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Heart attack: Your risk of a heart attack could be calculated by your voice – new study

What's the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest?

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A heart attack occurs when one of the arteries leading to the heart become clogged, bringing blood flow to a sudden halt. This generally triggers a sudden squeezing or aching sensation in the chest, which can spread to the neck, jaw or back. The medical emergency affects hundreds of thousands of people each year, killing about 12 percent of sufferers. According to a new study, acoustic signals in at-risk patients could be picked up by artificial intelligence software years before an event.

A “powerful screening tool” could identify patients at risk of a heart attack by analysing their voice features.

According to a recent study, the technology could pick up 80 different voice characteristics, such as cadence, amplitude, pitch and frequency.

Researchers trialled the tool on a sample of 108 patients referred to an X-ray for a health assessment of their coronary arteries.

Participants were asked to record three 30-second voice samples using the Vocals Health smartphone application.

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Subjects were instructed to read a prepared text, then speak spontaneously about a positive experience, for the first and second recording respectively,

For the final voice sample, participants were asked to speak freely about a negative experience.

The recordings were then analysed by the Vocalis Health algorithm, an AI-based system trained using more than 10,000 voice recordings.

During the two-year follow-up period, 58.3 percent of participants with a high voice were hospitalised for chest pain or other emergencies such as heart attack.

Conversely, only 30.6 percent of participants with a low voice ended up back in hospital, according to the findings.

Based on this data, researchers estimated that participants with high pitched voices were 2.6 times more likely to suffer major problems associated with coronary artery disease.

The lead author of the study, Doctor Jaskanwal Sara, of the Mayo Clinic in the United States, said: “Telemedicine is is non-invasive, cost-effective and efficient and has become increasingly important during the pandemic.

“We’re not suggesting that voice analysis technology would replace doctors or replace existing methods of health care delivery but we think there’s a huge opportunity for voice technology to act as an adjunct to existing strategies.

“Providing a voice sample is very intuitive and even enjoyable for patients, and it could become a scalable means for us to enhance patient management.”

Using the machinery, the team were able to identify six features linked to coronary artery disease, which were combined into a single score, expressed as a number between minus one and one.

Doctor Sara noted: “We can’t hear these particular features ourselves.

“This technology is using machine learning to quantify something that isn’t easily quantifiable for us using our human brains and our human ears.”

It remains unknown which mechanisms link a person’s voice to their heart, but researchers believe the autonomic nervous system could be involved.

The autonomic nervous system is in charge of regulating involuntary physiologic processes including blood pressure, digestion and different aspects of the voice.

Doctor Sara added: “Therefore, it is possible that the voice could provide clues about how the autonomic nervous system is functioning, and, by extension, provide insights into cardiovascular health.”

The findings of the study, published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, are due to be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session next month.

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