Health technologies can help seniors manage heart disease, but more research is needed

Future developments in health technology aimed at seniors should address this demographic’s barriers to adoption, the AHA said.
By Mallory Hackett
01:20 pm
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senior using computer to manage her health condition.

Photo by d3sign/Getty Images.

As mobile health technology continues to become ubiquitous, it can be a helpful management tool for older adults with existing heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. 

The AHA conducted a systematic review of studies of older adults who used mobile health technologies to manage their cardiovascular disease. It included 26 studies that examined mobile health technologies for secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease among participants 60 years and older. 

While its findings suggest that health technologies such as text messaging, mobile apps, wearable devices, GPS and Bluetooth can assist in promoting lifestyle behavior changes, the researchers note that more studies are needed to determine which methods are most effective. 

The studies included in the review reveal that mobile health interventions, especially those that use texting, can improve health behaviors like exercise and diet, as well as medication adherence. 

“We know that controlling blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol are essential secondary prevention strategies and often require medication management,” said Eric Schorr, PhD, BSBA, RN, the lead author of the scientific statement and associate professor in the Adult and Gerontological Health Cooperative at the University of Minnesota School of Nursing, in a statement.

“Reducing sedentary time, increasing physical activity, maintaining an optimal body weight and adopting a healthy diet are other significant lifestyle strategies to optimize the health of individuals with cardiovascular disease. Wearable devices and mobile devices and applications play an important role because they can assist individuals in monitoring and tracking health behaviors and heart disease risk factors, referred to as the AHA’s Life’s Simple 7, to reduce their risk of a cardiac event and achieve ideal cardiovascular health.”

Future developments in health technology aimed at seniors should address this demographic’s barriers to adoption, according to the report. These hurdles include personal characteristics such as age, sex and socioeconomic status; age-related barriers such as physical, visual, hearing or cognitive impairments; individual perceptions of technology use; and fears related to privacy. 

 “Answering these questions is critical to identify and implement effective, widely accepted, cost-effective and time-efficient mobile interventions that improve health outcomes for older adults,” Schorr said.

WHY THIS MATTERS

As the leading cause of death for most demographics in the U.S., it’s crucial to effectively manage heart disease and take preventative steps, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Age is one of the largest risk factors for cardiovascular disease, according to the Journal of Cardiovascular Development and Disease. The prevalence of cardiovascular concerns across genders increases from about 40% at age 40-59 to about 75% at age 60-79, to roughly 86% for those above the age of 80. 

Further, since the U.S. population of adults over the age of 65 is expected to nearly double by 2050, there is an “enormous opportunity to foster successful aging and to increase functional life years through expanded efforts aimed at CVD prevention,” according to a report from Clinics in Geriatric Medicine.

THE LARGER TREND

Despite the stigma that many older adults don’t or can’t use technology, it’s becoming more common for seniors to use technology for their healthcare, to stay informed, to communicate with friends and family, and for entertainment. 

Specifically during the pandemic, more than 60% of Medicare-eligible seniors reported they had used technology more often than before the onset of COVID-19. 

Outside of disease management, Rock Health predicts that digital health technologies will play an important role in helping seniors age in place. 

To better meet the needs of seniors, experts suggest that tech developers design technology for everyone and then create customization features for population subsets.

ON THE RECORD

“Over the last decade, mobile health technology, especially the wearable technology and mobile health application markets, has grown substantially,” Schorr said. 

“There is, however, a common misperception that mobile health technology use is lower among older adults, when in fact most Americans aged 60 years and older own a cell phone and spend a significant amount of leisure time in front of a screen. This statement highlights the potential benefits that mobile health interventions can provide for monitoring, prompting, encouraging and educating older adults with cardiovascular disease.”

 

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