The Story of iHeart - A Taoist Monk’s Dying Wish
Mar 3, 2016 by Dr. Jess Goodman | lifestyle
iHeart was initially developed to fulfill a promise I made to my Tai Chi teacher, a Taoist monk. While he was terminally ill, he asked me to do him a favor, to show people health benefits associated with stretching between the heart and the kidneys. Yoga and Tai Chi have for centuries taught that maintaining mobility of the core regions of the body (including the 'great cavities' of the spine, chest, abdomen and pelvis) is essential to health. Core Mobility allows the diaphragm to massage the internal organs with each breath, promoting organ circulation, health and longevity.
The Start of iHeart
I began to research my Tai Chi teacher's question. My studies surprisingly revealed that stiffness of the Aorta (the body's largest blood vessel running in front of the spine from the heart to the lower abdomen) predicted risk of death from all causes as shown in many scientific studies. I was shocked that a single parameter could predict risk of death from all causes and was very motivated to create technology giving people an ability to measure Aortic Stiffness. The Aorta, I realized, was acting as a measure of stiffness along the spinal axis and as a measure of Core Mobility. Even more incredibly Aortic Stiffness had been shown in scientific studies to improve with attention to diet, exercise and reduced stress. The relationship between Aortic Stiffness and risk of death from all causes demonstrated the truth in my Tai Chi teacher's intent.
Tracking Aortic Stiffness Used To Be Expensive
Measurement of Aortic Stiffness previously required expensive ($25K) and complicated instrumentation that required placement of pressure sensors precisely over arteries in the neck and groin. From my studies I learned that a wave begins with each heart beat that travels down the Aorta and in the lower abdomen is reflected back towards the heart. In a young person this Aortic Reflected Wave arrives back at the heart just as the heart finishes a contraction and starts to relax. The Reflected Wave maintains pressure in the Aorta promoting blood flow into the Coronary Arteries, feeding the heart muscle. As the Aorta stiffens with aging the Reflected Wave travels more quickly, returning to the heart earlier, while the heart is in mid-contraction. This puts a strain on the heart (leading to heart failure), increases blood pressure (leading to stroke and kidney disease) and reduces blood flow to the heart muscle (leading to heart attack).
Aortic Reflected Wave Fingertip Pulse
The Aortic Reflected Wave travels along the arteries of the arm and hand to the finger. I realized that the pulse wave as detected in a finger has a shape that is determined by position of the Reflected Wave in the pulse signal. Speed with which the Reflected Wave travelled along the Aorta, Aortic Pulse Wave Velocity (AoPWV), determines position of the Reflected Wave in the pulse signal. AoPWV also is the accepted method used to measure Aortic Stiffness. Over several years I experimented with ways to capture the fingertip pulse wave and characterize the Reflected Wave to measure AoPWV and Aortic Stiffness. In the end I had to design and build the world's fastest sampling and highest resolution commercially available optical pulse sensor, the iHeart Oximeter to do this.
iHeart Measures Your Aortic Stiffness
The iHeart Internal Age system identifies the precise time of onset of the Aortic Reflected Wave and uses this and other information to measure AoPWV and Aortic Stiffness. iHeart has been tested against the 'gold standard' Aortic Stiffness measurement system and found to correlate well.
Internal Age is simply the user's Physiological Age as indicated by comparing their iHeart AoPWV measurement to average AoPWV measurements over the human age spectrum. My company collected over 2000 samples from people of different ages in order to determine the correct age distribution.
iHeart is intended to provide people with objective evidence that making wise lifestyle choices leads to better health and longer life.
This story began with a simple question from my Tai Chi teacher. I will always be grateful for his instruction.