Five amazing innovations for heart health

We look at some of the emerging innovations and technologies that have the potential to improve heart health.

Heart disease  is the single leading cause of death in Australia, but emerging innovations are helping to save lives and improve outcomes for the many people living with heart disease.
 
Let's look at some of the game-changers.

Improved data mastery

While not exactly a sexy new gizmo, projects that use technology to improve the collection and analysis of data are creating some of the most important new developments for cardiac patients. 

Dr Rob Grenfell, the National Medical Director of Bupa, says, if we improve the data analysis we’ll be able to work out who actually needs what.” 

“For instance, at the moment, we know that around one in five Australians over 45 are at high risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next few years , but we don’t know who they are,” says Dr Grenfell. Data analysis can help us to predict people who are at increased risk of coronary events, and target activities to help prevent these events or needing to go back to hospital.  

Improved use of coronary angiography

Coronary artery angiography is a common imaging procedure used to help diagnose the narrowing of the blood vessels that supply the heart with oxygen.

Bupa Health Foundation is supporting a study into how clinical decision-making around the use of this procedure could be improved by using specific patient information. Preliminary research  suggests the information gleaned from this project has the potential to  save approximately 1,000 lives in Australia each year.  

3D printed hearts

While 3D printed hearts sound like a concept from a futuristic sci-fi film, they are being used today by surgeons from the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute in Sydney. Advanced 3D printing technology allows surgeons to turn images from high-quality CT scans into a 3D model. Being able to hold a replica of the patient's heart in their hands allows surgeons to better prepare for a complex surgery.
 
"A lot of cardiac procedures that are done now are getting more and more complex and require highly skilled teams, and often we’re talking quite sizeable teams. Because of that it’s like a theatre production,” says Dr Grenfell. “You actually need to have rehearsals and there’s nothing better than a full dress rehearsal."
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Miniature heart monitors

The size and function of internal heart-monitoring technology has come forward in leaps and bounds. 

“Where heart monitors used to be the size of a cigarette box, they can now be the size of your little fingernail and they can do all sorts of things with monitoring your heart rate," Dr Grenfell explains. "If your heart gets into rhythms of concern they can actually give them a little jolt to put them back into the right shape.”
 
The capacity for similar devices to monitor from inside the heart of people with severe heart disease offers incredible new scope for detecting deterioration of the heart.

Wearable technology

Wearable technology is already popular among fitness fans, with activity trackers keepingtabs on the kilometres you’ve run and energy you’ve burned. 

Dr Grenfell says the future of wearable technology for someone who has had a heart attack has incredible scope. 

“We’re looking at measuring pulse rates, live heart rate measurements, respiratory rate, body temperature, movement and others in a far more elaborate way.”
 
Dr Grenfell stresses that prevention is better than a cure and people need to focus on healthy eating, being active, and not smoking to keep their heart in optimum order. However, he says that if you do experience a heart attack and end up in hospital, you have the best chance of surviving than you have ever had. 

“The range of treatments and therapies available are such that the damage is limited and the [chances of] survival [are] maximized.”
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