An Experimental Study on Hypertension using IoT Wearables

Lifestyle diseases are primarily an outcome of day to day habits of people. Certain lifestyle patterns and habits push people towards a sedentary routine which is a major cause of lifestyle diseases. The 21st-century lifestyle demands more from us than what our bodies can endure. Stress is a defense mechanism which when left unchecked, can lead to serious health complications, hypertension being one of them.

hypertensionResearchers at SiCureMi have started to conduct a series of tests to find direct as well as indirect relations of day to day activities on stress and hypertension. The study described in detail below is important in understanding how stress and hypertension are linked with each other. Finally, the results can be crucial in developing preventive measures and taking precautionary steps at a much earlier stage, in combating hypertension.

Individuals who do not even report any sign of stress are vulnerable due to poor lifestyle practices and routines. The research team at SiCureMi has initiated an experimental study on the effects of stress and daily activities (which includes walking, running, eating habits, etc), using IoT wearables, and how they influence the probability of lifestyle diseases, especially hypertension.

The initial stage of the study included six individuals from India, whose blood pressure and heart rates were monitored while performing various activities. These individuals carried out normal activities throughout the day and their blood pressure was monitored intermittently. Stress was also induced externally. Meanwhile, a continuous stream of data of heart parameters like blood pressure and pulse rate was being collected, using smartwatch and BP monitor to track heart rate and BP respectively.

Various activities were performed as follows:

1. Rest for 30 minutes: At rest the heart pumps blood normally and in the absence of any disease or pathology the blood pressure will remain a normal 80/120 mmHg. IoT devices can measure this baseline value and this is used for further comparisons.

at rest

2. Walking at a normal pace for 5 minutes: Mild activity causes a slight increase in the systolic BP which is temporary.

3. Rest for another 15 minutes: This is required so that the body can get time to reset all the systems back to normal.

4. Running for 2 minutes: Sympathetic stimulation in the form of physical activity like running increases heart rate and the cardiac output. The increased blood flow from the heart is required to meet the increased oxygen demand of the muscles. The blood is pumped with more force and this is seen as an increased systolic BP value. Continuous readings from IoT wearables like the smartband can give us an accurate picture of these fluctuations and help us determine the exact effects of physical activity. The readings given by the IoT wearable is instantaneous and accurate, unlike manual measurement of blood pressure which is subject to observer errors.

5. Rest for another 15 minutes: The increase in the value gradually returns to normal when the body is allowed to rest, thereby reducing the oxygen demand by the muscles.

6. Stress induced from an external source: Stress was induced using stroop color and word test along with asking numerous mathematical problems. Stress causes our body to release catecholamines and cortisol. These hormones increase heart rate, cause our blood vessels to constrict. All these increase the pressure with which the blood is flowing. To make sure, whether the stress actually occurred or not was tested using Cortisol test. Cortisol is a hormone which is secreted by the body as a defence mechanism when the body is under the influence of any form of stress. The purpose of inducing stress in the subject was to imitate a normal adult’s lifestyle as closely as possible. Every day, a regular middle aged person living in a metropolitan suffers from stress stemming from work and family. By creating a stressful environment, research scholars from SiCureMi were able to collect data while the subject was under stress.

7. Rest for another 15 minutes: Rest and relaxation tells our brain that the period of stress is over, bit by bit the blood levels of cortisol and adrenaline fall and the blood pressure values once again come back to their normal.

8. Eating a regular meal: Systolic blood pressure also falls after eating a meal. In medical terms this is known as post prandial hypotension. This is because after a meal, our body increases blood flow to the intestines to help it digest the food. This causes a temporary fall in blood pressure levels mainly the systolic value. IoT devices can help monitor this and also the time required for the values to come back to normal.

9. Climbing 4 flights of stairs: Climbing stairs is another form of cardio exercise which generally causes a spike in heart rate and blood pressure. In the long run regular exercise strengthens the heart muscle and it requires less force to pump, hence the same amount of blood enters the arteries with a lesser pressure. Doing away with the couch potato lifestyle can positively affect out health and prevent hypertension.

The main aim of the above activities is to determine how various factors like activity, food and stress affect physiology in terms of heart rate and BP. Both heart rates and blood pressure is controlled by the volume of blood pumped by the heart which is termed as the cardiac output.

As mentioned earlier, heart rates and blood pressure were collected during these activities. Continuous readings from IoT wearables like the smart band can give us an accurate picture of these fluctuations and help us determine the exact effects of physical activity. The readings given by the IoT wearable is instantaneous and accurate, unlike manual measurement of blood pressure which is subject to observer errors. Periods of rest were introduced to allow the heart rates to go back to their levels of normalcy.

Researchers are planning to use this data and relate it with hypertension and its chances of afflicting the subject. Since the study is in its initial stages, data collected at the moment is just an introduction to a voluminous amount that is yet to come. The plan is to scale the number of subjects to more than 500 (from different backgrounds of age, sex, and ethnicity), and to conduct the research over extended periods, say a month or a year. Once enough data is accumulated, models can be developed using machine learning algorithms that correlate probabilities of hypertension with lifestyle patterns, and stressful environments. Later the study can be extended to other lifestyle disease like heart related issues.