Be Apprehensive About Heart Health Apps

Be Apprehensive About Heart Health Apps

We know you wouldn’t buy the Brooklyn Bridge—although many folks have believed they did! Around 1900 con man, George C. Parker sold it over and over (once for $50,000). And during that era, William McCloundy, known as “I.O.U. O'Brien,” also sold the bridge and spent two years in Sing Sing for his efforts. 

But chances are better you’d fall for some less-than-reliable apps that promise to monitor your heart health. You think, “Hey, it works on my phone, it’s cool and it’s on Google Play or iTunes…so it must be okay.”

Well, recently, Johns Hopkins researchers published findings in JAMA Internal Medicine about a high-blood-pressure app they felt was dangerously inaccurate. Although that one app was debunked, another popular app, called out in a MedPage Today article, still uses the same dubious technology. (The FDA doesn’t regulate apps.) The app not only promises to monitor blood pressure, heart rate, blood lipids, and blood oxygen but respiratory rate, vision, hearing, lung capacity and tests for autism-spectrum disorder!   

If you have heart disease and want to keep tabs on it, the smart choice is a medical-quality chest-strap monitor or FDA-approved devices that monitor heart rhythm. For blood pressure, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends you use a cuff-style for accurate readings. We will revisit this topic when the AHA releases a policy statement on telehealth, including at-home heart monitoring. So stay tuned, stay safe and don’t let a few bad apps spoil your barrel of good ones.

Medically reviewed in August 2018.

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