Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have launched a free app, MyHeart Counts, for Apple’s ResearchKit to help scientists studying the prevention and treatment of heart disease.

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa, cardiovascular disease is the second biggest killer in South Africa, after HIV/AIDS. Heart disease is responsible for one in every four deaths globally.

Using the ResearchKit framework, the MyHeart Counts app will collect data about physical activity and cardiac risk factors using the iPhone’s built-in motion sensors. Participants will also be required to enter data about their risk factors for heart disease through surveys. The app will then deliver comprehensive feedback on the user’s chances of developing heart disease,  as well as providing information on how to improve their heart health.

“We are looking for everyone who is curious as to how healthy their heart is to download this app,” said the Li Ka Shing Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Stanford, Alan Yeung, MD. “Users will be able to see their activity and fitness levels, and their ‘heart age.’ We’ll also be able to study what motivates people to improve their heart health.”

The MyHeart Counts app is one of the first five apps to use the ResearchKit framework, which aims to make it easier for researchers to gather more frequent, real-world participant data through the iPhone. The framework provides an interactive informed-consent process, which helps explain a particular research study’s purpose, how the data will be used and the app’s privacy policy.

“MyHeart Counts aims to be the largest study of measured physical activity and cardiovascular health to date,” said professor of cardiovascular medicine and principal investigator for the MyHeart Counts study, Michael McConnell, MD. “We want people to join in this research effort to give them personalised information about their heart health and help provide fundamental new insights into how activity helps your heart, across all ages, genders, cultures and countries.”

The MyHeart Counts app is available in the US for iPhone 5s, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Stanford expects to introduce similar functionality on other platforms in the future and to expand the app’s availability worldwide.

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