Health-Promoting Texts Could Help Battle Heart Disease


The health of heart disease patients can be improved by technology that they are already familiar with: cellphones. During a recent study, patients with heart disease enrolled in a program and received four text messages on a weekly basis on their cellphones, whereby encouragement was made to make heart-healthy lifestyle choices (the name of the technology is called TEXT ME). These encouragements include messages related to reducing salt intake, quit smoking, etc. 325 patients have received such messages over the course of a six-month study. In order to establish a comparison, a separate control group of patients with coronary heart disease did not receive a text message concerning the health of their heart. At the end of the study period, the group that received texts had lower levels of bad cholesterol, lower body mass indexes (BMI) and lower blood pressure than the control group. The text receiving groups were more likely to have a tendency to quit smoking.

This study is one of the many recent studies that attempt to reap the benefits of technologies to tackle heart diseases by using everyday technologies (e.g., cellphones) to fight against cardiovascular diseases. Many apps exist that aim at assisting patients to monitor their heart health, but not much research has been conducted that tests whether those apps actually work. These trials such as TEXT ME prove that interventions concerning mobile health, can positively influence behaviors of patients and improve risk profiles in the short term, even if these applications are extremely simple. Even other text-messaging technologies that aim at motivating to act upon the tendency of weight loss and smoking cessation have shown equally promising results.

The study however had some limitations, even though the technology showed promising results in fighting heart disease. The first limitation is that is solely conducted on one location (Australia), which makes it unclear if the results would be the same among patients living elsewhere (Chow et. al, 2012).
What do you think about this technology? Do you think it would help you being more healthy and skip that glass of soda in the evening?

Reference

Chow, C. K., Redfern, J., Thiagalingam, A., Jan, S., Whittaker, R., Hackett, M., … & Hillis, G. S. (2012). Design and rationale of the tobacco, exercise and diet messages (TEXT ME) trial of a text message-based intervention for ongoing prevention of cardiovascular disease in people with coronary disease: a randomised controlled trial protocol. BMJ open2(1), e000606.

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