If you’ve been told you have high blood pressure, chances are you’ll be given marching orders to monitor and lower it. But measuring your blood pressure over time can be tiresome, usually involving a bulky machine, a time-sensitive schedule, and perhaps even a catheter inserted into an artery.
New micro-technology could change all that. Researchers at STBL Medical Research AG have developed a device the size of a wristwatch that records blood pressure continuously.
No needles, no squeezing, nothing invasive. Essentially, all you have to do to take your blood pressure is remember to wear the wristband. High blood pressure on its own doesn’t sound scary, but blood pressure is indicative of overall heart health. And when your heart health is at stake, it’s important to pay attention.
High blood pressure puts you at risk for a slew of cardiovascular diseases, from heart attack to stroke. Across the globe, high blood pressure is the cause of an estimated 7.5 million deaths, or 12.8 percent of all deaths, per year according to the World Health Organization (WHO). For some, the risk of cardiovascular diseases doubles with high blood pressure.
A large part of living with high blood pressure is monitoring blood pressure changes and making note of which behaviors seem to make it spike. Continuous monitoring, especially with something as simple as a wristband, could make cardiovascular care both easier and less stressful.
This technology is still in development, but when it reaches the market it will be one of a slew of new home health devices made possible by advancements in micro-technology. And keeping high blood pressure in check won't be its only use.
“This measuring device can be used for medical purposes, for example as a precaution for high-risk patients or for treating high blood pressure, but also as a blood pressure and heart rate monitor for leisure activities,” said Michael Tschudin, co-founder of STBL, in a press release. Better yet, the device could also help predict the onset of a heart attack or stroke, which are preceded by a wave of high blood pressure.
Fashioning a Micro-tech Wristband
Even with the growth of micro-tech, it can be hard to fashion ever-smaller and more effective devices. To design a wearable blood pressure monitor, engineers from the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology constructed a sensor from piezo-resistive fibers that auto-corrects in response to changes in the wearer's position, contact pressure, and muscle tension.
These fibers conduct electricity, detect changes in blood pressure, and relay the information to a measuring device. The measurements are then displayed on a small screen that looks essentially like a watch face.
Considering the convenience of a blood pressure "watch," you might expect the technology to cost almost as much as bulkier, traditional machines, but that’s not the case.
“Such devices cost up to 6,000 Swiss francs ($6,400), the ‘blood pressure watch’ around ten times less,” according to the study press release.
Convenient, effective, and cheap? Monitoring your blood pressure is about to become much, much easier.