Apps that will keep you healthy and wise – at little cost

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With GPs being encouraged to prescribe patients health apps, Sarah Freeman looks at the best on the market.

Whether it be keeping a check on your blood pressure, keeping track of calorie intake or accessing medical records, it seems that smartphones are becoming the latest tool in the medical armoury.

iPharmacy: Having been downloaded more than one million times, iPharmacy is one of the most popular health apps on the market. As well as digitally identifying about 20,000 commonly prescribed drugs, it also contains information about correct dosage and possible adverse reactions. Cost: 69p

EyeExam: Developed by two eye doctors, the app allows users to carry out a basic eyesight test. It includes a mini version of the charts used by opticians as well as tests for colour blindness and astigmatism.

Patient Knows Best: The app was designed to give patients control over their medical records. It’s already used by doctors at Great Ormond Street hospital, along with GPs and community nurses across the country. Ultimately, the idea is patients can conduct online consultations with any member of their clinical team as well as receiving automatic explanations of test results. Cost: Free.

WellNote: Developed by Lord Darzi and a team of doctors from Imperial College London, the app has a range of features including everything from reminders when to take medication to help finding a local dentist. It also allows users to store their medical history, rate the service and treatment they receive and access articles on the latest medical developments. Cost: Free.

The NHS Drink Tracker: When asked by a GP how much we drink there’s always a temptation to lie. As well as calculating the number of units in any given drink, it can also track drinking habits over weeks and months and by providing tailor-made feedback it hopes to encourage people to face up to their drinking habits. Cost: Free.

Calorie Counter and Diet Tracker by My Fitness Pal: It couldn’t be simpler. Tap in your age and gender, answer a few lifestyle questions and then set your weight-loss target. The app then sets a daily calorie limit and helps users track food intake as well as the number of hours spent exercising. The only real problem is that like the drink tracker it requires absolute honesty from users. Cost: Free.

St John Ambulance First Aid: Every year, nearly 150,000 people die in England and Wales in situations where first aid could have given them a chance to live. St John Ambulance has designed an app which shows users how to deal with medical emergencies like choking, hyperventilation and allergic reaction along with tips on how to perform CPR and treat less serious medical problems like cuts, sprains and stings. Cost: Free.

Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock: With sleep deprivation leading to a lack of concentration and increased anxiety and stress levels, this app is billed as a natural way to wake up feeling rested. Place your phone on your mattress and during the night the app monitors your movements and assesses when you’re sleeping lightly or deeply. It then works out the best time for you to wake up during a 30 minute window that ends at your set alarm time. Cost: 69p.

Fitfu: The app, which describes itself as a pocket-sized personal trainer, comes with 23 workout session, featuring pushups, crunches and squats. A motion detector counts your reps out loud as you exercise and should you wish to you it can also compare performance with other users. Cost: £3.99.

Healthy Apps MRSA and C.Diff: Provides the latest official figures for superbug infection numbers at all English NHS hospitals. The postcode search also allows individual hospitals to be compared with others in the area and it is updated regularly at no extra cost. Cost: £1.19.

FoodWiz: Supported by Allergy UK and the major supermarkets, the first step is to input the ingredients you wish to avoid, for example nuts, gluten, milk. When shopping, simply scan the barcode of any item you wish to check and you will be told instantly if it is suitable. More than 100,000 items are already on the database, with 100 new products added every day. Cost: An initial trial period is free, but will then cost about £10 a year.

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