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This smart belt helps Parkinson’s patients with balance

A vibrating belt and smartphone app can help limit the number of falls in those with balance problems.

A high-tech belt and a telephone can help patients with Parkinson’s disease and older people not to fall.

A group of researchers at the University of Houston is developing Smarter Balance System, an app with a belt that carries sensors and monitors patient movements to give them feedback in the form of vibrations and guide them through a series of balance exercises.

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“The smartphone app records and creates a custom movement for the tilt of your body based on your limits of stability,” said university researcher Alberto Fung in a statement posted on the university’s website last month. “The tactile guide by the vibration of the belt acts almost as if it were a physiotherapist guiding them.”

The system also provides a visual guide through a series of points and objectives on the screen of a smartphone and upload the information to an online server so that doctors and therapists can see a patient’s progress, adjust their exercise routine and that kind of things.

Researchers say their goal is to help improve quality of life by “improving postural stability, reducing falls and increasing confidence in daily activities,” says UH Beom-Lee. A six-week study of patients with Parkinson’s showed “noticeable improvements,” Lee said.

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