mHealth app takes on nation's leading cause of death

With sights set on tackling the heart disease epidemic, a new mobile health application allows consumers to use any smartphone camera to measure their heart rate in real time.

The Cardio Buddy app, developed by consumer health company Azumio, utilizes a smartphone camera to detect a user's heart rate in real-time based on changes in facial coloration.

Utilizing bio-signal analysis from video stream, the camera, officials say, can detect heartbeat and calculate pulse rate. When the heart beats – while not outwardly visible to the human eye – more blood is pumped into a person's face, causing a change in light color that is reflected from the facial region.

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After video detection, pulse data is generated instantly, officials say.

The application is designed to help users measure and track their overall heart health by offering a history of readings and analysis that provides a complete picture of cardiovascular health, officials say. With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimating that some 600,000 people die each year from heart disease, it's hoped that the app will provide an additional tool for consumers to regularly monitor and work to improve their health.

"The mobile health industry has grown out of its infancy, but will only thrive if consumers have access to simple, intuitive technologies that enable them to quickly and easily monitor and improve their health directly from their phones," says Peter Kuhar, chief technology officer at Azumio. “Developing technologies that speed adoption of mobile health applications,” he adds, “is crucial to the next generation of consumers.”

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Officials say the mobile app provides an easy-to-use solution to a massive global problem. According to the American Journal of Hypertension, adults with resting heart rates above 80 beats per minute are more likely to become obese and develop diabetes after two decades, while a higher-than-normal resting pulse may also indicate a higher risk of stroke and heart disease.

Moreover, research published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health revealed that for each rising increment of 10 heart beats per minute, the risk of heart attack mortality increased 18 percent among women and 10 percent in men.