I’m a sucker for a good health app — just ask the folks at MapMyRide (No, for the last time, I would not like to upgrade to MVP!). But my life-quality measurement obsession had been short a grey-matter meter until earlier today, when I downloaded the Healthy Brains app offered by the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.
Its pitch was pretty irresistible: “Your brain is your most important organ,” the splash page admonishes. “Cherish it. Protect it. Take care of it.” To help, Healthy Brains promises an interactive brain check-up, personalized brain health index (BHI) score, customized report and recommendations on how to get right(er) in the head. It’s all based on the Cleveland Clinic’s six pillars of brain health: physical fitness, food and nutrition, medical health, sleep and relaxation, mental fitness, and social interaction.
The app, designed by Las Vegas mobile tech company Raster, is clean-looking, fast and easy to use, but getting started can take some time. Between signing up, completing all six surveys necessary to generate my BHI (one for each pillar), reading my recommendations and fiddling with the various mind-sharpening tools, I lost an hour on it.
That’s not to say those weren’t 60 minutes well-spent. I got some back-pats for eating lots of veggies and chocolate, avoiding red meat, sleeping 7-8 hours a night and exercising six times a week. I got some reminders about “moderate” fish and wine consumption. And I got some warnings, mainly due to my family history of dementia and my lack of interest in Sudoku. Overall, my BHI came out to 81 out of 100 — high enough to not panic, but low enough to inspire vigilance.
So, what do I do? The app has specific advice tailored to your profile; for instance, in my case, I’m to stick to one glass of red wine per day and avoid being moody, jealous and stressed, which, it turns out, doubles the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in middle-aged women (extra applause here from my family and coworkers ). Where applicable, external links to articles and games are offered, and you can go deeper into the science of the brain by taking a memory test or watching videos on brain function. You can also pair your wearable fitness device with the app to incorporate exercise into updates. It has a history function that, I assume, will track my progress over time.
Should all this daunt a user (I’m looking at you, Mom), there’s a tutorial, so Healthy Brains seems broadly accessible and useful. I can’t imagine anyone not needing this information. Wanting an honest assessment of how well you’re treating your brain? Now, that’s another thing.