Public Release: 

Could wearable technology help patients monitor blood pressure?

University of Arizona Health Sciences

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IMAGE: Marvin J. Slepian, MD, leads a research lab in UA Sarver Heart Center that studies various forms and uses for wearable 'patches' that have the ability to measure a range... view more 

Credit: UA Sarver Heart Center

Because only half of the people in the United States diagnosed with high blood pressure have their condition under control, an easy, cost-effective method to monitor blood pressure would be a significant advance to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

A study published ahead of print Oct. 15 in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America) demonstrates that "pulse wave velocity" (PWV), or how quickly the impulse or force of blood moving away from the heart moves down the arteries, shows promise as a measurement to monitor blood pressure levels, said Marvin J. Slepian, MD, a cardiologist at the University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center.

Dr. Slepian participated in a collaborative study with investigators Yonggang Huang, PhD, and John Rogers, PhD, both at Northwestern University, titled, "Relation between blood pressure and pulse wave velocity for human arteries."

Dr. Slepian also is associate department head of biomedical engineering in the UA College of Engineering and professor of materials science and engineering, medical imaging, and medicine, as well as director of the Arizona Center for Accelerated Biomedical Innovation (ACABI) at the UA.

Continuous, cuffless and non-invasive blood pressure monitoring, determined by measuring the pulse wave velocity, is a promising technique for non-invasive measurements, the research team members wrote.

In the paper, the team explains that until now, the relationship between blood pressure and pulse wave velocity was based on unrealistic assumptions that have not been replicated in human arteries and rely on observations rather than physical properties. They describe an analytical model that yielded a measurable relationship between blood pressure and pulse wave velocity. This model may be used in future work to develop continuous, cuffless and non-invasive blood pressure monitoring.

The research team used a "wet" physical simulation model capable of generating a pulse using the total artificial heart in the Slepian Lab at the UA Sarver Heart Center and measured pressures in artificial arteries designed for this research.

The Slepian Lab also has studied various forms and uses for wearable "patches" able to measure a range of parameters, such as movement and sweat.

"This new research provides insight into the measurements that will be useful in the design of new wearable patches, which then will provide a useful, inexpensive option for monitoring patients who need to track their blood pressure for a period of time," Dr. Slepian said.

High Blood Pressure in the United States (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

  • Having high blood pressure puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke, which are leading causes of death in the United States.

  • About 75 million American adults (32 percent) have high blood pressure -- that's 1 in 3 adults.

  • About 1 in 3 American adults has prehypertension -- blood pressure numbers higher than normal -- but not yet in the high blood pressure range.

  • Only about half (54 percent) of people with high blood pressure have their condition under control.

  • High blood pressure was a primary or contributing cause of death for more than 410,000 Americans in 2014 -- that's more than 1,100 deaths each day.

  • High blood pressure costs the nation $48.6 billion each year. This total includes the cost of health-care services, medications to treat high blood pressure and missed days of work.

For more information about preventing heart disease and stroke, please visit the UA Sarver Heart Center's prevention page.

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The research team includes: Yinji Ma, Jungil Choi, Aurélie Hourlier-Fargette, Yeguang Xue, Ha Uk Chung, Jong Yoon Lee, Xiufeng Wang, Zhaoqian Xie, Daeshik Kang, Heling Wang, Seungyong Han, Seung-Kyun Kang, Yisak Kang, Xinge Yu, Marvin J. Slepian, Milan S. Raj, Jeffrey B. Model, Xue Feng, Roozbeh Ghaffari, John A. Rogers and Yonggang Huang.

The team acknowledges support from the National Basic Research Program of China, Grant No. 2015CB351900, National Natural Science Foundation of China Grant Nos. 11402135 11625207, 11320101001, and National Science Foundation Grant Nos. 1400169, 1534120 and 1635443.

About the University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center

The University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center's 150 members include faculty members from cardiology, cardiothoracic surgery, pediatric cardiology, neurology, vascular surgery, radiology, endocrinology, emergency medicine, nursing, pharmacy and basic sciences. The UA Sarver Heart Center emphasizes a highly collaborative research environment, fostering innovative translational or "bench-to-bedside" research; dedicated to innovating lifesaving patient care. If you would like to give permission for the UA Sarver Heart Center to contact you about heart research studies, please complete a Cardiology Research Registry Information Form. The academic mission of the UA Sarver Heart Center encompasses for fellowship programs in cardiovascular disease, interventional cardiology, advanced heart failure and transplant cardiology and electrophysiology.

About the University of Arizona Health Sciences

The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. The UA Health Sciences includes the UA Colleges of Medicine (Phoenix and Tucson), Nursing, Pharmacy and Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the growing Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, the UA Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona and the greater Southwest to provide cutting-edge health education, research, patient care and community outreach services. A major economic engine, the UA Health Sciences employs approximately 4,000 people, has approximately 800 faculty members and garners more than $140 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information: uahs.arizona.edu.

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