The emerging role of smart wearable devices to prevent or manage cardiovascular disease was discussed at the latest Grand Rounds at Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q).
Dr Mohamed B Elshazly, Cardiologist and Assistant Professor of Medicine at WCM-Q, explained how smartwatches that collect data such as activity levels, heart rate and blood pressure can be used to ‘incentivise’ users to do more physical activity thereby reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, and to help manage the disease for patients with existing conditions.
Using sophisticated software, smartwatches analyse activity and heart rate data in conjunction with characteristics such as age, weight, height and sex to estimate the number of calories burned and individual cardiac fitness. Some smartwatches can detect an irregular heartbeat and prompt the user to take an electrocardiogram (ECG) test, also using the watch. The data can then be downloaded as a PDF for the user to take to their doctor. Very recently, wrist worn blood pressure monitors have received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration. More than half of US adults, according to Dr Elshazly, don’t get enough physical exercise and are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
The question then is how to use the data collected by smart wearables to improve cardiovascular outcomes?
Dr Elshazly pointed to scientific studies which found that the activity feedback provided by smart wearables, when used in a ‘gamified’ scenario, appears to incentivise individuals to be more physically active.
The physical data activity that we get from our smartwatches can be used to enhance physical activity and hopefully improve cardiovascular outcomes in healthy individuals.’
For individuals with existing cardiovascular disease, smartwatches can continuously monitor heart rate to detect arrhythmias, while the ECG function can be used to screen for abnormalities such as atrial fibrillation (AF), a type of irregular heartbeat that can lead to heart failure, blood clots, stroke and other complications. AF symptoms include feelings of weakness, fatigue, palpitations, dizziness and shortness of breath. These can also be present asymptomatically, and smartwatches might be particularly useful for detecting it.
Dr Elshazly graduated from WCM-Q in 2010 with honours. The lecture was accredited locally by Qatar Council for Healthcare Practitioners-Accreditation Department (QCHP-AD) and internationally by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME). For more information on the WCM-Q Grand Rounds, visit qatar-weill.cornell.edu.