Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is often described as a'silent killer', because many people who suffer from it do not show any symptoms. Yet hardening of the arteries can decrease the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart, brain and/or kidneys, causing serious and sometimes fatal damage. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 1.28 billion adults aged 30-79 worldwide have hypertension, two-thirds of whom live in low- and middle-income countries. Less than half (42%) of sufferers are diagnosed and treated, and only around a fifth (21%) have the condition under control. Blood pressure is often measured by health professionals when patients visit medical facilities for check-ups, but consumers can also monitor their blood pressure more regularly at home using commercially available cuff devices, either on the upper arm or the wrist.
A new wearable gadget that fixes to the arm can measure blood sugar and muscle fatigue at the gym and alcohol levels at the pub. Created in California, the prototype can continuously monitor three health stats – glucose, alcohol and lactate levels – either separately or simultaneously in real-time. About the size of three poker chips stacked together, it is applied to the skin painlessly through a Velcro-like patch of microscopic needles. These needles take readings from fluid under the skin and then sends the data wirelessly to a custom smartphone app. Researchers hope to commercialise the device, which could provide a single solution for diabetes patients in everyday life.
Tracking steps, measuring heart rate, counting calories, monitoring sleep: wearables have become part of everyday life for a surprisingly large portion of the UK. According to researcher YouGov, nearly one in five of us own a wearable, and one in 10 actively use them. So could the interest in keeping fit that wearables have inspired, and the data they collect, be something the NHS can use to its advantage? Other private healthcare providers around the world have started making use of consumer wearables. In the US, for example, insurer Aetna has subsidised the cost of Apple Watches for customers to "improve healthy outcomes", while in the UK private health insurer Vitality subsidises them for people undertaking a certain amount of exercise.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are paying more attention to our personal health and wellbeing. Smart healthcare gadgets and services have the capacity to improve our health by monitoring vital signs and flagging up any unusual rhythms and behaviors for further investigation. Some can help us learn about -- and potentially improve -- our sleeping patterns; others will help monitor our fitness, gym sessions, and activity, and portable, smart electronics provide testing kits for everything from gluten to blood pressure readings. Smartwatches, rings, brooches, clothing, and other devices small enough to be thrown into your bag that also perform as medical devices are all now common and widely available. They can be stylish, too, and can suit a range of budgets.
About 80 per cent of high-risk patients taking statins for cardiovascular disease still have high cholesterol and may need higher doses of the medication, a study finds. Those at the highest risk of cardiovascular'events' - such as a heart attack or stroke - may benefit from higher doses or injectable versions of cholesterol therapies. Scientists say although statins are a'first line treatment', when used alone they will not help the majority of European patients achieve their cholesterol goals. They found that if high-risk patients take a combination of cholesterol drugs can cut the risk of heart attacks by 11 per cent and the risk of death by 5 per cent. Lead study author Professor Kausik Ray, of Imperial College London, said a global approach was needed to tackle the burden of cardiovascular disease.