Did you ever imagine that taking a selfie video could tell you your blood pressure? Developmental psychologist Kang Lee and post-doctoral researcher Paul Zheng certainly did. At the University of Toronto, these two developed a way to read blood pressure through transdermal optical imaging (or TOI).
Here’s how it works: Facial skin is fairly translucent, so optical sensors are able to capture red light that is reflected from hemoglobin under the skin. They tested their idea with two-minute uploaded selfie videos.
Lee took the next step in making the product available. He co-founded Nuralogix to develop the blood-pressure-reading app Anura. All app users need to do is take a 30-second selfie video and upload it to the app. The app can read your blood pressure, heart resting rate, and stress level measurements. Even more information is available to users for a monthly fee. Lee has reported that the app uploads the results of the app to the cloud, but not the videos, maintaining customer privacy.
The technology is emerging will likely improve with time, research, and testing. Unfortunately, the app does not help all demographics and has trouble measuring blood pressure from those with darker or very fair skin. As people of African descent are more at-risk for high blood pressure and heart conditions, this would be a welcome development for Nuralogix.
The team also hopes to make other improvements, including the ability to track blood glucose levels, hemoglobin, and cholesterol. With this device, they will be able to help people who have limited healthcare access in a very convenient and simple way.
Other Devices and Apps
Selfies are not the only way you could be tracking your blood pressure. Other products also tap into the use of smartphones, apps, and wearable devices. The industry is definitely moving toward cuff-less, convenient, and cost-efficient technologies to help people monitor their blood pressure at home.
Aktiia, a Swiss-US company, uses optical blood pressure monitors which measure blood pressure at the wrist. Optical monitors are devices that shine LED light onto the skin and then take measurements of reflected light. Aktiia’s technology is contained in a modern bracelet, which also connects to a smartphone app.
Omron’s wearable blood pressure monitor connects with its companion app HeartAdvisor to help you track blood pressure as well as activity and sleep. The device is watch-like and user friendly.
Another team of researchers developed a smartphone case for measuring blood pressure. Users slide their finger down the back of the case, which has optical sensors and force transducers inside of it. With enough pressure, these can measure blood pressure from the brachial artery.
If you are looking for an easy way to measure your blood pressure at home, these emerging technologies may be for you. Remember, hypertension (high blood pressure) may not have any outward symptoms, so regularly monitoring blood pressure is crucial. Thankfully, research and creative thinking is making that even easier.