Mobile solutions

Toronto MD develops cardio app to predict mortality

By Rosie Lombardi

Dr. Jess Goodman (pictured), a Toronto-based GP and developer of health monitoring electronics, has launched a consumer device called iHeart Internal Age that predicts lifespan from a reading of just one easily obtained measurement. “There’s extensive scientific literature showing that aortic stiffness is an effective heart health indicator, and predicts the risk of death from all causes, not just cardiac diseases,” says Goodman.

Goodman stresses that iHeart is strictly for health and wellness education, and is not to be used for diagnostic purposes or to manage illness. “It’s a motivational tool that shows people how long they’ll live based on their cardiovascular health.”

The device consists of a fingertip optical sensor, similar to a pulse oximeter, which sends data via Bluetooth to an Apple app on a smartphone or iPad for analysis. “It uses the optical sensor to pick up the arterial pulse wave. Within the pulse wave, there is a specific wave called the reflected wave that gives information about aortic stiffness. When the heart beats, this wave ripples down the walls of the aorta and upon reaching the lower abdomen, it’s reflected back towards the heart. The aorta is the body’s largest blood vessel that goes from the heart through the chest and down through the abdomen. The stiffer you are through those core areas, the more likely you are to have a shorter life span.”

When a person ages, aortic stiffness causes the reflected wave to return to the heart too quickly, he explains. “This means that during the heart’s relaxation phase there will be less aortic pressure to induce blood flow into the coronary artery and reduced blood flow to the heart muscle. In addition, because the reflected wave arrives back at the heart while it is still contracting, the heart has to work harder to push out its blood, leading to earlier onset of heart failure. Hypertension and higher peak pressures can result, damaging the fragile blood vessels in the brain which, over time, may lead to atherosclerotic change and dementia.”

Despite the large body of scientific evidence, few GPs or even cardiologists are aware of the way aortic stiffness measurement can be used to assess heart health, he says. That’s because the equipment to measure aortic stiffness with precision is both uncommon and expensive. “Aortic stiffness measurement is a technology which has tremendous potential to be an effective cardiovascular risk and overall health assessment tool. However it’s not in the hands of consumers or physicians because it’s too expensive so it’s not a recognized or widely-used method.”

Instead, the iHeart app gives reasonable estimates of aortic stiffness based on innovative arterial pulse analysis work Goodman has conducted over the past few years. “For my purposes, I know that the reflective wave travels on past the heart and can be seen in the finger pulse. I’ve worked with a team to do signal analysis and find ways to identify the reflected wave and analyze it to get a parameter known as aortic pulse wave velocity that closely corresponds to aortic stiffness.”

Goodman and his team have also conducted studies to collect values for people in different age groups to develop averages in each cohort that can be plotted and analyzed against an individual’s reading. “So iHeart gets an aortic pulse wave velocity reading for you. This is then mapped against the average for your age group and it gives you your internal age, which can be older or younger than your chronological age. Young healthy people have an aortic pulse wave velocity of about 6 meters per second. As you get older, that increases to 10 or more, depending on your overall health.”

The motivational part comes into play because the ill effects of aortic stiffness can be reversed with healthy lifestyle changes. “Studies show that exercise improves aortic stiffness, and that paying attention to diet, especially Omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin D, and garlic can improve aortic stiffness as well.”

Goodman has invested his own funds in developing the iHeart system and the corresponding demographic studies of aortic stiffness, which he hopes to publish in the near future. He also recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds and awareness of iHeart’s potential to motivate meaningful change.

“Everyone who tries the iHeart loves it. You can watch your weight, but it doesn’t necessarily relate to your overall health or your lifespan. Here’s something that lets you look under the hood to get an index of organ function and longevity. There’s no parameter like it. The wealth of scientific literature about aortic stiffness out there is stunning, but little use of this powerful health assessment parameter has been made beyond the research lab.”

For more information, visit http://www.iheartalive.com/

Three scientific meta-analysis studies about aortic stiffness:

Posted April 16
, 2015