How pedometers are helping heart failure patients
Heart failure is an epidemic disease in the United States and a major cause of death, hospitalization, suffering and cost, according to the American Heart Association. One of the common symptoms patients with heart failure experience is a limitation of their ability to exercise or complete simple daily tasks.
Dr. Marc Silver, a cardiologist and founder of the heart failure program at Advocate Heart Institute at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., recently reported the results of a study he conducted regarding the number of steps tracked using a pedometer and the findings from costly medical tests to determine advancements of heart disease. The results were presented at the annual meeting of the American College of CHEST Physicians in Montreal, Canada.
To determine the severity of a person’s heart failure and his or her limitations for exercise, physicians and nurses typically conducted multiple tests once or twice a year to measure a patient’s exercise capacity and oxygen usage. However, the tests are often cumbersome and costly – and they can’t be repeated on a daily basis to determine whether a patient’s heart function is improving or deteriorating.
In Dr. Silver’s study, 23 men and women between the ages of 37 and 85, all with symptomatic heart disease, wore a pedometer for three days at home. The patients then came to Advocate Heart Institute at Christ Medical Center for the standard medical tests. The pedometer showed that patients who took fewer steps at home also had less exercise capacity and ability to use oxygen for cardiorespiratory efficiency. Those who had a higher number of average steps had better outcomes.
“By using a pedometer, patients can be empowered at home to recognize early warning signs of heart failure or further heart decline,” says Dr. Silver.
Some people may have a diagnosis of heart failure, but do not display symptoms, Dr. Silver adds. By tracking steps, patiens are able to help notice health changes before the onset of symptoms and seek proper medical treatment.
“If people can make a habit of checking their steps at least six days a week and compare the steps to previous days, they can look for indications of declining heart health,” he says.
Dr. Silver recommends patients see their physician if they have more than two to three days of declining steps without a valid reason.
Currently, technology is allowing patients to better track and understand their health so that it can eliminate unnecessary visits to the ER.
“With the presence of pedometers everywhere these days – on our wrists and embedded in our smartphones – patients have a better way to record and report personal health, notice early warning signs and help prevent avoidable emergency visits and hospitalizations,” he says.
Risk factors for heart failure include:
- Family history of heart failure or sudden death
- High blood pressure
- Sleep apnea
- A diet high in sugar and saturated fat
- Sedentary lifestyle
Dr. Silver says that feeling more fatigued than usual for several days, leg swelling, shortness of breath, and/or having any of the above risk factors increases heart failure risk. He suggests people visit their primary care physician or a cardiologist if they suspect heart failure.
About the Author
Kate Eller was a regional director of public affairs and marketing operations for Advocate Health Care. She enjoys road trips, dogs, minimalism, yoga, hiking, and “urban hiking.”