The American Heart Association Issues Statement on Wearables and Health Apps


The American Heart Association has issued a statement of support for the use of wearable technology and health apps in pursuit of improved heart health following a small review of existing research on improved outcomes as they pertain to heart-healthy lifestyle choices. The announcement is well intended but short on meaningful recommendations for providers interested in incorporating digital health technologies into their existing treatment plans. AHA recaps its own “American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7” goals, which are tangible steps like quitting smoking and being more active, and outlines how mobile health technologies could potentially support these goals. Sadly, AHA was only able to find compelling, peer-reviewed studies to support the use of mobile health tools for three of its seven Life’s Simple 7 goals.

In its review, AHA cites improved short-term weight loss outcomes measured in patients that incorporate mobile technology tools into their efforts. The review notes that no research is available comparing outcomes between patients who used mobile technology and those that didn’t after the 12-month mark. Smoking cessation success rates also improved with the introduction of digital health aids. AHA’s review found that smokers who participated in a text message-based support system were twice as likely to quit than those that did not. While these results are promising, AHA was unable to find compelling data on its other Life’s Simple 7 goals: diabetes, blood pressure, and cholesterol management.

Based on these limited findings, AHA recommended that providers evaluate mHealth weight loss apps that mimic tried-and-true in-person programs that call for calorie-controlled diets, food journals, increased physical activity, and a layer of social support and personalized feedback. The statement makes no formal recommendations for providers looking for help selecting quality smoking cessation or physical activity apps, though it acknowledges that evidence exists to support their incorporation into routine care, and recommends using them as adjunct aids.

In related news, AHA also published a story this week with results from a study evaluating the effectiveness of a smartphone app-based walking stress test, finding that the mobile app was able to test patients independently while retaining the clinical accuracy of an in-office test. The study finds “the six-minute walk stress test independently predicts the severity of a patient’s disease as well as risk of hospitalization and premature death.”

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