Heart Health and Digital Health

February is Heart Health Awareness Month and according to the American Heart Association heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, and the number one health threat around the world. Heart disease is responsible for 1 out of every 4 deaths in the US. But new digital health tools are helping to create new ways to monitor heart health and expand preventive tools more accessible to reduce the risk of cardiac events.

Who is at risk of heart disease?
Heart disease is known as the silent killer, as it effects both men and women of all races. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Women are just as likely as men to have a heart attack.  In 2018, it was responsible for 23.7 percent of deaths in white people and 23.5 percent in Black people.

Heart disease is so deadly because it causes few to no symptoms in its early stages, making it the number one silent killer. Several of the risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and family history of heart disease. These elements don’t cause a noticeable difference in patients and can often go unchecked until a catastrophic health event occurs.

What are the risk factors?
Fifty percent of adults have at least one risk factor that can increase the risk of developing heart disease. The three major risk factors are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or smoking. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is the leading risk factor for heart disease. In fact, 68 million Americans – 1 in every 3 U.S. adults – have high blood pressure, and nearly 20 percent do not know they have it.

Additional factors can also increase the risk of developing heart disease, including diabetes, depression, and obesity. Certain lifestyle behaviors can also contribute to developing heart disease and can compound pre-existing conditions. These include smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise, and alcohol and substance abuse.

Cost of heart disease
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 5M emergency room visits in 2018 were related to heart disease, and 72M doctor visits were due to heart-related issues. The cost of those visits quickly adds up, leading to an annual cost of $351 billion. In addition to the health care costs, heart disease contributes to more than $137 billion in lost productivity. Heart attacks are one of the most expensive conditions treated in the US, contributing to an estimated $11 billion each year.

Digital health and heart disease
The use of digital health tools is helping to identify heart disease earlier and monitor those that are at a higher risk of heart issues. Diagnosing health conditions can also be done via devices that are portable, wearable, and affordable, such as the FDA-cleared Apple smartwatch . As devices like these continue to evolve, early diagnosis and preventive care for heart disease can be done through advanced digital health tools.

And care after hospital discharge is also being handled through digital devices. Remote continuous monitoring technology via smartphone apps is used to observe heart rates and blood sugar, identifying early warning signs of heart failure. Using digital drug companions from Medisafe also helps to ensure patients are taking their heart medications in accordance with physician directives and can implement an intervention should a patient skip meds and experience a heart issue.

Prevention
While heart disease remains the number one cause of death in the US, preventing heart disease is possible and becoming easier than ever before. In fact, controlling risk factors can reduce the risk of a heart attack and stroke by more than 80 percent. And many of these can be tracked and measured with new digital health devices, to ensure that users are meeting the required metrics to improve heart health.

Prevention includes limiting alcoholic intake to no more than one drink per day, reducing the consumption of fat and cholesterol-rich foods, limiting stress, and quitting smoking. Daily exercise of just 30 minutes a day is also beneficial and can help improve other aspects that can lead to heart disease, including depression and obesity. Using digital health devices, heart disease is no longer a silent killer and can be easily monitored and kept at bay with simple daily choices and better health management.

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