Review: MOCAheart, your portable heart health tracker

MOCAheart

MOCAheart
80

Design

9/10

    Ease of use

    9/10

      Use of information

      8/10

        Motivation

        7/10

          Pros

          • Extremely portable and lightweight
          • 3 heart health indicators in a convenient little package
          • Accurate readings
          • Well designed, simple to use app

          Cons

          • Price on the high side
          • Holding it too tightly may result in inconsistent measurements
          • PWV readings reported only through proprietary index

          Cardiovascular disease is a general term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels. This is a leading cause of death in the US and globally. However, it is estimated that much of this is preventable. Prevention involves improving risk factors through healthy eating, exercise, avoidance of tobacco smoke and limiting alcohol intake.

          While home monitoring (of blood pressure, resting heart rate, etc) is not a substitute for regular visits to your physician, it can help to identify some early signs of the condition. Luckily, we live in an era where tracking behavior and measuring results is becoming easier.

          MOCACARE is a Silicon Valley based outfit with a mission to make heart health monitoring an easy, intuitive, and reliable experience. Its range of smart cardiovascular monitoring devices includes: the MOCACuff, a sleek FDA-approved wireless blood pressure monitor; and MOCAheart, a device that uses thumb scans to measure heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and pulse wave velocity.

          MOCAheart is arguably the more interesting of the two considering there is no shortage of connected blood pressure monitors on the market today. Some of the bigger brands are even on their second or third generation devices!

          After a successful Kickstarter campaign a couple of years ago in which it raised over $120,000, MOCAheart is now available for anyone to purchase. I’ve recently got my hands on a sample and have taken it out for a spin to evalate its capabilities. These are my impressions.

          Design
          Features and software
          Overview

          Design

          Measuring only 71.5 x 7.05 x 36 mm and weighing only 20 grams, MOCAheart is designed with portability in mind. The device is sturdy, and sports a medical-grade stainless steel front along with a white plastic back. If you were to open it, inside you would find medical grade electrocardiogram (EKG) and photoplethysmography (PPG) sensors which work together to provide measurements.

          As its so thin and lightweight, you could easily throw the little gadget it in your pocket, wear it as a keychain or perhaps even squeeze it into a wallet. To this end, there is a leather keychain that can be purchased separately and a phone case where it can be slipped in. All in all, the device looks great, and more importantly feels great in your hands.

          MOCACARE claims the monitor can last for 3 days if three to five measurements are taken each day. While that might not sound like a lot, I would not envisage most people taking that many measurements on a daily basis, which means you should easily get up to a week of use. Charging is quick. A micro-USB port on the side of the monitor will allow you to fully charge the device in about an hour. The red light on the device is on while the battery is charging. It runs green when the device is fully charged.

          As mentioned, MOCAheart packs three readings in a convenient little package.

          The first is your heart rate which, of course, is one of the most important indicators of cardiovascular health. Resting heart rate (RHR) measurements are typically taken in the morning, after a rest day because the sympathetic nervous system is no longer active following strenuous exercise. A normal RHR for a healthy adult is anywhere between 60 and 80 beats per minute. Outside of any specific ailment, a lower resting heart rate correlates very closely to a state of greater general fitness and health.

          The second are pulse oximetre readings. Pulse oximeters have become popular as a personal purchase in the last few years. These are simple non-invasive electronic devices that measure how well oxygen is sent to parts of the body furthest from your heart (such as arms and legs). Healthy individuals typically register readings above 97%. A healthy body should never fall below 95%, although oxygen saturation above 92% is generally considered safe.

          Essential reading: Guide to buying a pulse-oximeter

          Serious athletes may, for example, wear a pulse oximeter to monitor oxygen levels during strenuous workouts. They are also useful for mountain climbers and athletes whose oxygen levels may decrease at high altitudes. Measuring oxygen saturation is more important for those with certain medical conditions or patients recovering from a recent illness or surgery.

