28/12/2016 11:19 GMT | Updated 29/12/2017 05:12 GMT

Why You Should Take Your Heart (Health) Into Your Own Hands


tech for good

Technology is all around us these days. People are glued to their smartphones, we can download or stream content anywhere, any time and all brands from retailers to train companies have to contend with complaints in real-time over social networks like Twitter when customer service isn't up to scratch. It's fascinating to see this technology move into all facets of our lives but, for me and my family, it's the technology making a difference in healthcare that is truly changing our lives.

I have a condition called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) - it's an abnormal increase in heart rate that occurs after sitting up or standing. It typically causes symptoms like dizziness and fainting, it's caused by Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), a genetic disorder that makes my collagen too lax. When I stand up my vascular system should contract but, because the faulty collagen is so lax, it doesn't contract enough and my blood pools to my feet and my heart can go into tachycardia to compensate. I also suffer with Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT).

Due to the variance in the conditions I struggled for years to find a diagnosis. I spent 15 years and saw more than 32 doctors and specialists for the variety of symptoms but the physicians just couldn't identify a single problem, sending me away claiming nothing was wrong.

This was where technology first helped me to find an answer to the endless searching - the internet. I found a charity, STARS, and attended one of their conferences where I spoke with cardiologists who were able to identify exactly what I have. Indeed I found the doctors that now care for me today!

The second technological revolution was at another conference, HRC, where I was introduced to Kardia Mobile by the Arrhythmia Alliance. The AliveCor Kardia Mobile ECG is a single-lead cardiac event recorder. It consists of a device and app that enables you to record and review electrocardiograms (ECGs) anywhere, anytime. One of the main problems with having a heart arrhythmia like tachycardia is that the heart beats so fast and/or in a flutter state, that it's hard to take a pulse with either fingers or a wearable like a Fitbit. I tried a Fitbit, but the readings were all over the place and inaccurate. Apps for fitness don't necessarily need that accuracy whereas technology to help monitor my health really depends on accurate readings.

By way of example, I had one appointment where I was connected to a 12-lead ECG and the reading was exactly the same as the one we'd taken with Kardia Mobile.

In finally being diagnosed - and being able to take control of my condition, thanks to Kardia Mobile - I then had another revelation that I could share this with my daughter, Lucy. When she started to get symptoms of POTS I immediately used the technology to take her heart rhythm to see instant results, making it faster to get Lucy to the right doctor for treatment.

Living in Worcestershire, with many of the specialists based in London, it isn't easy to make frequent or last minute trips to our doctor but Kardia Mobile allows us to monitor our hearts when having an episode, sending the tracings to our doctor to keep him updated. We have a more interactive relationship with our doctor as a result

It really makes a difference using technology that can truly save lives. And it isn't always only in dire cases that I need the Kardia Mobile. One example was when we were going to the première of Marvel's "Captain America Civil War" and I was highly excited to potentially meet Chris Evans! However, for someone like me, who has EDS, POTS and SVT, getting "excited" could be dangerous. To complicate things, that day was also when there was an NHS doctor strike.

I unfortunately had an episode of SVT and knew that, if I were to call a paramedic I would have to wait for hours and going to a hospital was not an option. Luckily, with my Kardia Mobile, I was able to monitor my heart rhythm, which went as high as 250 beats per minute and lasted over an hour, sending the recordings to my doctor for records and tracking.

So, thanks to Kardia Mobile and the technology revolutionising healthcare, I was able to shake Chris Evan's hand!

There is still plenty more to be done in this field, but it's encouraging to see technology entrepreneurs from the likes of Google (such as AliveCor's CEO Vic Gundotra) applying their tech knowledge to healthcare. The recent launch of Kardia Band, making the technology into a med tech wearable, is a next step up and, who knows, maybe we will see people monitoring their health via their Apple Watch or smartphone instead of watching the latest episode of Eastenders on the bus.

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