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University of Sydney researchers create game-based app to prevent heart attacks

5 August 2016
New app to save your heart

A fun, convenient and independent approach to prevention. 

Cardiac researchers from the University of Sydney have created a new game-based app to prevent heart attacks among people who have suffered a cardiac event.

Prevention programs are a key part of cardiac rehabilitation, however few people attend.

The MyHeartMate app is aimed at people who want a fun, convenient and independent approach for improving heart health more than a traditional classroom or venue-based prevention program.

Heart disease is one of Australia’s biggest health problems. It affects 1.4 million people, and causes 54,000 heart attacks every year.

“An important part of recovering from a heart attack is preventing any future attacks,” says lead investigator Dr Lis Neubeck, from Sydney Nursing School and Charles Perkins Centre.

“We know that prevention programs for heart disease reduce deaths and subsequent cardiac events, however only a minority of people take part in these, so we’ve developed a fun and interactive way to improve heart health for people who don’t want to take part in a traditional program.

“In the app you look after your ‘virtual heart’, play games, and take on real-world challenges that keep your real and digital heart healthy. As your digital heart gets healthier, so does your own heart.

The MyHeartMate app uses interactive games, quizzes and challenges to help people make lifestyle changes to improve their heart health such as increasing physical activity, improving their diet, quitting smoking and reducing stress. The app also helps people manage their medications while keeping track of their blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Features of the app include:

- Free to download on smartphones and tablets

- Full time workers and rural patients can access easily

- Use independently or with a healthcare professional

- Set and update challenges

- Record and track progress

- Rewarded for real-world missions

- Participate in quizzes

- Invite and motivate friends

- Be motivated to attend cardiac rehabilitation events

- Online community via social media

Senior investigator, Professor Gemma Figtree from Sydney Medical School, added “Although elements of gamification have been incorporated into heart health apps in the past, MyHeartMate is the first to fully integrate evidence-based real-world challenges with a digital game.”

The study was conducted by a collaboration of University of Sydney researchers based at the Charles Perkins Centre:  Dr Lis Neubeck, Professor Robyn Gallagher, and Associate Professor Thomas Buckley from Sydney Nursing School.  Professor Gemma Figtree, Professor David Celermajer, and Professor Geoffrey Toffler from Sydney Medical School. Professor Clara Chow and Associate Professor Julie Redfern from The George Institute for Global Health, University of Sydney. Tracy Schumacher, University of Newcastle, and Cate Ferry, National Heart Foundation of Australia.

 

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