Your New Heart Monitor is an Apple Watch. Really.

By Doug Mohney December 04, 2017

Looking at a new smartwatch or fitness wearable for the holidays? If you are concerned about your heart health due to family history or reason, Apple and its friends offer several options to make the Apple Watch as a go-to solution this season.

Partnering with Stanford Medicine, Apple launched the Apple Heart Study app last week, a first-time research study by the company using the Apple Watch heart rate sensor to collect data on heart rhythms and notify users who may have potential problems.  Atrial fibrillation (AFib) -- irregular heart beat --  is the leading cause of strokes, responsible for around 130,000 deaths a year in the U.S. and 750,000 hospitalizations. Many people don't experience obvious AFib symptoms until they end up in the emergency room, so the Apple Watch plus the Heart Study app could provide a critical early heads-up before a more serious incident occurs.

The Apple Watch uses optical sensors to collect blood flow information from four distinct points on the wrist. Data is processed and fed into an Apple Heart Study app to identify irregular heart rhythm, such as a rapid jump in rate when not exercising.  People participating in the study will get a notification of irregular activity on their AppleWatch and iPhone, a free consult with a doctor and an electrocardiogram (ECG) patch for additional monitoring. The heart app is free and available for anyone 22 years or older and has an Apple Watch Series 1 or later.

Other studies and devices are complementing Apple's efforts. Health app start-up Cardiogram and the UCSF Health announced some results of its AFib study in May of this year, using heart rate sensor data collected from Apple Watch and Android Wear wearables. Using AI machine learning to crunch collected data, the Apple Watch is about 97 percent accurate in detecting the most common type of AFib using Cardiogram.

Skeptics and doctors might want more than a smartwatch warning before someone running into the ER, such an electrocardiogram (EKG) to provide additional data.   AliveCor's KardiaBand recently received FDA clearance in the U.S. KardiaBand, a wristband with an EKG sensor,  pairs up with the Apple Watch and AliveCor's app to  enable people to take a 30 second EKG, with results showing up on the Apple Watch display.  AliveCor's app also has an AI-powered AFib monitor to alert a wearer of irregular heart rate, with the EKG providing immediate readings outside of the doctor's office or the ER.

KardiaBand lists at $199.00 and requires a subscription into AliveCor's premium service at $99 per year. The system includes heart alert notifications on the Apple Watch; unlimited EKG recordings; automatic detection of AFib and normal heart rhythm; unlimited ability to email EKG readings to anyone through email; unlimited cloud storage and reporting of all EKGs taken; plus weight tracking, medicine tracking, and a monthly paper report on EKG readings.




Edited by Mandi Nowitz

Contributing Editor

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