By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

Illustration of person using a phone

The American Heart Association introduced a free smartphone app at the beginning of May to help heart attack survivors better manage their heart health.

The “My Cardiac Coach” app helps monitor vital statistics, tracks medicine and gives exercises reminders.

“The app is full of great information. It makes it black and white what your numbers are, what your cholesterol is and whether you’ve gained a pound or lost a pound. It keeps you on track,” said Melissa Murphy, who suffered a coronary artery dissection two years ago.

The app uses AHA data to guide users in their treatment plans and help them track their progress. It can be downloaded for free.

“It also teaches you how to ask your doctor questions about everything from nutrition to exercise to medicine,” Murphy said. “It gives you lessons on types of things you didn’t know about before you were suddenly thrust into heart disease.”

About 20 percent of heart attack survivors older than 45 will have another heart attack within five years of their first, according to the AHA.

AHA and American Stroke Association research from 2016 shows that many heart attack survivors have trouble understanding their condition, sticking to their treatment plan and making the necessary lifestyle changes to prevent another heart attack.

John Osborne, M.D., Ph.D., a cardiologist, researcher and founder of State of the Heart Cardiology, tested My Cardiac Coach for the AHA. He said the app works to simplify recovery in the information age.

“After a catastrophic event occurs, patients have no idea where to start. And if you go on the internet, you find an information tsunami with different opinions across a whole spectrum of data,” he said.

“This app is very intuitive and educational. It walks people through a variety of topics related to cardiovascular disease and it boils down the information and makes it easy for a layperson to understand. And it’s all there right on your phone.”

All app users sign a consent form outlining terms and conditions. No data is shared without the patient’s permission, although the AHA does look at aggregated, de-identified patient data to measure the effectiveness of the app.

My Cardiac Coach will also connect patients with other heart survivors through social media and AHA’s Support Network. “Putting people together with others who’ve had similar experiences is extremely helpful, psychologically,” Osborne said. “It makes you feel you’re not alone.”