Smartphone apps can help boost your heart health

Washington :Smartphone applications and wearable sensors have the potential to help people make healthier lifestyle choices and stay heart-healthy, scientists say.

However, scientific evidence of mobile health technologies’ effectiveness for reducing risk factors for heart disease and stroke is limited, according to a scientific statement from the American Heart Association.

The new statement, published in the journal Circulation, reviewed the small body of published, peer-reviewed studies about the effectiveness of mobile health technologies for managing weight, increasing physical activity, quitting smoking and controlling high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

“The fact that mobile health technologies haven’t been fully studied doesn’t mean that they are not effective. Self-monitoring is one of the core strategies for changing cardiovascular health behaviours,” said Lora E Burke, lead author of the statement and professor of nursing and epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh.

“If a mobile health technology, such as a smartphone app for self-monitoring diet, weight or physical activity, is helping you improve your behaviour, then stick with it,” Burke said.

According to the statement, people who include mobile technology in a comprehensive lifestyle programme for weight loss were more successful in short-term weight loss compared to those who tried to lose weight on their own, but there is not any published data on whether the participants maintained their weight loss beyond 12 months.

When considering a mobile health (mHealth) weight loss programme, healthcare practitioners should look for one that has many of the same elements as successful person-to-person individualised programmes administered by healthcare professionals, which emphasise a calorie-controlled diet, physical activity, self-monitoring or recording food intake and physical activity in a paper or digital diary, personalised feedback and social support.

While majority of studies show that using an online programme boosted physical activity more than not using one, there has not been enough research to show whether wearable physical activity monitoring devices help you move more.

Mobile phone apps using text messaging to help quit smoking can almost double your chances of quitting, but about 90 per cent of people using these apps fail to quit smoking after six months, the statement authors found.

Mobile health apps used in combination with a traditional quit-smoking programme may help smokers kick the habit.

Currently, there is little or no US-based mHealth technology research on diabetes, blood pressure or cholesterol management.

Statement authors reviewed mHealth randomised clinical trials and meta-analyses from the last decade. Most mHealth technology studies were short-term and limited in size.

“Nevertheless, don’t dismiss the possibility that these devices and apps can help you be heart healthy,” Burke said.