE Extend below.
LifeOmic: What design considerations or approaches are you using for LIFE Extend?
Doryan Algarra: When I initially started the groundwork for LIFE Extend, I knew that there were a lot of features we wanted in the app and that whatever happened, we would have to design with scalability in mind. We opted for a “tiled” interface for the main screen — this allows for each feature to have its own self-contained area without throwing off the balance of the entire app.
Accessibility is another area that we are trying to be more considerate of, and as the app evolves this will continue. For example, in designing the layout and colors of the app, particularly in the LIFE Points tile, we are considering the needs of users with varying degrees of color blindness. We will continue to iterate to make this and our other LIFE apps as accessible as possible for every user. Designing for accessibility is definitely a balancing act — I foresee this evolving as the app evolves.
In designing LIFE Fasting Tracker and LIFE Extend, the idea was never to emulate existing health apps. Instead, we’ve looked to patterns and ideas that are broader and make sense for what we are trying to accomplish — empower people to live healthier, with friends. For example, we looked closely at the design elements and social components of the top social media platforms and apps out there to inform our LIFE Circles, health behavior tracking and multimedia sharing features within LIFE apps.
We want to make sure that what we build gives our app users something to come back to. We want to give them a very compelling reason to use and interact with our app. Health is a very personal thing. We aim to build bridges between health information and our users to raise awareness and empower behavior change. Giving users access to their health information in a user-friendly, easy-to-understand and beautiful way is key to accomplishing this.
LifeOmic: What are some of the challenges of designing and building a precision health app?
Doryan Algarra: We are building features into LX that are uniquely challenging, from an estimated lifespan feature, to a LIFE Points system based on five healthy behavior pillars, to social circles, to user-friendly forms for research data collection. There is a vast amount of upfront research and discussion required to design these features. Keeping such a robust app as simple as possible is ironically one of the most challenging aspects of design.
The Technologies Powering LIFE Extend
Health apps that engage patients effectively on an ongoing basis have largely been failures — especially apps that also power research and healthcare insights. LifeOmic is dedicated to creating apps that look beautiful and perform seamlessly for end users, at scale.
LifeOmic is also dedicated to collecting, storing and analyzing the highest quality health data to make personalized health recommendations and drive precision health research. We are leveraging Apple HealthKit and Google Fit health tracking platforms to pull wearable and third-party data related to physical activity, sleep, nutrition, heart rate, blood glucose levels and more into LIFE Extend. We want to take the onus of health data entry off of our users. The goal is to collect more, higher quality health data that users and their physicians or researchers can use to make better treatment decisions.
Learn more about LIFE Extend and follow our updates on social media — follow the hashtag #Hackathon4LIFE! Download our LIFE Fasting Tracker app today on the Apple App Store to get started with intermittent fasting and health tracking for precision medicine.