February is American Heart Month, a time to focus on cardiovascular health. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, one person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Here are a few Land-grant University research efforts supported by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture that aim to improve heart health.
Developing Wearable Smart Sensors for Continuous Human Health Monitoring
Because of the high rate of poverty, lack of insurance, and lack of public transportation, people in rural areas often have decreased access to healthcare providers, specialists and emergency medical services. Rural residents who need to travel long distances for medical services may experience delays in treating diseases such as CVD. To decrease the mortality and morbidity rates caused by heart disease in rural areas, Washington State University researchers have designed flexible and washable smart textile sensors to integrate into clothing for monitoring human electrocardiogram signals without interfering in the wearer’s daily routine tasks. The device sends an alarm to mobile devices of the wearer, his/her family, and/or health care providers once it detects abnormal signals and before the onset of serious symptoms. Learn more here.
Improving Health and Reducing Health Care Costs through Walk Across Texas
Medical research shows that exercise and weight loss can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and CVD. To encourage individuals to incorporate regular physical activity into their routine, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service developed Walk Across Texas. The program consists of teams of up to eight family members, friends, co-workers, and neighbors walking together or individually for eight weeks each year. Participants can attend Extension classes and receive information on nutrition, exercise, weight loss and other health topics. Over the lifetime of the 12,500 participants in 2019, approximately 350 of them could prevent the onset of diabetes and/or cardiovascular disease through sustained levels of physical activity. Learn more here.
Strong Hearts for New York: Reducing Heart Disease Risk Among Rural Women
Not only is CVD a leading cause of death in the United States, women who live in rural communities are found to have higher CVD rates compared to their non-rural counterparts. Cornell Agricultural Experiment Station’s Strong Hearts, Healthy–a National Institute of Health-funded heart disease prevention and intervention study–targets rural midlife and older women. The study provides significant insight into the complex factors contributing to this disease. Overall, the intervention study participants experienced positive changes across biometric, physical activity and diet, improving their body mass index, weight, waist circumference and body fat percentage, as compared to control participants. Learn more here.