Researchers have developed an i-phone app that can measure blood pressure using sensors already present in the phone

What if your phone could measure your blood pressure? That too without the paraphernelia  of the often painful arm strap.

Michigan State University has invented a proof-of-concept blood pressure app that can give accurate readings using an iPhone – with no special equipment. The discovery, featured in the current issue of Scientific Reports, was made by a team of scientists led by Ramakrishna Mukkamala, MSU electrical and computer engineering professor.

“By leveraging optical and force sensors already in smartphones for taking ‘selfies’ and employing ‘peek and pop,’ we’ve invented a practical tool to keep tabs on blood pressure. Such ubiquitous blood pressure monitoring may improve hypertension awareness and control rates, and thereby help reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease and mortality,” Mukkamala says.

For a country like India which has a high incidence of hypertension – the first ever screening programme shows 10% Indians have high blood pressure – and a very high usage of mobile phones, an app like this could markedly improve diagnosis.

For a country like India which has a high incidence of hypertension – the first ever screening programme shows 10% Indians have high blood pressure – and a very high usage of mobile phones, an app like this could markedly improve diagnosis. Untreated hypertension can lead to a cardiac event.

In a publication in Science Translational Medicine earlier this year, Mukkamala’s team had proposed the concept with the invention of a blood pressure app and hardware. With the combination of a smartphone and add-on optical and force sensors, the team produced a device that rivaled arm-cuff readings, the standard in most medical settings.

With advances in smartphones, the add-on optical and force sensors may no longer be needed. Peek and pop, available to users looking to open functions and apps with a simple push of their finger, is now standard on many iPhones and included in some Android models.

If things keep moving along at the current pace, an app could be available in late 2019, Mukkamala added.

“Like our original device, the application still needs to be validated in a standard regulatory test,” he said. “But because no additional hardware is needed, we believe that the app could reach society faster.”

Internationally, this app could be a game-changer. While high blood pressure is treatable with lifestyle changes and medication, only around 20 percent of people with hypertension have their condition under control. This invention gives patients a convenient option and keeping a log of daily measurements would produce an accurate average, Mukkamala added.

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