Aktiia Celebrates Black History Month

February 2020

For the past 50 years in the United States, February has been celebrated as Black History Month, a time to honor the achievements of African Americans. More recently, the National Institute of Health has also designated February as American Heart Month. This provides a unique opportunity to raise the important topic of heart health in the African American community.

How does this relate to us at Aktiia? Our mission is to reduce the burden of hypertension. Studies have shown that hypertension disproportionately affects the Black community in the United States, with higher incidences of hypertension at younger ages. Over the past century, numerous pioneering Black physicians have dedicated themselves to studying and educating on this issue, including several prominent physicians profiled by the American College of Cardiology.

Dr. John Beauregard Johnson (L) and Dr. Elijah Saunders (R) were pioneers in the study of hypertension in the Black community.

Aktiia’s technology has the potential to provide an easier and less painful way to accurately measure blood pressure for anyone with hypertension. Our algorithms are built to work with a standard off-the-shelf optical sensors, similar to those used in many smartwatches. However, it has been reported that consumer smartwatches with optical sensors do a poor job of measuring on people with darker skin. Those initial findings suggested that because such optical sensors measure light refracted through the skin, the data can vary significantly based on different levels of skin pigmentation, and this can negatively affect accuracy. Over the past several years, with both hardware and software improvements, more recent studies have shown that racial disparities in accuracy have now largely improved.

The Aktiia Bracelet’s optical sensor uses green light, as shown here.

The Aktiia team has been very conscious of the variation in optical sensor readings for the different communities we hope to serve with our product. So when conducting our most recent pivotal trial, we ensured that we included a representative sample of people with different skin tones (as measured by the Fitzpatrick scale) in our subject population. We are happy to report that the measurement accuracy of Aktiia’s algorithms did not vary significantly between skin tones in our clinical trial.

We will publish detailed results of this trial later this year, and we are committed to open communication and publication of our future results as we work to build a best-in-class product for the diverse group of people affected by hypertension around the world.

There are many factors that can contribute to hypertension, with genetics creating a higher risk for some. If you’d like to share, what do you think are the main underlying factors of your hypertension?

And thank you to everyone who responded to our survey last month! Here are the results of how our subscribers manage their blood pressure:

  1. Medication: 56.4%
  2. Physical Activity: 55.6%
  3. Nutrition / Diet: 44.4%
  4. Stress Management: 29.1%
  5. I don’t manage my blood pressure: 12.8%
    (Note: multiple selections were possible)