Wearable technology is constantly evolving to help users track how many steps they take each day or how many hours of restful sleep they get each night. The latest fitness devices can also help patients manage medical conditions. Now that some smartwatches are able to identify irregular heart rhythms, researchers are taking a closer look at how this technology could be used as a screening tool for doctors.
According to a recent report by Everyday Health, the Apple Heart Study, which included more than 400,000 participants showed that smartwatches can identify heart irregularities like atrial fibrillation (AFib) in the large majority of cases. Early results of the study were presented by researchers from Stanford University at the American College of Cardiology meeting in New Orleans last month.
Study participants wore Apple Watches with heart rate sensors that monitored for irregular heart rhythms. If an irregular heart beat was detected, participants were notified and directed to schedule a telemedicine conference with a doctor in the study. The smartwatches in use were older versions not equipped with the latest electrocardiogram technology.
Although researchers found the watch’s ability to detect an irregular pulse and send a notification was accurate 71 percent of the time, patient follow-up was disappointing, occurring only 57 percent of the time a notification was received. The concern that using this technology to monitor health would result in a flood of calls for medical follow-up proved to be unfounded, but as more patients accept using wearable health trackers as a screening tool, the medical community will need to develop a system for handling follow-up calls and confirming any abnormalities.
The Mayo Clinic defines atrial fibrillation as an irregular and often rapid heart rate that can increase your risk for stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. AFib is a serious medical condition that may require treatment including medication or other interventions to return the heart back to it’s normal rhythm. It is estimated that at least 2.7 million Americans are living with AFib
Symptoms of Afib
- Palpitations, which are sensations of a racing, uncomfortable, irregular heartbeat or a flip-flopping in your chest
- Reduced ability to exercise
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
If you have symptoms of atrial fibrillation, make an appointment to see your doctor. If you experience chest pain, seek medical assistance immediately.