Health

This ‘smart cuff’ may one day save you from a heart attack

Principal investigators Dr. Gregory Marcus, Dr. Jeffrey Olgin, and Dr. Mark Pletcher

Above: Principal investigators Dr. Gregory Marcus, Dr. Jeffrey Olgin, and Dr. Mark Pletcher

A smart cuff may be able to save your life by alerting you when you’re at a high risk of a heart attack or stroke.

The cuff, which is being developed by iHealth in partnership with top cardiologists at the University of California, San Francisco and Berkeley, is about to enter into a testing phase. iHealth specializes in consumer products, but regularly partners with clinical researchers and hospitals to develop more sophisticated patient monitoring devices.

This iHealth cuff is being modified by a team of cardiologists

Above: The iHealth blood pressure wireless monitor

UCSF’s Dr. Jeffrey Olgin, chief of the division of cardiology, has been named the lead investigator of the Health eHeart study. Berkeley’s Dr. Jonathan Maltz is developing the software, an algorithm to assess heart health.

Patients in the initial study at the VA will sport a modified blood pressure cuff (the “iHealth wireless blood pressure monitor,” which is available for $99.95) and download an iHealth smartphone application.

The cuff will monitor endothelial function, which Dr. Maltz believes may be a far better and more accurate method of predicting a heart attack or stroke than a cholesterol test. Endothelial function refers to the health of the inner lining of the blood vessels. When the endothelium is functioning like it is supposed to, it can regulate blood clotting, assist the body’s immune response, and more. When it dysfunctions, it can lead to all kinds of severe consequences, including coronary artery disease.

In an email, iHealth president Adam Lin said the technology is being tested on patients diagnosed with hypertension. The goal, according to Lin, is to “enable clinicians and individuals to obtain sensitive feedback regarding the effect of interventions, such as smoking cessation, diet and exercise regimens, antihypertensive therapy, and cholesterol-lowering medications.”

If the pilot tests are a success, the cuff could offer an alternative for at-risk patients to bulky ultrasound machines, which require technical expertise. More patients could live at home rather than being confined to a hospital bed, as doctors could track their health remotely.

The complete product won’t be available to patients until the trials are completed and it’s been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Lin doesn’t yet have a clear idea of the timing.