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Consumer Peripherals

Wearable Fitness Trackers Can be Used to Gain Insights in Biomedical Research

27 February 2018

Fitness trackers can be used to predict various markers of risk for cardiovascular diseases such as obesity, high blood pressure and high blood sugar. Source: SingHealth Duke-NUS Institute of Precision MedicineFitness trackers can be used to predict various markers of risk for cardiovascular diseases such as obesity, high blood pressure and high blood sugar. Source: SingHealth Duke-NUS Institute of Precision MedicineWearable trackers are not just useful for monitoring fitness or to identify groups with similar patterns of daily activity but can be used to predict various markers of risk for cardiovascular diseases such as obesity, high blood pressure and high blood sugar.

The rise of consumer-grade wearables has intensified investigation into how these devices can enhance and augment biomedical research and healthcare. However, this has proved to be a challenging task due to a lack of comprehensive datasets that integrate wearable data with other data types.

Now, researchers at the SingHealth Duke-NUS Institute of Precision Medicine in Singapore and the National Heart Centre of Singapore have profiled 233 volunteers that wear both activity and heartrate monitors.

The team found that wearable activity data could be used to identify active individuals at increased risk of having enlarged hearts and can predict circulating levels of a class of lipids called ceramides, known to be associated with obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

"An enlarged left ventricle could be caused by heart disease or harmless adaptation to sustained exercise, and these two conditions share overlapping features,” said Professor Stuart Cook of Duke-NUS. “Activity data from wearables may help us identify individuals more likely to have this condition due to exercise, and are therefore at risk of misdiagnosis in the clinic.”

In the study, the active volunteers had lower levels of circulating ceramides compared to more sedentary counterparts. To get this research in the past would have involved detailed questionnaires or expensive experimental studies, researchers say.

The full research can be found in the journal PLOS Biology.

To contact the author of this article, email [email protected]


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