As of right now, there are 101 million iPhone users in the United States scrolling through social media, texting and taking pictures, and making phone calls. But pretty soon, these smartphones will be able to change the world of medical research.
Healthcare professionals are honing in on the fact that Americans are using their smartphones more than ever. With this information, researchers at Stanford University of Medicine launched a free iPhone app called MyHeartCounts. This app gives users the ability to receive accurate physical information in relation to their cardiovascular health.
The app is easy to use, and is meant to give users a simple way to measure their daily activity, complete tasks, and answer health care surveys with the click of a button. It was first launched back in March 2015, and within the first few weeks of its creation, data was collected by 4,990 participants.
Six months after launch, researchers were able to gain information from 47,109 volunteers from all 50 states.
So why use smartphones for data collection? “People check these devices 46 times a day,” Dr. Euan Ashley, Ph.D, associate professor of cardiovascular medicine, explained in a press release. “From a cardiovascular health standpoint, we can use that personal attachment to measure physical activity, heart rate and more,” UPI reports.
Utilizing smartphones is groundbreaking for medical research because asking participants to estimate the time they spent on physical activity has proven to be a problem in previous studies; people typically overestimated their activity levels and assumed they were getting more health benefits from doing less.
A mobile phone, however, is able to accurately use a heart rate monitor to more directly measure a person’s activity level and overall heart health.
In their study, published in JAMA Cardiology, the Stanford researchers found that those who were steadily active during the day compared to one short daily session had a better heart health rating, including fewer chest pains, a decreased risk of heart attacks, and better atrial fibrillation. They also found that participants who exercised on the weekends and had an earlier bedtime were typically more healthy overall.
Consistent physical fitness, a healthy diet, and adequate amounts of sleep have already been known to be positive factors for maintaining a healthy heart. Low activity levels is one of the most common risk factors for heart disease, and studies show that a lack of physical activity accounts for over five million deaths world wide per year.
There are many different risk factors associated with heart disease that can cause hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and sleep apnea. In fact, those who have untreated sleep apnea are three times as likely to suffer from heart disease in the future.
To prevent any of these serious diseases, doctors ask patients to just click a button to monitor their health.
“The ultimate goals of the MyHeart Counts study are to provide real-world evidence of both the physical activity patterns most beneficial to people and the most effective behavioral motivation approaches to promote healthy activity,” said Dr. Michael McConnell, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at Stanford, in a press release.