Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback (HRVB): Technique to Boost Wellbeing

How apps improve the management of chronic diseases, including diabetes

Noncommunicable chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and mental health conditions, were responsible for almost 70% of deaths worldwide in 2016. This is an estimate from The World Health Organization (WHO). The prevalence of these illnesses is increasing globally, leading to major social and economic consequences. The U.S. is a prime example: research by the American Action Forum (AAF) from September 2020 shows that chronic conditions in the country – already highly prevalent – are expected to rise over the next several decades among all age groups. The AAF calculates that, including indirect costs associated with lost economic productivity, the total cost of chronic disease in the United States reaches US-D 3.7 trillion each year, approximately 19.6 percent of the gross domestic product. Experts agree that action needs to be taken to reduce health care costs and improve patient wellbeing – and quality and effectiveness of disease management play a major role.

To better manage chronic diseases is key

Chronic diseases are generally linked to an imbalance of the autonomous nervous system (ANS). This results in sympathetic overstimulation and a lack of activity of the vagus nerve, a fundamental component of the parasympathetic branch of the ANS. This phenomenon, called dysautonomia, can both be a consequence of chronic disease as well as a key risk factor in its development. The study by Zalewski et al. emphasizes that ANS dysfunctions should be considered at each stage of the diagnostic and treatment processes. The identification of changes in vagal activity holds the key regarding the management, and detection, of chronic conditions.

heart rate variability biofeedback

Heart rate variability – biomarker of health

This is where heart rate variability (HRV) comes in. Heart rate variability biofeedback (HRVB) allows for the indexing of the autonomic function. Whereas high HRV reflects the ability of the cardiac system to adapt to intrinsic and extrinsic changes (e.g., stress), low HRV is an indicator of risk for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. A systematic literature analysis by Shaffer et al. showed the feasibility of HRVB in chronic patients; significant positive effects were found in various patient profiles. Researchers concluded that heart rate variability biofeedback could be effective in managing patients with chronic conditions, including diabetes.

kenkou has developed a technology that enables vital data measurement (including HRVB) using just the smartphone camera. This readily accessible, easy-to-use technology serves to enhance treatment and detection of chronic conditions.