Researchers test wearables to reduce heart disease

LJMU researchers are turning to wearable technology to help people recover after heart attacks.

Coronary heart disease is one of the UK’s leading causes of death, responsible for one in eight deaths in men and one in 15 in women.

Being physically inactive is one of the major risk factors but only half of those surviving a ‘major heart problem’ take up recommended exercise programmes after they leave hospital.

LJMU researchers believe wearable technology may be the answer to incentivise the rehabilitation regimes cardiologists insist will prevent more early deaths.

Walk for life

In a £120,000 project, funded by Heart Research UK, they are targeting patients with a home-based walking programme as soon as they are discharged from hospital.

Using a combination of an app, smartphone and a wearable tracking device, individuals will be able to track their own exercise, whilst receiving advice and feedback from trained exercise professionals, without having to attend the hospital or a community centre. 

Participants will also be asked to measure their blood pressure, weight and how they are feeling in themselves.

The study will involve two groups, one of which will receive standard care, and the other will receive the mobile health intervention.

'Uptake is low'

Helen Jones, Professor in Cardiovascular Physiology in LJMU’s School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, who is leading the project, said: “Cardiac rehabilitation usually involves supervised exercise a couple of times a week at a local hospital or community centre and the benefits are significant both in reducing readmission to hospital and crucially in reducing deaths.

“Uptake is low, with only around half attending their sessions. In many cases, there is also a significant delay between discharge from hospital and starting cardiac rehabilitation, which may well be contributing to limited uptake.”

Dr Mark Forshaw, Subject Leader in Psychology at LJMU and a registered health psychologist, backed the idea and said it was not surprising that people were not taking up rehab: “Most people are motivated by support and by being nudged.

“Left to their own devices they often do nothing. On the other hand, if they feel badgered, they back away.  The holy grail is knowing exactly how much support is enough.”  


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