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Mobile health technologies accurately measure new cardiovascular ‘vital signs’

LA JOLLA, CA – July 2, 2018 – One of the major challenges to preventing and treating cardiovascular disease, which accounts for an estimated 31 percent of deaths worldwide, is monitoring patients when they are outside of a doctor’s office.

The emergence of mobile health technologies, such as activity trackers, sleep monitors, electronic blood pressure devices and others offer the new ability to track both traditional cardiovascular risk factors (e.g. blood pressure) and other factors that increase a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease (e.g. poor sleep), at home, and at high sampling rates. 

A study by researchers at the Scripps Translational Science Institute provides new evidence that these cardiovascular risk factors can be accurately measured and tracked independently outside of a physician’s office using new mobile health technologies, while requiring minimal training of participants. The study was published in the journal Hypertension.     

“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,” says first author and principal investigator Brian Modena, assistant professor of Molecular Medicine at Scripps Research and a clinical researcher at the Scripps Translational Science Institute.

“Our study combined multiple health tracking devices to holistically assess cardiovascular risk factors outside of the clinical setting along with demographics, medication adherence and stress levels,” Modena added. “These measurements were found to closely match national averages or prior studies performed in very controlled clinical settings, supporting their accuracy and reliability.”    

Cardiovascular health has traditionally been assessed by measuring vital signs such as weight, blood pressure and heart rate. However, other factors such as sleep duration, physical activity levels, pulse wave velocity (a measure of arterial wall stiffness) and various lifestyle risk factors also influence or predict cardiovascular outcomes.

The study was conducted in collaboration with Withings, a consumer electronics company, that identified eligible study participants via a company database of owners of Withings health tracking devices. A total of 255 individuals were enrolled and asked to measure blood pressure, heart rate, pulse wave velocity and weight 2 days a week for 17 weeks. All measurements were transmitted wirelessly through a smartphone app to a secure database. 

This was also the first study to successfully assess and track pulse wave velocity outside of a controlled clinical setting using new ‘smart’ weight scales. Pulse wave velocity is an important indicator of cardiovascular risk that is being increasingly used in clinic practice to predict risk of cardiovascular disease.   

“With high adherence, satisfaction and participant engagement, this proof-of-concept study required minimal study personnel and no participant training, thereby making it likely scalable to much larger populations,” says Steven Steinhubl, director of digital medicine at the Scripps Translational Science Institute and senior author on the study.

Other authors on the study, “Advanced and Accurate Mobile Health Tracking Devices Record New Cardiac ‘Vital Signs’,” were Otmane Bellahsen of Nokia; Angela Chieh of Withings-Nokia Health; Danielle Dufek of University of California, Berkeley; and Nima Nikazad, Nathan Parikh, Gail Ebner and Eric Topol of The Scripps Research Institute.

The study was supported by funding provided by Withings, the National Institutes of Health NCATS Clinical Translational Science Awards (grants 5KL2TR001112 and 5UL1TR001114), and an NHLBI award (grant 1K23HL144418-01). It was also supported by the All of Us Research Program (grant 1U24OD023176). 

About Scripps Research

Scripps Research is one of the world's preeminent independent, not-for-profit organizations focusing on research in the biomedical sciences. Scripps Research is internationally recognized for its contributions to science and health, including its role in laying the foundation for new treatments for cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, hemophilia, and other diseases. An institution that evolved from the Scripps Metabolic Clinic founded by philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps in 1924, the institute now employs more than 2,500 people on its campuses in La Jolla, CA, and Jupiter, FL, where its renowned scientists—including two Nobel laureates and 20 members of the National Academies of Science, Engineering or Medicine—work toward their next discoveries. The institute's graduate program, which awards PhD degrees in biology and chemistry, ranks among the top ten of its kind in the nation. For more information, see www.scripps.edu.

About the Scripps Translational Science Institute

The Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI) at The Scripps Research Institute focuses on individualized medicine, using the tools of digital medicine and genomics to better understand each person and render more effective healthcare. In 2016, STSI was awarded a grant for over $200M by the National Institutes of Health’s Precision Medicine Initiative to lead the All of Us Research Program’s Participant Center. STSI is further supported, since 2008, by the flagship NIH Clinical and Translational Science Award to promote human health and train future leaders in biomedicine. For more information, visit www.stsiweb.org.

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Brian Modena (left), assistant professor of Molecular Medicine at Scripps Research and a clinical researcher at the Scripps Translational Science Institute and Steven Steinhubl (right), director of digital medicine at the Scripps Translational Science Institute and senior author on the study. (High-res image)


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