Tech for your ticker

15 January 2017

Tech for your ticker

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a term used to describe various diseases affecting the heart and blood vessels. It's believed to be the UK's biggest killer and according to the NHS caused 160,000 deaths in 2011.

CVD includes coronary heart disease, where flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart is blocked or reduced by a build-up of fatty deposits in the coronary arteries, and stroke, where blood supply to the brain is cut off.

Traditional ways to manage cardiac health

You can reduce CVD risk factors by keeping to a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, not smoking, taking more exercise and getting your GP to monitor blood pressure and cholesterol levels. You can also make lifestyle changes, but you may need medication to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure.

How health tech can help

Wearable heath technology can empower patients to take control of their own health.

Here, we look at three devices to manage cardiac health. However, you must consult your doctor before undertaking any health regime, including using personal health technology.

Prevention technology

Reduce a risk factor for a heart attack by monitoring blood pressure.

Try: The iHealth Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor.

What is it? A wearable technology gadget worn on your wrist to monitor blood pressure. It’s designed to make it easier to test, track and securely share blood pressure readings, measured wirelessly via Bluetooth directly from your iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, by motion sensor technology. The accompanying free app, iHealth My Vitals, automatically records data, enabling you to share it with your doctor.

Who is it good for? Those suffering from "white coat anxiety" where your blood pressure soars when you visit a doctor. It’s a convenient way to take and store readings when relaxed for a more typical picture of your day-to-day blood pressure.

Is it approved? It has CE medical certification in Europe, is approved by the in the USA by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) in the USA and has certification from the European Society of Hypertension.

Diagnosis technology

Help your medical team confirm heart rhythm disorders including Atrial Fibrillation, a heart condition causing an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate.

Try: The AliveCor Heart Monitor and phone app.

What is it? A portable heart monitor which gives an ECG (electrocardiogram) reading in 30 seconds and records episodes of Atrial Fibrillation by contact with your fingers or chest. It works in conjunction with a free phone app which stores and transfers ECG data collected.

Who is it good for? AF is difficult to diagnose because, unless it happens in a medical setting on a monitor, changes to heart rhythm can be hard to record and confirm. This device is useful because you can carry it with you for an extended period so if you have a racing heartbeat and/or repeated fainting attacks (syncope), you can take an instant ECG reading and share data with your doctor to confirm a diagnosis.

Is it approved? Yes, FDA cleared. Clinical studies have shown comparable accuracy to readings from a lead 1 ECG.

Technology to help manage your condition

Using technology to manage medication including Oral Anticoagulant Therapy (OAT)

Try: The OATBOOK phone app.

What is it? A phone app that helps patients prescribed warfarin (the UK’s most commonly prescribed OAT ), track and record their medication and international normalisation ratio (INR) (the rate at which blood clots) on a daily basis.

Who is it good for? Oral anticoagulant therapy thins the blood in patients who have suffered blood clots or had Atrial Fibrillation to prevent more clots and strokes. All patients need their INR readings checked regularly to ensure it is in an optimum range. The app keeps track of your INR readings and flashes alerts to take your medication at the same time every day, and remind you about clinic appointments.

Is it approved? It is supported by the Atrial Fibrillation Association and NHS Choices.