Heart monitoring equipment blew my mind

Posted on March 23, 2021

Firstbeat

Cameron Booth, Redmoor Health

By Cameron Booth, digital programme manager, Redmoor Health 

One of the buzz phrases in HealthTech at the moment is ‘personalised healthcare’. 

Personalised healthcare involves tailoring decisions to individual patients based on their predicted response or risk of disease and wearable tech is what makes it happen.  

With this in mind, Redmoor Health was asked recently if we wanted to road test a neat piece of heart monitoring equipment called Firstbeat – and I jumped at the chance. 

Created nearly 20 years ago by some clever sports scientists in Finland, Firstbeat recognised that by identifying your heart rate variability (HRV) you could map stress, recovery and exercise performance. 

At 27 and with nothing to lose I decided to give it a go – and the results blew my mind.  

To reach some worthwhile conclusions you have to wear the equipment for four days. 

This involves attaching a couple of nodes to your chest which is no easy task when you have a hairy chest like me!  

At first you’re very aware of it. It’s a bit harder to sleep and because the device is always flashing it’s impossible to ignore, especially when you’re in a dark room. 

However you quickly get used to it and forget it’s even there. 

A year of COVID lockdown: The true impact of WFH

Like my Mum, I’ve got a low resting heartbeat but what surprised me was the impact of stress, sleep, exercise and alcohol on the health of my heart. 

The results were both visual and precise. For example, I could clearly see the moment I fell asleep and how that positively affected my heart. I could also see how positive exercise, weekends and meditation are for me. 

The results can be broken down into four sections: stress; sleep; exercise; and overall. 

For stress I got a rating of 59/100, which compares with an average score for someone of my age and gender of 69.  

You get given a bar chart of the day which uses different colours to show the impact of a particular activity on your heart. For example green means your heart is in recovery, red means it’s stressed and blue means it’s exercising.  

On the day when I was particularly stressed my bar chart was an endless row of red and that certainly provided food for thought.  

The next test looked at sleep. The restorative impact of sleep on my heart was reflected in the green columns. However on the one night I had a few drinks, the green bars were replaced by red ones which reduced my overall score down to 66/100. 

Once again this is below the average of 74/100 for someone of my age and gender and put me in the lowest 40 per cent of my peers. 

My best result was exercise, when I scored 94/100, which compares with an average score of 55 for someone of my age. I love getting on my bike and I find jumping on the saddle good for my mental and physical health  

It meant my overall score was 73/100 which put me in the ‘good’ category. 

Lessons learned from a year of COVID lockdown

However I’ve already made some life changes based on the results. I said ‘no’ to a glass of whisky because I didn’t want it to impact on the quality of my sleep and when I’m feeling stressed I take a few minutes out to play with the dog. 

This technology made me more aware of my general wellness and I plan to use it again in the next couple of months to see if there have been any changes. 

I would strongly recommend Firstbeat. We’re going to see more examples of this type of personalised healthcare.

The only downside was when I removed the sticky nodes from my chest after four days. Ouch!!! 

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