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Hypertension Research Uses mHealth Wearables to Improve Outcomes

Researchers at the University of California San Diego have developed an algorithm from mHealth wearable data that could be used to help providers monitor one's blood pressure and improve care outcomes.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

- Researchers at the University of California San Diego are developing an mHealth platform that can predict a consumer’s blood pressure from wearable data and offer health and wellness advice to keep those readings healthy.

Sujit Dey, Director of the Center for Wireless Communications at UCSD’s Jacobs School of Engineering and a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Po-Han Chiang, a graduate student in the Mobile Systems Design Lab, developed an algorithm based on sleep, exercise and blood pressure data taken from eight patients who wore a Fitbit Charge HR and Omron Evolve wireless blood pressure monitor for 30 days.

According to their study, presented at the recent IEEE Healthcom 2018 conference, Dey and Chiang were able to track how certain activities affected one’s blood pressure. For instance, boosting one test subject’s activity helped lower average systolic blood pressure by 15.4 percent and their diastolic blood pressure by 14.2 percent in one week; while convincing another subject to go to bed earlier led to a 3.6 percent drop in systolic blood pressure and 6.6 percent decrease in average diastolic blood pressure from the previous week.

“This research shows that using wireless wearables and other devices to collect and analyze personal data can help transition patients from reactive to continuous care,” Dey said in a press release issued by UCSD. “Instead of saying 'My blood pressure is high, therefore I'll go to the doctor to get medicine,' giving patients and doctors access to this type of system can allow them to manage their symptoms on a continuous basis.”

The two researchers are now working with UC San Diego Health on a much larger study that will include predictive measures and an analysis of long-term effects of health behaviors on blood pressure.

Their research is one of several projects aimed at using wearables to measure blood pressure and develop new methods for treating hypertension.

In New York, the Uniformed Fire Officers Association of New York City (UFOA), representing some 2,600 active members and 5,000 retirees, and digital health company Qardio have launched a remote patient monitoring program in which firefighters, both active and retired, are monitoring their blood pressure with the QardioArm mHealth device and Qardio app and sharing that data with their primary care providers.

Closer to home, the San Diego-based Scripps Research Translational Institute published results of a study in July in which a home-based remote monitoring platform performed better than a traditional office-based treatment plan in tracking someone’s cardiovascular health,

“Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death and disease worldwide,” the researchers point out in an abstract. “As demands on an already resource-constrained healthcare system intensify, disease prevention in the future will likely depend on out-of-office monitoring of cardiovascular risk factors. Mobile health tracking devices that can track blood pressure and heart rate, in addition to new cardiac vital signs, such as physical activity level and pulse wave velocity (PWV), offer a promising solution.”

“Identifying new ways of monitoring cardiovascular risk factors is critical to reducing the burden of this disease and strains on healthcare systems across the globe,” Brian Modena, an assistant professor of Molecular Medicine at Scripps Research, clinical researcher at SRTI and principal investigator for the study, said in an SRTI press release accompanying the report.

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