Text messages could cut cardiovascular disease

Sending encouraging text messages to patients with coronary heart disease could help them to live healthier, happier and longer lives.

Friendly and helpful messages were sent to people with heart disease to test whether the soft approach would be enough to bring about real change in their lifestyles. Examples of these messages included: “Walking is cheap, it can be done almost everywhere. All you need is comfortable shoes and clothing.” Another read: “Try avoid adding salt to your foods by using other spices or herbs.”

The ‘Tobacco, Exercise and Diet Messages’ trial involved some 710 patients registered at the Westmead Hospital in Sydney. Half of the study’s participants were sent four texts a week for a total of six months, on top of their usual care. Messages were chosen specifically for each individual, depending on their requirements or personalities, from a resource bank. This meant that smokers could be sent messages encouraging them to quit, or overweight people could be offered a greater amount of dietary advice.

Researchers also included the recipient’s name in messages, to make them more personal and impactful.

Commenting on the results, the paper’s lead author, Associate Professor Clara Chow, told dailymail.co.uk: “Every heart attack costs $281,000 (£129,500) to the community, and that includes direct health care costs as well as lost productivity, so any money saved through prevention is good for everyone.”

The texts, meanwhile, were said to have cost $14 (£6.45) per patient for every six months.