A lifesaving grocery run? Researchers say it’s possible.

A lifesaving grocery run? Researchers say it’s possible.

Sure, grocery carts can be annoying: There’s always a sticky wheel or the cart being piloted by a shopper who parks it smack in the middle of the aisle.

But maybe you would forgive them their trespasses a bit more if you knew they might someday save your life.

At this summer’s meeting of a group of European cardiologists, researchers from Liverpool presented their research on shopping carts — “supermarket trolleys,” in their parlance — that can diagnose atrial fibrillation, a heart disorder often linked to strokes.

Around the world, more than 40 million people have atrial fibrillation, and many of them have no idea. The quivering or irregular heart rhythm makes a deadly or debilitating stroke five times more likely, so identifying the condition early is important.

More than 2,150 adults were asked to use a shopping cart equipped with electrocardiogram sensors on the handlebar. Shoppers held the cart’s handlebar for at least 60 seconds. If the sensor detected no irregular heartbeat, a green light came on.

An irregular heartbeat made the cart’s handle light up red. All results were double-checked manually.

Fifty-nine shoppers were found to have atrial fibrillation — and 39 of them were hearing about it for the first time.

The researchers said next they plan to tweak the grocery cart handles so it takes less time to get a clear reading.

Most shoppers, the researchers noted, were happy to use the special carts unless they were in a hurry.

Maybe before too long, these carts will seem ordinary. And maybe while we’re contemplating our heart health, we’ll leave the junk food on the shelf.

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