How to Keep a Health Diary
It can be hard enough to remember what you ate for lunch two days ago let alone exactly what you were doing during your dizzy attack last weekend. Relying on memory to track your dizziness and imbalance is not enough.
Keeping a detailed health diary is one way you can take an active role in your treatment. It can help you and your health team come to a better understanding of your condition and treatment choices. After a while, you will start to recognize patterns and learn what strategies help – and just as importantly, what does not help.
If your condition ends up being chronic, your records will be useful evidence to include with applications for disability benefits. They can help show how, despite seeking treatment and following doctor's orders, your condition continues to impact your daily life.
Once you get into the habit of keeping a daily log, it should not take more than 5 to 10 minutes a day. There is no perfect approach to record keeping. With a bit of trial and error, you will find a quick-and-easy approach to suit your lifestyle.
Before starting, think back to when your dizziness first started. Did it happen for no apparent reason, or did it follow an illness? Record what you remember as best you can.
Going forward, consider tracking the following:
- Daily snapshot - rate how you feel overall each day. Use a consistent scale, such as 1-5 with 5 being good. Set a routine time, for example after dinner or before bed, for this quick assessment.
- Energy levels - rate your energy level several times each day, for example morning, early afternoon, late afternoon and evening. Again, use a consistent scale. You may note a pattern that is related to your symptoms – try to plan important activities at times of day when you have most energy.
Keeping a careful record of symptoms can help you evaluate how you are responding to treatment. When tracking symptoms, record:
- Brief description of the symptom(s) you experienced. Try to use consistent and precise words (these might include vertigo, dizziness, tinnitus, light-headedness, brain fog, headache, hearing loss, nausea, fainting, blurred vision, pressure in the ear, stumbling or falling) – browse our symptoms page for more terms to use.
- Day and time of each episode.
- If you have vertigo - which way does the room seem to spin?
- What you were doing when you were symptomatic?
- What position you were in? For example, did dizziness occur when you were upright or did you roll over in bed? Did it happen – or was it worse - when you moved your head?
- How long did it last? Was it seconds, minutes or hours? Be as precise as you can – the duration of symptoms can be a key diagnostic clue.
- Severity of the episode, using a consistent scale – for example a 1-5 scale, with 5 being the most severe.
- Effect on daily life – use a consistent scale, such as 1-5 with 5 being a serious effect.
- Conditions of any falls - did you stumble over something on the floor or did you fall for no obvious reason? When and where did it happen? How often have you fallen?
If you are artistically inclined, drawing an impression of your dizziness may help with explaining your symptoms to a professional.
Include all prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements. Paired with your symptom diary, a detailed medication log can help figure out possible side effects of medications, whether medications are effective or need adjusting. When tracking medications, record:
- Name, prescribed dose and schedule of all medications and other supplements that you are taking.
- Day(s) and time(s) you took the medication – records the name and the dose you took.
- Indication of what the medication is for and, if possible, any information on side effects.
If you suspect there is a link between changes in air pressure or seasonal allergens and increased dizziness record:
- minimum and maximum daily temperature
- barometric pressure
- pollen count
Track your food intake to help identify if any foods make your dizziness better or worse. Keep a simple record of what you eat and drink for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as any snacks. Try to estimate quantities, especially of any key ingredients that tend to trigger your symptoms.
As well as doing specific balance exercises and vestibular rehabilitation, other physical activity promotes recovery and overall health. Keeping a record of your full range of activities can motivate you to exercise as well as help in spotting patterns with dizziness and imbalance.
If you practice relaxation techniques, keep a record to track how they help you manage stress and anxiety.
Tracking your sleep patterns can help to detect a pattern between disrupted sleep and dizziness or imbalance symptoms. A simple notation of what time you went to bed, how long you slept and the quality of your sleep may suffice.
For women that are still menstruating, tracking periods can add another piece to the puzzle. It may help you identify additional symptom patterns.
Page updated August, 2019.