Can your smartphone diagnose a heart condition?

Can your smartphone diagnose a heart condition?

Look at the camera. Keep looking at it. It might sound like you are at a photo shoot, but in the future, you might hear these words from your own smart phone as it screens you for an irregular heartbeat.

According to the American Heart Association, researchers in Hong Kong have successfully used an iPhone camera and smartphone app to identify people with a type of irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation (AFib).

Users simply align their face with a red circle on the phone screen, and the app, called Cardiio Rhythm, calculates a regular or irregular heart rhythm using subtle beat-to-beat variations in facial skin color.

Among 85 patients tested with an average age of 72, the technology was near-perfect. It was 93 percent effective in recognizing AFib and 95 percent effective in recognizing patients without the condition.

A smartphone camera can detect very slight changes in the amount of light reflected by the face, said Ming-Zher Poh, PhD, electrical and medical engineer and study investigator, in a release. Based on a 20-second look, the app rapidly translates variations of light into waveforms that correspond to heartbeats.

The Centers for Disease Control reports that 2.7 to 6.1 million people in the U.S. have AFib, and the number is expected to increase due to the aging population.

“Some people have no symptoms of Afib; they tolerate it very well,” says Dr. James McCriskin, cardiologist with Advocate Heart Institute at BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. Being asymptomatic can be dangerous, though. “If you have atrial fibrillation you have at least a 5 times increased risk of having a stroke,” says Dr. McCriskin.

Bryan Yan, MBBS, lead researcher, said the app would only be used for initial screening, not to diagnose AFib, which would still require an electrocardiogram. The Cardiio Rhythm app has not been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration and isn’t publicly available at this time.

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  1. My mom and uncle died of heart disease. Sometimes I have circular blue things like being hit In my skin when I’m very tired. Is that a sign that I also have a heart disease. I’m affraid to see a doctor

    • Lynn Hutley

      Genetics can be a risk factor for heart disease but there are a number of risk factors that you have control over like diet and exercise. It is a good idea to have an annual check-up and develop a relationship with a a health care provider before your are sick. They can address your concerns and let you know if the rings around your eyes are related to your heart health or if it’s just fatigue. Many insurance plans cover an annual wellness visit. It’s better to know so that you can take charge of your health and prevent issues heart-related or otherwise.

About the Author

Lynn Hutley
Lynn Hutley

Lynn Hutley, health enews contributor, is coordinator of public affairs and marketing at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and Advocate Eureka Hospital in central Illinois. Having grown up in a family-owned drug store, it is no surprise that Lynn has spent almost 18 years working in the health care industry. She has a degree in human resources management from Illinois State University and is always ready to tackle Trivia Night.