Initially when it launched the Apple Watch was more of a fitness tracking tool. It still is a gadget that can set the hearts of fitness-enthusiasts racing. But increasingly, Apple Watch has also turned into a general health-tracking tool, particularly heart health tracking. So much so that in these times when we are increasingly hearing about heart issues in even younger and fit-looking people, the Apple Watch -- or something similar like it -- almost looks like an indispensable gadget.
So good is the Apple Watch's ability to track and detect heart issues in real-time that on several occasions we have heard how the Watch has detected heart attacks and signs of atrial fibrillation (AFib) in real time -- and just at the right time -- to save lives. So, this Heart Day -- it was on September 29m, by the way -- let's take a closer look at all the key heart health features the watch offers.
This is a key feature of the Apple Watch and fairly accurate as well. The Watch pairs with an iPhone, and then allows a user to conduct an ECG in less than a minute. The ECG, which is recorded, is saved into the Health app on the iPhone as a PDF file and then it can be shared with a doctor within minutes.
To record the ECG, the Watch uses the electrical heart sensor built into its Digital Crown and the back crystal to record a single-lead ECG. The report provides a result of sinus rhythm, atrial fibrillation, atrial fibrillation with high heart rate, inconclusive, or poor recording, and prompts the user to enter any symptoms such as rapid or pounding heartbeat, dizziness, or fatigue. Apple says that in a clinical study using a 12-lead ECG as a reference device, the ECG app demonstrated 99.3 per cent specificity in classifying sinus rhythm and 98.5 per cent sensitivity in classifying AFib.
Apple Watch keeps an eye on heart-health in real-time and can offer users high or low heart rate prompts. Usually, if a user's heart rate is above 120 beats per minute (bmp) or below 40 bpm while they have been inactive for 10 minutes, they will receive a notification.
This feature works by randomly checking for heart readings. As part of it, Apple Watch occasionally looks at a user's heartbeat to check for an irregular rhythm that might be suggestive of atrial fibrillation (AFib). This is done via the optical heart sensor built inside the Watch. The sensor detects the pulse wave at the wrist and looks for variability in beat-to-beat intervals when the user is at rest. If the algorithm repeatedly detects an irregular rhythm suggestive of AFib, users get a notification and the readings are recorded in the health app.
Apple says that in a clinical study using an FDA-cleared patch ECG as a reference device, the latest irregular rhythm notification feature in the Apple Watch demonstrated a sensitivity of 88.6 per cent and a detection specificity of 99.3% per cent.
This is a feature that fitness enthusiasts will love. The Watch, using finely-tuned algorithms, can analyse physical movements and exercise patterns of users to measure their VO2 Max. The VO2 Max score can give a hint of the overall fitness level of someone. If users want, they can set Apple watch to send a notification to them if their VO2 Max has slipped past a certain threshold. With exercise, particularly cardio, the VO2 Max score can be improved, and here too Apple Watch can help as it showcases the overall fitness trends.
There is no denying that the Apple Watch, particularly the latest ones like the Series and Series 8, are incredible health monitoring tools. But there is one feature that has started appearing in some smartwatches. The Apple Watch is yet to get blood pressure monitoring feature, something that would be even more beneficial in monitoring heart health. However, it is also important to note that this feature is fairly new in watches, no one has been able to get it fully right. It is possible that Apple does have Watch prototypes with BP monitoring feature and that in future -- may be next year -- Apple Watch may get the ability to also record and analyse blood pressure.
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