          Finally, MOCAheart also measures your pulse wave velocity. Not to be confused with blood pressure, this is a measure of arterial stiffness or the speed that blood travels through the vessels. The company describes it as “an indicator derived from blood velocity that is related to blood pressure”. The Nokia Body Cardio scale gives similar readouts, the difference being that here you don’t get the actual value. Rather you get something called the MOCA Index which tells you where your readings fall on a scale that ranges from Low to Very High. Higher blood velocity is a sign of arterial siffess and is correlated to high blood pressure.


          Features and software

          To start off, you need to fully charge the little gadget and install the iOS or Android MOCAheart app. As there is no screen on the device, your heart health data is recorded and accessed via the app. Turn on Bluetooth on your smartphone, press the button on MOCAheart and wait for the red light to appear.

          I’ve had no problems pairing, and found that as soon as I switched on the device, it would instantly and automatically connect with the app.

          Next, its a matter of simply holding the device and gently placing your thumb to cover the whole lens, while the other thumb is kept pressed against the metal part. Its important not to press too hard as this may cause inconsistent measurements. For experimental purposes I did try pressing hard on the sensor a few times and found some of those readings to be off. So to ensure correct and consistant results, it is important to follow instructions and hold the device gently.

          Readings are quick and take less than 30 seconds. The app displays a countdown timer that makes sure you hold the device until the reading is fully finished.

          I found the heart rate readings to be spot on. The blood oxygen readings also seemed correct, but in a healthy person they are typically always going to be close to 100%. It gets more difficult when it comes to accessing the validity of MOCA Index data which is displayed using a scale of 1 to 5: low, ideal, raised, high or very high.

          I do have a Nokia Body Cardio scale and have compared the readings to the extent possible. As mentioned, the Nokia scale provides readings in metres per second, while MOCAheart only provides the proprietary index value. I did find that the assesment in both cases was similar, placing me in the lower end of the ‘Ideal’ range. Another person who scored a bit higher on the Body Cardio scale also took their measurements, and we found this was reflected on the MOCAheart chart – which showed slightly less optimal readings. While by no means a scientific experiment, it leads me to belive that the readings are on the accurate side.

          Its worth adding, the app does ask that you calibrate MOCAheart every six months to ensure its accuracy. This is done by taking a reading with a blood pressure monitor, and then taking a reading on MOCAheart right after.

          The app itself is a very simple and intuitive affair. It walks you through the process of taking readings, allows you to tag the them (with location, weather, notes…), and displays a history both as a timeline and easy to understand charts. You’ll also find actionable insights on how to improve or maintain heart health after each reading.

          If you choose to do so, the app makes it easy to share your heart data with your doctor and loved ones, giving them reassurance and peace of mind. You can send messages, pictures and audio clips to accompany your measurements.


          Overview

          Conclusion

          MOCAheart is a tiny gizmo that provides you with a holistic snapshot of your heart health in under 30 seconds. The device is designed to be easily carried and fit seamlessly in your existing routines and lifestyle, so tracking your health comes naturally.

          Your risk of developing cardiovascular events can be improved through lifestyle changes, such as exercise and diet, but up to a half of those with a heart condition are not even aware of it! While no substitute for going to a doctor, by taking regular measurements, MOCAheart can let you track how your heart health changes over time.

          I found both the app and device to be well designed and easy to use. Most important of all, the readings seemed consistent and accurate when the device was used correctly.

          Admitedly, it would have been good to be able to check the validity of the pulse wave velocity results, but those displayed on the MOCA Index chart did correlate with readings from my Nokia Body Cardio scale. It is worth noting, while pulse wave velocity readings do provide an additional data point to gauge how fit or stressed your heart is, the gadget should not be mistaken as a replacement for a blood pressure monitor.

          MOCAheart
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          The price is slightly on the high side but you are getting an on-demand heart rate monitor, pulse oximeter and pulse wave velocity monitor in one extremely portable device. All in all, MOCAheart does exactly what it says on the tin.

          If you are looking for an easy way to track your heart health, or are in the market for a pulse oximeter, this is definitely an option worth considering.

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