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Supermarket trolleys uncover hidden heart conditions

Supermarket trolleys uncover hidden heart conditions

In a trial conducted in Liverpool, researchers have demonstrated how an everyday activity like grocery shopping can be utilized to identify a potentially life-threatening heart-rhythm condition. By fitting special sensors to the handles of supermarket trolleys, scientists successfully detected irregular grip pulses associated with atrial fibrillation (AF), a cardiac condition that heightens the risk of stroke. This innovative approach, which seamlessly integrates health monitoring into individuals' daily routines, has the potential to revolutionize preventive healthcare on a global scale.

Over the course of two months, more than 2,000 shoppers voluntarily used the modified trolleys, enabling researchers to identify 39 individuals who were previously unaware of their AF. Those identified were promptly referred to cardiologists for further evaluation and guidance. Lead researcher Prof Ian Jones, from Liverpool John Moores University, expressed enthusiasm about the trial's results, stating, "This study shows the potential of taking health checks to the masses without disrupting daily routines." He further emphasized the high acceptance rate among shoppers, with nearly two-thirds expressing willingness to participate.

Atrial fibrillation occurs when the heart beats irregularly or chaotically, hindering proper relaxation of the heart muscle between contractions. While some individuals may experience noticeable symptoms such as an irregular or rapid pulse, others remain asymptomatic, making early detection challenging. AF increases the risk of blood clots forming in the heart, which can lead to stroke. In the United Kingdom alone, AF is estimated to affect over a million people, with a global prevalence of 40 million.

The trial findings, presented at a European Society of Cardiology conference in Edinburgh, shed light on the potential of integrating health monitoring technologies into everyday settings. The study, supported by funding from Bristol Myers Squibb, a pharmaceutical company specializing in AF treatments, involved equipping ten supermarket trolleys with sensors similar to those found on gym exercise machines. Shoppers were asked to grip the handle for one minute, during which the sensor analyzed their pulse for irregularities.

If an irregular heartbeat was detected, the individual received a manual pulse check by an in-store pharmacist, followed by an electrocardiogram (ECG) heart trace performed by a cardiologist. Among the 220 participants who underwent further evaluation:

  • 115 showed no evidence of AF

  • 59 were found to have AF, of which 39 were previously undiagnosed

  • 46 had readings that required further clarification

Among those without detected irregular heartbeats, manual pulse checks performed by researchers led to the discovery of 10 cases of AF.

This pioneering initiative aligns with the global vision for sustainable development, as outlined in the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Specifically, it contributes to Goal 3 (Good Health and Well-Being) by promoting preventive healthcare practices that enhance early detection of cardiovascular diseases. By integrating health monitoring technologies into everyday civil society settings like supermarkets, the trial exemplifies a sustainable and accessible approach to public health. Furthermore, the seamless incorporation of health checks into routine activities supports the vision of creating inclusive societies where individuals can easily access necessary healthcare services.

As the trial showcases the potential of transforming common environments into hubs for health monitoring, its success paves the way for further research and larger-scale implementation. The integration of innovative technologies and sustainable practices into everyday life brings us closer to achieving a healthier, more resilient global society where proactive health management is embedded seamlessly into our routines.

Youtube credits: @HealthSketch


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