Oura Ring adds heart age and capacity features

  • May 13, 2024
  • Steve Rogerson

Finland-based Ōura has added two heart health features to its smart ring.

The latest version of the Oura Ring includes cardiovascular age (CVA) and cardio capacity.

“At Ōura, we know that health is not a moment in time or season; it’s a lifelong journey,” said Holly Shelton, chief product officer at Ōura. “We’re dedicated to creating, validating and offering new and innovative products that give our members context about their health over the long term. Along with providing continuous, accurate data, health technology needs to answer the critical ‘so what?’ question. We’re connecting the dots to help our members understand how their habits and behaviour today – like aerobic activity and sleep hygiene – impact their health as they age and how they can make changes that will pay off later in life.”

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death globally, responsible for a third of all deaths. Because cardiovascular and heart disease can present in various ways – including disorders of the heart and blood vessels such as coronary heart disease, heart attacks and strokes, cerebrovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, and other conditions – it can be difficult for people to understand the state of their heart health and take preventative steps before an unwanted health event such as a heart attack or stroke.

Ōura’s heart health features work together to combine information about estimated arterial stiffness and VO2Max to give wearers an indication of their cardiovascular health and the potential implications on their long-term health.

CVA helps wearers understand their estimated cardiovascular age relative to their chronological age, helping them identify behaviour that can positively impact their health span. It gauges CVA by analysing age-related observations within a photoplethysmography (PPG) signal, which carries information about estimated arterial stiffness and pulse wave velocity (PWV).

CVA provides a quick, easy-to-digest look at how a person’s vascular system may be aging and what that could mean for long-term health.

After someone has used the Oura app for at least 14 days, they will see a CVA metric that indicates if they are trending below, above or in alignment within five years of their chronological age.

Cardio capacity is based on an estimation of VO2Max, which is a measure of the maximum amount of oxygen an individual can use during intense or effortful exercise. It is a known benchmark of aerobic endurance, reflecting the efficiency of the body’s cardiovascular and respiratory systems in supplying oxygen to the muscles during sustained physical activity. In simple terms, the better a person’s cardio capacity, the healthier their cardiovascular system and organs will likely be across a lifetime.

With the launch of this feature, Ōura aims to reposition VO2Max from a sports metric to a benchmark of health span and longevity. It reveals how well heart, lungs, blood vessels, muscles and nervous system work together. For most, a high VO2Max is likely to be correlated with an aligned or lower CVA.

To use this, wearers will be prompted to take a walking test to establish a baseline VO2Max that is translated to cardio capacity. Traditionally, VO2Max is measured in a lab using specialty equipment that is inaccessible, physically and financially, for most people. Ōura’s approach is more accessible for more people, providing insights that extend beyond performance.

“Prioritising cardiovascular health is crucial for extending health span, as it supports physical vitality and resilience, and reduces the risk of chronic diseases,” said Shyamal Patel, senior vice president of science at Ōura. “In partnership with board-certified cardiologists and scientists at research institutions like the Kuopio Research Institute of Exercise Medicine and the University of California, Los Angeles, along with Ōura’s medical advisory board, we have rigorously developed our science and algorithms to ensure these features deliver accurate insights for Ōura’s wide-ranging and diverse member base.”

Establishing heart health as a core focus area, Ōura is aiming for future iterations of cardio capacity to integrate into the larger holistic health views in the app, demonstrating the relationship between changes in cardio capacity and CVA, or how these outcomes may change activity and readiness trends over time.

The goal is to address health holistically, with the understanding that each part of a person’s physiology is inextricably intertwined. While CVA and cardio capacity are heart health features, both have implications for multiple organ systems. CVA estimates the stiffening of large arteries, which has direct effects on the heart and other major organs including the brain and kidneys. As a result, both CVA and cardio capacity are much more than heart health features; they are comprehensive health span insights.

Importantly, Ōura provides actionable insights to help change or maintain CVA, depending on the wearer’s goals. It shares weekly and monthly insights into how CVA and cardio capacity metrics are trending, offering strategies to sleep, move and de-stress better. These insights can be useful for individuals as well as clinicians, research institutions and more. For healthcare professionals and researchers, heart health features can provide valuable data for patient care, clinical assessments and research studies. For human performance teams in sports and military settings, they can help athletes and personnel optimise training and performance based on cardiovascular health metrics.

“A better understanding of heart health and cardiovascular capacity is critical to long-term health,” said Jag Singh, cardiologist and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Wearables are uniquely positioned to give people a non-invasive and simple way to understand how they are doing cardiovascularly before they require intervention. The power of wearables in prevention and longevity is undeniable. While not a replacement for gold-standard lab tests, they can fill an important gap in accessibility and usability for people at scale.”

CVA and cardio capacity are rolling out to users in late May 2024 and will be available on Oura Ring Gen3 devices on both Android and iOS.

Founded in Finland with offices in Oulu, Helsinki, San Francisco and San Diego, Ōura (ouraring.com) has raised more than $350m and is valued at $2.55bn.