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Wearable technology and monitoring heart health

Wearable technology is changing the landscape of preventive health.
(Photo: Thinkstock)

This content is presented by HonorHealth.

Today’s experts predict that the wearable technology market will exceed $4 billion by the end of 2017. This represents a $2 billion rise from 2015, or a 100% increase.

One in six Americans currently owns and uses wearable technology. Devices such as smartwatches and step trackers may immediately come to mind when you hear this, but there are others items you might not think of, like your smartphone or even Google Glass.

Designed to provide minute-to-minute updates on things like step count and sleep quality, wearable technology is changing the landscape of preventive health forever. Bimal Padaliya, MD, a cardiologist at the HonorHealth Heart and Vascular Institute, shows us the evolution of wearable technology and provides some tips on how people can use these devices to support better health.

The trends of patients and wearables

One of the biggest drivers behind the trend of wearable technology is convenience and "curb appeal." Not only do they look cool, but they're great at making our lives easier by streamlining communication, which makes them very popular among consumers.

These devices can also provide real-time health monitoring. While this is ideal for young, tech-native patients, it's also helpful for older people who can benefit from these products. Dr. Padaliya points out the irony that older patients who may benefit from wearable technology, may also not be the most tech-savvy. This, he says, can make it more interesting to pitch the idea to them.

What is the best function for wearables?

According to Dr. Padaliya, the most critical function of wearables is heart rate tracking. In the U.S. adult population, heart disease is the leading cause of death. By utilizing wearable technology to monitor heart health and heart-healthy activities, including aerobic exercise, it's easy for patients to take control of their health and lower their risk of heart complications.

For example, while doctors like Dr. Padaliya have always recommended 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week, wearable technology has made compliance measurable as opposed to only being prescribed.

Another important monitoring function of wearables is to keep track of stress. We know that physical and mental stress can increase the risk of heart disease. Typically, stress manifests as changes in heart rate. Fortunately, wearables can pick up on this and, in many cases, may even trigger ways to decrease stress in those moments.

Finally, wearables excel at rhythm monitoring. Some advanced wearables can determine if you're suffering symptoms, including chest pain and increased or decreased heart rate. If so, these devices may offer a real-time EKG and make medical decisions accordingly. This can cut down on the number of trips people make to the ER over non-life-threatening chest pain and other symptoms.

Are there preferred wearables?

While doctors don't recommend any particular brand or model of "preferred wearables," most realize that wearables worn on the wrist are the most widely adopted. And, because they are non-intrusive, these items have a very low impact on people’s daily lifestyle. Some common styles include Apple’s iWatch, Fitbit products or Android watches.

As with all medical devices, doctors recommend using wearables with caution and a disclaimer. While they can be helpful for individuals who have the resources to communicate data to healthcare providers, they have the potential to create obsessive compulsive tendencies or anxiety in individuals prone to such things.

Learn more about HonorHealth's Heart and Vascular Institute.