Can a Wellness App Help People With Heart Failure?
If you live with heart failure or help care for someone who has heart failure, you know there is a lot to follow. Symptoms, vital signs, medical appointments, medications, weight, exercise – the list may seem overwhelming. At the same time, you try to learn more about the disease in order to take better care of yourself or your loved one. The apps on your phone or tablet can help balance everything you need to manage the condition.
“Mobile apps can be very useful for people with heart failure to promote self-care, remind you and make it easier for you to do things we know are useful, like monitoring sodium in your diet and understanding what it is. what is healthy eating, tracking your weight, categorizing your medications and recognizing symptoms, ”says Michael Dorsch, PharmD, assistant professor of clinical pharmacy at the University of Michigan who studies how health information technology can lead to better results for people with heart disease.
Types of applications
Heart failure means your heart muscle isn’t pumping as well as it should. It can be treated with medication, but some people need to take it several times a day, which can be difficult to follow.
Lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet, staying physically active, and reducing stress can also help. It is especially important to watch your weight, the amount of fluid you drink, and the amount of sodium you consume, as people with heart failure often have a buildup of fluid in their body that can cause shortness of breath and further strain. more stress. the heart.
There is more than one category of apps to help people with heart failure, says Adam DeVore, MD, cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine at Duke University who has led clinical trials of apps for the disease.
“The first group focuses on general well-being: cardiovascular health, physical fitness and general mental health,” he says. “When you think of apps that can help you take care of yourself as a person with heart failure, don’t overlook them.
“The second group is more specific to heart failure, focusing on things like sodium intake, medication tracking, and vital signs.”
In addition, he says, researchers are studying heart failure apps that work with monitoring devices that you wear or have implanted.
“There has been a lot of success with apps like these for people with diabetes, helping them monitor their insulin levels and manage their insulin doses,” says DeVore. “Hopefully this will be available soon for heart failure, but it’s still in the research stage for now.”
General health applications
There are so many general health apps available that it can be hard to narrow it down, says Larry Allen, MD, professor of medicine and medical director of the Advanced Heart Failure Program at the University of Medicine School of Medicine. Colorado. But he says to look for some specific functions to help you manage heart failure:
- Weight tracking, which can be a measure of the buildup of salt and fluid in your body.
- Blood pressure and heart rate monitoring, either by importing the information directly from a home blood pressure cuff, or by entering it manually.
- Symptom monitoring. Apps that let you note symptoms like shortness of breath, fatigue, and swelling – the three most common heart failure symptoms – are helpful.
- Guide and monitoring of sodium content. Some apps estimate the amounts of sodium in foods that you report eating so that you can monitor your intake, Allen explains.
- Monitoring of water intakes, to make sure you don’t build up too much fluid in your body, making it harder for your heart to pump.
Applications specific to heart failure
- Heart failure storylines. This app was originally developed in partnership with the Heart Failure Society of America. It offers ways to track symptoms, vital signs, medications, appointments, and how much water you drink. It allows you to chart your daily moods and keep a journal to improve your mental health. You can also create a “circle of support”: doctors, family members, friends, and others who can get information you approve of from the app. (Available for iOS and Android devices.)
- Heart failure manager / point of care. This app offers similar tracking and logging options. It also integrates with the Health app on your phone, so if you have an Apple Watch or other device that tracks your heart rate, you can easily send this information to your doctor through the app. (IOS devices only.)
- HF Star, from WellDoc, offers prompts to help you manage heart failure – such as a weekly challenge to record symptoms, blood pressure, and meals – as well as symptom and medication tracking and blood pressure and blood pressure feedback. weight. It syncs with trackers like Fitbit and Apple Health, as well as your pharmacy and smart scales. To use it, however, you’ll need a program recommendation from your health plan or from your employer. (iOS only.)
- HF Journal is more basic. It integrates with the Apple Health app to track your weight, symptoms, physical activity and heart failure “zone” (red, yellow or green, depending on signs such as weight gain, cough, swelling and chest pain). It also allows you to define a personal action plan and share it with your healthcare team. (iOS only.)
HF Log has a one-time fee of $ 3.99 after a 10-day trial. The other three applications are free.
In addition to these publicly available options, your hospital, healthcare system, or cardiology practice may have its own app that connects directly to your electronic medical record or wearable technology. Ask your doctor for more information or about the apps they can recommend.
Another heart failure-specific app, the American Heart Association’s HF Path, was discontinued in October 2020. That’s part of the challenge, says Dorsch: Apps come and go. “A review of heart failure applications has been published in the journal JMIR Cardio in 2018, and at least half of those apps are no longer available. “
Allen says it can be very helpful to use an app to help manage your heart failure, even for a short time.
“People don’t necessarily stick with health behavior apps like these for the long haul, and in this case, I think that’s okay,” he says. “If you download a health app and follow it for about a week, you learn a lot. So even if you can’t stick to it for months or years, it may be worth trying apps like these to help you better manage your condition, symptoms, and medications. “
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