Can Your Smart Watch Save You From a Stroke?

The Health eHeart Study was released on March 21st at the JAMA Cardiology website. The study investigates wearable technology and its ability to detect a common heart rhythm irregularity called atrial fibrillation (AF).

Atrial fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia or irregular heart beat diagnosed by cardiologists. It happens when the two upper hear chambers, the atria, are pumping in an inefficient, chaotic and rapid manner. It is the leading cause of stroke and blood clots.

Patients with AF present with symptoms such as irregular or rapid heartbeats, fainting, exhaustion, heart palpitations, chest pressure, sweating, and dizziness. To read more about it, click here.

Because of its known role in stroke and the formation of blood clots, AF is important to diagnose early and get the proper treatment as soon as possible. Research into technology that can help put this into the hands of patients and their physicians would be a monumental step forward.

AF can be treated. Medicine that can help your heart return to a normal rhythm, medicines that slow your heart rate, and blood thinners may all be considered and used in combinations. Another treatment option is known as electrical cardioversion which brings your heart back to its normal pattern by using an electric shock.

The Health eHeart Study enrolled 9,750 participants with Apple Watches and a heart-smart app. The watches gathered data, such as heart rate and step count. That data was used to teach the heart-smart app would use the millions of data points to identify the different types of heart patterns. This helped detect AF by creating a “deep neural network.”

In the study, the app was evaluated using two groups. The first was a group of 51 patients who had undergone treatment with either drugs or electricity (ie. pacemaker) to establish a normal heart rhythm and the second was a group of 1,600 patient diagnosed with persistent AF and had mobility.

The combination of the Apple Watch and the heart-smart app detected AF with very precise accuracy in the group that were undergoing treatment, but the results were not as good in the larger group of patients who reported AF in their medical history.

Researchers caution that more testing and advances will need to be made before a smart watch app is ready to become part of the diagnosis and treatment of AF. However, the study does show that the ability to screen for AF is close at hand; although, more conventional testing will be done to provide a definitive diagnosis.


Donald Blake

Donald Blake

Donald Blake has a BS in Communication Studies. He has a lengthy tenure in the healthcare, media and education fields. He is dedicated to improving the lives of those with rare diseases through his knowledge of healthcare and communications.

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