Combining new technologies for early detection of high blood pressure

High blood pressure is the most common risk factor for heart disease, stroke and chronic kidney disease, affecting around 6 million Australians.

Early detection of high blood pressure in people at risk of heart disease is critical for timely diagnosis and preventative therapy.

Until now, blood pressure management has mostly been limited to a one-size-fits-all approach, risking ineffective treatment and complications. But new innovations in technology and machine learning could provide better opportunities for early diagnosis and treatment.

With the support of a Heart Foundation Vanguard Grant, Associate Professor Shariful Islam is testing the effectiveness of a wearable device program, called WEAR-HEART, to improve blood pressure management.

The program uses a wrist-worn blood pressure device, coupled with a web-based platform for clinicians and smartphone app, to monitor and remotely manage blood pressure and provide individualised lifestyle advice.

“This project brings together multiple technologies for a comprehensive and personalised program that has the potential to transform blood pressure management in Australia and internationally,” Associate Professor Islam said.

Data obtained from a person wearing the device is analysed in real-time and displayed graphically in the web-based platform ensuring clinicians can intervene as appropriate. Individualised lifestyle information is provided via the app.

“The app supports people to lower their blood pressure levels through lifestyle changes such as diet, regular physical activity, managing stress, and reducing alcohol and tobacco consumption. Lifestyle changes are often effective in reducing blood pressure and decreasing reliance on medication,” he explained.

Associate Professor Islam, together with IT colleagues from across Deakin University, used clinical medicine and bioengineering techniques to develop the WEAR-HEART wearable device program,.

As part of the project, Associate Professor Islam will conduct a randomised controlled trial, where participants with high blood pressure will test the program. Based on the trial outcomes the program will be modified to ensure it meets the needs of clinicians and participants.