New Device for Testing Heart Health

Aug. 15, 2017. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

UConn researchers from the Department of Mechanical Engineering have developed a device that tests an important indicator of heart health that is often ignored – blood viscosity.

Blood can be a window into the health of your heart. Doctors are often on the lookout for some common signs that might point to an issue, like abnormal cholesterol levels or high blood pressure. From heart attacks to strokes, routine blood tests can screen for several types of life-threatening cardiac events. But less attention has been paid to blood viscosity.

Viscosity measures a fluid’s resistance to flow. Thick or sticky liquids like honey have high viscosity, while thin, watery liquids have low viscosity. In the case of blood, higher viscosity may signal potential problems, since the heart needs to work harder to pump sticky blood. Thick blood also means organs and tissues receive less oxygen and may cause damage to the lining of blood vessels due to increased friction as blood travels throughout the body.

Studies have shown that increased blood viscosity was significantly more prevalent in patients who experienced heart attacks and strokes compared to patients with lower blood viscosity. In fact, one study found that increased blood viscosity is a more likely sign of a potential cardiac event than high blood pressure, gender, or smoking.

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