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Cigna 2017

Imagine if a cool tattoo or a pair of contact lenses could help save you from this all-too familiar scene:

You schedule a doctor's appointment for the morning, knowing full-well that means you'll have to take anywhere from 90 minutes to three hours off work depending on where your doctor's office is. Then you get in, and there's inevitably a wait to be seen. And, after you're seen, you'll probably have to wait around to have blood taken or, worse, make another appointment to come back.

People in a waiting room. Photo via iStock.


Now imagine you have a condition that requires you to have your health numbers — blood pressure, blood sugar, body mass index (BMI), and cholesterol — monitored by a doctor at least once a month. The situation just went from frustrating to ridiculous.

Thankfully, we live in an age of astonishing innovation that's making health monitoring a million times easier — meaning that maybe in the near future, you won't have to go through this routine quite as often.

There are a bunch of exciting new gadgets being developed right now that will allow us to take more control of our preventive health care. While they're not on the market yet, many of them should be in the not-too-distant future.  

Here are five examples of cutting-edge technologies that aren't just cool, they could be time and potentially lifesaving.

1. This biosensor tattoo could tell you what's going on in your body.

You know how mood rings change colors with your "mood" — i.e., they change color with the temperature of your body? Well, MIT is developing something kind of similar, but instead of a ring, it's a tattoo, and instead of your temperature, it can sense things like blood glucose and hydration levels.

The tattoo ink is called Dermal Abyss, and it reacts with the body's interstitial fluid (which is what surrounds your cells), changing colors in response to internal changes. There are three different color inks that monitor your body's glucose, pH, and sodium levels.

For example, if you're diabetic, instead of having to prick your finger an inordinate amount of times a day, you could just look down at your tattoo. Pretty cool, huh?

2. Wearing this sweat-monitoring wristband could tell you if you're drinking enough water and much more.

[rebelmouse-image 19530081 dam="1" original_size="450x324" caption="Photo by Wei Gao/UC Berkeley. Used with permission." expand=1]Photo by Wei Gao/UC Berkeley. Used with permission.

Sweat can reveal a lot more than just a hot day or a healthy workout. According to engineers at the University of Berkeley, it can assess various medical conditions as well. That's why they're developing a wristband designed to monitor the makeup of sweat.

It has sensors that discern the sodium, potassium, glucose, and lactate levels in a person's sweat. They connect to a circuit board on the band that calculates the data and sends it to a laptop or smartphone.

But it doesn't just keep track of important health numbers. It can also detect drug use, which would make athlete doping a lot harder to pull off.

3. These smart contact lenses might one day diagnose you using your tears.

Woman putting in a contact. Photo via iStock.

Soon, your contact lenses could do so much more than just help you see better. For the past several years, researchers at Oregon State University have been working on smart lenses to monitor blood glucose levels in the body.

In order to create the prototype, engineers actually used indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO) — a material used to improve the quality of smartphone screens. They found that the sensors in the contacts were so fine-tuned they could even detect trace amounts of glucose in tears.

But that's not all these contacts could do.

Gregory Herman, co-author of the study says the sensors could be developed to monitor conditions like cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, and kidney or liver disease.

4. Meet Helius — a smart pill that can tell how well your other pills are working.

Photo via iStock.

We take pills to treat symptoms, but what if there were a pill that could monitor the effectiveness of pill-taking? That's exactly what Proteus Digital Health has been developing over the last several years. It's a smart pill that records how a patient is taking and responding to their pills. That way, if a treatment course isn't working, doctors will have a better idea as to why that might be.

Sorry, pill avoiders. This invention will unmask you (and keep you healthier).

The best part is your doctor can check in on your progress whenever they want, and if something doesn't look right, they can alert you right away.

5. If you wear this bra for an hour, it will tell you if your breasts are healthy.

[rebelmouse-image 19530084 dam="1" original_size="700x730" caption="Via Higia Technologies." expand=1]Via Higia Technologies.

Regular, at-home breast exams should be a part of every person's life, but sometimes early signs of cancer aren't easily felt or seen. That's why Julian Rios Cantu, an 18-year-old from Mexico, started developing a smart bra that can detect the more subtle signs of early stage breast cancer.

It's called the Eva Bra, and while it's only a prototype right now, it could revolutionize cancer prevention when it hits the market in January 2018. The bra comes equipped with bio sensors that detect subtle changes in skin temperature and tissue elasticity. All a person has to do is wear it once a week for 60 to 90 minutes, then the patch sensors send the data they collect to their phone or tablet.

This would be especially helpful for people who might've had breast cancer before and thus need to be more closely monitored for recurrences.

Of course, while all this exciting new technology could help you stay healthier, it's not a substitute for preventive screenings with your doctor.

Regardless of how advanced remote health monitoring gets, having your doctor assess your health numbers is a vital part of keeping yourself in tip top shape.

What it can do, however, is alert you to a change you might not otherwise have noticed so you can get yourself checked out before any serious damage is done.

Keeping tabs on your body is the best way to protect it. Innovations like these will make doing that so much easier.

Learn more about how to take control of your health at Cigna.com/TakeControl.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Your weekly roundup of internet sunshine.

Hey everyone! Hope you're staying safe and healthy, and if you're not, at least you know you're not alone. I mean, omicron? Phew. Pandemics certainly know how to keep us on our toes.

If you need a respite or distraction from all that, we've got you covered. If immersing yourself in cute animal videos and feel-good stories of human awesomeness is wrong, who wants to be right? Nobody, that's who.

We all need a break from the less pleasant parts of life, and cheering ourselves up with simple, happy things is a tried and true way to push those endorphins and lift our mood for a bit.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

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1. Fair Trade Woven Dark Gray Alpaca Blend Scarf

Celinda Jaco selects a cozy blend of Andean alpaca for this handsome men's scarf. Classic in style, it features fine stripes of white and black woven through the dark grey textile. Hand-tied fringe completes a distinguished design.

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