Where Hypertension Meets the Hawthorne Effect
Imagine if you could improve your health simply by observing. The good news is we can – our brains are hard-wired to respond to the power of observation. This is the psychology behind the Aktiia blood pressure monitor and a key reason why it’s proving to be so effective at tackling high blood pressure or hypertension.
So, what’s the Hawthorne effect and why is it relevant to blood pressure? The term was coined by Henry A. Landsberger who analysed the Hawthorne studies which took place at Western Electric’s Hawthorne Works in Chicago during the 1920s and 1930s. The original research used methods weren’t at all rigorous by today’s standards – they measured how lighting changes in the workplace influenced productivity. The findings showed that productivity could be improved, but it was nothing to do with lighting effects!
‘Hawthorne Revisited’ by Landsberger suggested that the novelty of being research subjects and the increased attention could lead to short-term rises in productivity. In other words, the fact workers knew they were being observed changed their behaviour.
A factory might seem far away from healthcare until you consider the Hawthorne effect in relation to hypertension. It’s well known that hypertension is one of the leading risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD), affecting millions of people worldwide. But it’s also a “silent killer” which typically has no symptoms.
As a result, many millions of people remain undiagnosed. In a recent Health Survey for England published by the Office for National Statistics, 170,000 16- to 24-year-olds in England unknowingly have high blood pressure. Enter the Aktiia blood pressure monitor – it capitalises on the Hawthorne effect to make the invisible visible and prove the power of observation can be used to combat the risks associated with high blood pressure.
How the Aktiia Effect Turns Blood Pressure Awareness into Action
The simple act of observing blood pressure becomes the catalyst for change – a phenomenon we call the ‘Aktiia effect’. To truly appreciate its effectiveness and accuracy, it’s important to understand how the Aktiia device itself works and its advantages versus inflatable cuff devices which have been around over 100 years.
The Aktiia blood pressure monitor uses Photoplethysmography (PPG) and a proprietary algorithm to measure blood pressure. PPG is non-invasive – the wristband measures the amount of light absorbed by the blood vessels in your skin. When your heart beats, the blood volume in your vessels increases, absorbing more light. Between beats, the blood volume decreases, absorbing less light. By measuring the changes in absorption, the Aktiia device can estimate your blood flow and convert it into a blood pressure reading.
These 24/7 blood pressure readings are a game changer compared to traditional cuff blood pressure monitors. Measuring blood pressure with cuff devices have limits. The first constraint is their infrequent use. Cuff devices are typically non-routinely used, either during infrequent health check-ups or sporadically at home. This intermittent monitoring provides snapshots of blood pressure at specific moments, missing the fluctuations of the day. Crucially, they don’t measure what’s happening with blood pressure at night. And without continuous data, it’s impossible to observe the impact of lifestyle choices on people’s blood pressure.
Irregular or incorrect blood pressure checks are notoriously inaccurate. Misplaced or ill-fitted cuffs, poor positioning and incorrect readings due to ‘white coat syndrome’ (a phenomenon where blood pressure readings are higher when taken in a medical setting due to anxiety) or masked hypertension (when blood pressure readings are lower in a medical setting compared to home) can skew results.
Compare that with Aktiia’s 24/7, non-invasive and unobtrusive monitoring device which the Medical Futurist review describes as comfortable to wear, easy to use and offering valuable insights into blood pressure patterns over time.
To beat a path to better health patterns, accurate and real-time data is an essential tool. So, while cuff devices have their place, they cannot harness the power of observation in the same way as the Aktiia effect.
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Hypertension: Beyond the Heart
Hypertension isn’t merely a heart issue; blood pressure is intricately linked to brain health too. Sustained high blood pressure, particularly in midlife, is a substantial risk factor for developing dementia later in life due to its detrimental effect on the brain’s blood vessels. Plus, it significantly increases the risk of ischemic and haemorrhagic strokes. Persistently elevated blood pressure can damage and weaken the brain’s blood vessels, making them more likely to block or rupture, leading to a stroke. By controlling and reducing high blood pressure, individuals can significantly lower their risk of dementia and stroke.
