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Why Wearable Heart Rate Monitors Should Consider Air Quality

Uri Schechterman
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In the United States alone, approximately 630,000 people die from heart disease each year — that’s one in every four deaths. Fortunately, technology companies are stepping up to the plate to help fight this deadly disease by developing increasingly sophisticated wearable heart rate monitors for the public. Individuals today can already monitor their heart rate levels through the day, during rest, exercise or sleep, and now some companies are developing potentially life-saving tools to help people identify whether they might have an underlying irregular heart rhythm.

Wearable technology presents one of the next huge waves for consumer health: Existing examples within this market include: Step trackers, sleep analyzers, UV exposure, blood pressure trackers, and heart rate monitor. However, while these convenient devices are designed to help patients manage their health in an effective manner, many of them have yet to consider a crucial factor which could impacts every person’s heart (and overall) health in a huge way. Yep, that factor is air quality.

Heart Health and the Wearable Technology Boom

To remain relevant and competitive in our digital era, health and wellness targeted companies need to directly address consumer demands — and today’s consumers crave personalization. In fact, approximately one in four consumers are willing to pay more to receive a personalized product or service. Pair this with a $4.2 trillion global wellness economy,  it’s no wonder the global market for wearable devices is expected to grow to 198.5 million units by the end of 2019 (a 15.3% year-over-year growth rate).

Wearable heart rate monitors account for a significant chunk of this market. According to Market Research Future, wearable heart rate monitoring devices are expected to experience significant growth between 2017 and 2023.

What’s driving this growth? Technological advances have spurred innovation in the wearable and digital health fields, leading to cutting-edge products — such as the first-ever wearable blood pressure monitor. All of this helps to put detailed health data directly into the consumer’s hands.

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Cardiac patients, in particular, have enjoyed a significant uptick when it comes to accessing the critical information they need to monitor their own health. Instead of wearing traditional, bulky devices they now have access to small, easy-to-use wearable heart rate variability monitors empowering them to track cardiac activity and flag events that may indicate a larger problem. What’s more, Cambridge Heartware is set to launch its first AI-driven heart monitor later this year.

Even consumers who don’t have pre-existing heart conditions can benefit from the in-depth analytics provided by fitness trackers. These wearable heart rate trackers have proven to be effective tools for consumers who want to keep tabs on their heart rate and activity levels — in recent studies, Apple Watch 3 and Fitbit Charge 2 demonstrated a mean agreement of 95% with electrocardiograms. As these devices continue to improve their accuracy and reporting capabilities, sales are expected to rise to $62.1 billion by 2023.

Air Quality and Heart Health Go Hand-in-Hand

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Despite the considerable maturing of the wearable heart rate monitors market, there is still not enough to cover the health impact of poor air quality. Air quality is of paramount importance to patients with heart sensitivities, as particular types of pollutant can impact those with heart issues more than the general population.

Decades of research have shown a clear connection between air pollution and an increase in hospitalization and death, especially among individuals with pre-existing congestive heart failure, frequent arrhythmias, or both. The numbers are striking: according to the World Health Organization, 40% of pollution-related deaths are tied to heart disease, and another 40% are related to stroke.

Air Quality Data Could Help Protect Those with Heart Issues

Wearable technology catering to those with heart issues could help individuals manage their exposure to the impact of pollution by incorporating actionable air quality insights into their devices.

Because pollution levels shift on an hourly basis due to wind direction, temperature changes, and overall weather patterns, it is important that individuals with heart disease have access to the quality of the air they’re breathing and directly understand how it affects them. 

For savvy digital health companies, the addition of this air quality layer could provide a number of research benefits when trying to assess the direct impact of pollution on heart health over the long term.

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