Bettir Wants To Chat With You About Your Blood Pressure

Dec 8, 2014

Image credit: Morgan/Flickr 

By Sarah Buhr

Chances are you only get your blood pressure checked maybe once or twice a year at the doctor’s office. You sit down in a relaxed setting near the waiting room while a nurse wraps a black velcro unit around your upper arm and pumps away. Perhaps the reading comes out a little high, but nothing to worry about. At least until you find yourself in a high stress situation, your blood pressure spikes and you end up having a stroke.

Going to your doctor twice a year isn’t the ideal way to get an accurate reading, says Bettir CEO Mike Chen. He and his four other co-founders, David Merriman, Ben Godlove, Nic Novak and Michael Rubin, were all friends at Oberlin when they started discussing the idea of going the startup route together. The band formed and through some health research, Bettir was born. It’s now Y Combinator-backed and ready to ship.

“We were thinking of doing something health related and blood pressure kept coming up,” Chen relays. He and another co-founder realized they actually have high blood pressure through their research. They’re in good company, too. One-third of all Americans suffer from high blood pressure, according to the CDCOne in 10 people have something called “masked hypertension.” This is the exact scenario provided in the beginning of this article. A person shows up as normal in the clinic, but has spikes in stressful situations that lead to serious problems. The typical person with this sort of problem is often young, male and in a stressful job or life situation.

Bettir aims to help people find out if they have high blood pressure spikes or masked hypertension throughout the day and at certain times by monitoring it 24/7 with an app.


 

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2 comments on “Bettir Wants To Chat With You About Your Blood Pressure

  • 1
    Nunbeliever says:

    I feel this article is highly misleading. That is not to say that I think this app is bad or anything. Just that the article is misleading. First, there is not a single reference to a study that deals with masked hypertension. I know such a term exists (although the opposite term “white coat hypertension” is a way more established phenomenon), although I’m not aware of any extensive research on this phenomenon. For good reasons. You would have to study this phenomenon for many years before you can draw any real conclusions. I think few people (especially with stressful jobs) would be keen to participate in such a study. That would mean having your blood pressure measured in stressful (and calm) situations several times a day for many years. That’s the thing they are not saying. You still have to measure your blood pressure yourself. You need to strap the cuff around your arm and measure your blood pressure which takes a while and is not something you can do without receiving attention. Imagining an executive in a board meeting who takes a break to measure his/her blood pressure.

    I’m not saying that masked hypertension is not harmful. I’m sure it is. Countless studies have established a clear correlation between stress and a range of diseases. I’m quite sure high blood-pressure is an important variable in this regard. What I’m saying is that they don’t in any way acknowledge that measuring blood pressure consistently is in itself notoriously difficult. Even if you measured your blood pressure in stressful situations you would still need the same old measurements in a calm situation as a reference point. There is a reason why health professionals use the methods they use when measuring blood-pressure. The reason is that they do everything they can to be consistent, so you can actually compare the values. Yes, if you get extremely high values it’s beyond doubt that you have a problem. But, this is actually quite rare with regard to “healthy” people. The big challenge is to find those who’s blood pressure is just a little higher than average but still potentially harmful. The only way to be able to spot such cases is by measuring blood-pressure in a very consistent way. Okay, you measure your blood pressure every time you feel stressed. But, then you have no clue for how long your blood pressure is high in these situations. It’s hard to know if the values are worryingly high or normal. You would pretty much have to measure your blood pressure every ten minutes 24/7 to get a proper picture of how your blood pressure behaves in certain stressful situations and whether this is potentially harmful or not. And you would still need access to countless other individuals as a reference point.

    Yes, we should all measure our blood pressure more often. Even several times a day might be a good idea. You could measure once in the morning, once when you arrive at work, once in the middle of the day and once in the evening after work. That way you would get a rough picture of your blood pressure during the day. Using an app to manage your measurements and to see trends over time is a very good idea. I’m sure there are plenty other similar apps out there. I would be surprised if this is the first one. But, this article makes it sound like you can basically monitor your blood pressure 24/7 without actually physically measuring the blood pressure all the time. Physicians or other health professionals don’t have magic access to additional information. In order to truly get a good picture of masked hypertension you would have to make countless measurements in a consistent way throughout the day. If you are ready to measure your blood pressure once an hour for an extended period of time, then I guess this app could actually work. Otherwise, it seems like of little more use than what you can do with a paper and a pen and some common sense.



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  • Yes, they’re missing out on the context of blood pressure. Apps are the cause of blood pressure, not the solution. If you take this kind of app data to your GP then they should instantly be able to tell you what’s wrong. Cure being to get rid of the app.

    Maybe the analogy is engine stress in a car. You might see the oil pressure rising, plus the coolant temperature, along with the rev counter and the speedometer. The problem is that this is exactly what the vehicle is designed to do when directed to perform with very high power output. Probably there is more wear and tear on the motor, but that’s a trade-off that’s designed into the response.

    That people experience stress but are unable or unwilling to physically respond may be a problem. But that’s probably not the underlying problem for chronically impaired health.

    I assume that the main concern with blood pressure when it consistently remains high even in a resting situation. Like a car that is idling, but the radiator is always boiling over. It’s a fairly certain indication that things are not right.

    A better gadget I saw being promoted a couple of days ago, possibly on phys.org, was an optical sensor that responds to the fluorescence associated with glycated proteins forming the AGE clumps that contribute to atherosclerotic plaques. The gadget is designed to instantly detect the extent of fluorescence in capillaries in the fingers. The idea being that the extent of AGE accumulations in capillary arteries is a proxy for the development of atherosclerosis. Apparently this correlation has been verified, similar to the software video analytics for retinal artery dimensions i children being an extremely accurate diagnosis for inevitable future heart disease. This is not a measurement of not risk factors. They are actually directly measuring the early stages of the disease. It being extremely unlikely that damage occurring in tiny peripheral arteries is not also occurring to a more significant extent in much larger arteries.

    So the degree of stiffness and inflexibility in artery linings that most probably contributes to a high resting blood pressure, as well as strokes and infected tears in arteries under stress can be tested directly. The actual measurement of blood pressure becomes more or less irrelevant to the extent that it is mostly an indication of this other aspect of hardening arteries.

    On the other hand you could probably achieve the same information via a rough estimate based on how long you’ve been alive and for what proportion of that time you’ve been eating mostly sugar and starches as staple foods, and not exercising regularly. This amounts to more or less the same thing that results in chronic exposure to glycation impact. Similar to long-term frequent exposure to the other primary glycotoxins: fructose, nicotine, alcohol.

    What might be more useful is an app that helps people overcome their addiction to smartphones and apps. That might be a major stress reducer. Also would greatly reduce the road toll and minimise industrial accidents. Simply getting rid of smartphone apps entirely would have a massive positive impact on overall human health.

    Wouldn’t it be amazing if scientists could one day come up with a small electronic device that could make phone calls, had radio coverage in most of the metropolitan areas, and had a battery that would last for most of the day? A invention like that could only contribute reducing out of control blood pressure? It may be no coincidence that the app developers themselves all have high blood pressure.



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