Emerging evidence also suggests that maintaining optimal blood pressure can support overall cognitive function. Our research reveals that individuals with well-managed blood pressure performed better in cognitive tests compared to those with high blood pressure. Improvements were noted in areas such as attention, memory and executive function, which includes skills like problem-solving, planning and organisation.
Seeing Is Believing: From Blood Pressure to Lifestyle Changes
When it comes to blood pressure – observing can motivate you to make and sustain more healthy choices. So, it’s vital that the blood pressure monitoring device you choose is accurate, reliable and trusted. It might be user-friendly and comfortable, but if you can’t count on the readings, it’s not fit for purpose. Thankfully, the Aktiia device has undergone rigorous testing to ensure its accuracy.
According to a study published in Blood Pressure Monitoring, researchers compared the blood pressure readings from the Aktiia device with those from a standard blood pressure cuff in 44 participants over a 24-hour period. The readings from the Aktiia device met the standards for clinical devices – validation and reliability that creates confidence in the readings.
Creating sustainable lifestyle changes isn’t easy, but the Aktiia effect gives users the psychological edge that could make the difference. Seeing blood pressure readings is a powerful motivator that also satisfies our reward systems. This feedback loop is key to creating – and sticking to – the right habits. When you see the positive effect of lifestyle and dietary changes on blood pressure, it amplifies the power of observation so it’s easier to stay on track.
Where Next for the Aktiia Effect?
The Aktiia Effect is more than just a tool for managing hypertension; it’s a catalyst for holistic lifestyle change. With day-and-night monitoring and real-time feedback, the Aktiia wristband device and smartphone app encourage users to develop healthier habits from exercise to nutrition and from stress management to sleep patterns. Knowing your numbers, seeing how they fluctuate with various activities, and witnessing the impact of healthier choices inspire continuous improvement in overall wellbeing.
Plus, the Aktiia Effect addresses one of the main challenges in managing a long-term condition like hypertension – commitment to lifestyle changes and to taking medication. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 50% of patients with chronic illnesses do not take their medications as prescribed. The reasons are complex and varied, but lack of feedback about the effectiveness of the treatment is a significant factor. By providing real-time, tangible evidence of improvement, the Aktiia device promotes greater adherence to treatment plans, leading to better health outcomes.
The Aktiia effect leverages the power of observation to transform hypertension management and promote healthier habits. By making the invisible visible, it motivates and encourages us to develop healthier habits concerning exercise, nutrition and general health and wellbeing. It’s a powerful tool that takes the seemingly daunting task of managing a long-term condition like hypertension and turns it into an achievable goal. In the face of a global hypertension crisis, it offers a glimmer of hope – one reading at a time.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is intended for educational purposes only. If you have symptoms of low or high blood pressure, speak to your doctor. They can advise on the best way to effectively manage your blood pressure.
(NHS) Health Survey for England – Health, Social Care and Lifestyles, 2023 – https://digital.nhs.uk/areas-of-interest-public-health-health-survey-for-england-health-social-care-and-lifestyles-participants
Office for National Statistics. Risk Factors for Undiagnosed High Blood Pressure in England: 2015 to 2019, 2023 – https://www.ons.gov.uk/health-and-social-care-risk-factors-for-undiagnosed-high-blood-pressure-in-england-2015-2019
Hypertension, Effect of the Hawthorne effect on blood pressure measurements in the SPRINT trial, 2023 – https://www.ahajournals.org/doi-101161-hyp79suppl-P304
Medical Futurist, Finally a Good Wearable Blood Pressure Monitor, 2023 – https://medicalfuturist.com/finally-a-good-wearable-blood-pressure-monitor-aktiia-bracelet-review
Nature, Validation of the Aktiia optical blood pressure monitoring technology, 2023 – https://www.nature.com/articles-s41440-023-01258-2
(Nature) Validation of cuff-less photoplethysmographic technology for continual, non-invasive blood pressure monitoring, 2023 – https://www.nature.com/articles-s41598-021-99294
Persistent Use Of Aktiia 24/7 Blood Pressure Monitor Is Associated With Lower Blood Pressure In Hypertensive Patients – https://www.ahajournals.org/doi-101161-hyp79supp-P304
International Longevity Centre UK, 2023 – https://ilcuk.org.uk/doctors-orders