Should You Get Your Heart Checked by Your Wearable Gadget?

Should You Get Your Heart Checked by Your Wearable Gadget?
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While pulse-recording wearables can be helpful for fitness tracking, are they reliable for detecting arrhythmia?  There are a few things you should know before using one of these fantastic gadgets. The effectiveness of wearables in detecting atrial fibrillation, a prevalent heart rhythm problem that can lead to strokes, has been the subject of several large-scale studies.  Researchers evaluated the available evidence, which included three very large studies, in a new Frontiers review.

Although several barriers for optimal use of consumer-led screening exist, results of large, ongoing trials, powered to detect clinical outcomes, are required before health care professionals should support widespread adoption of consumer-led AF screening.

How reliable are smartphones, smartwatches, and other consumer electronics?

In a nutshell, wearables are likely quite accurate (often over 95%) for recognising atrial fibrillation. However, the data usually comes from studies with relatively few participants. There is an algorithm built into some of these gadgets that can tell you whether or not your heartbeat is regular. In most cases, these algorithms need permission from the government.

However, manufacturers rarely disclose information about their devices’ precision and reliability. The TGA does not oversee wearables that merely record cardio or physical activity without making any health claims. Even though many people participated in the studies conducted by Fitbit, Apple, and Huawei, the numbers used to calculate the precision of the gadget may be focused on a small sample size because of the rarity of atrial fibrillation among the participants.

The Apple Heart study, for instance, enrolled a whopping 419,000 people. Even so, only 86 people had their atrial fibrillation recorded on both the smartwatch’s pulse irregularity sensor and an ECG patch simultaneously, so the precision was determined based on that.

Pros

Wearables can be helpful for sensing atrial fibrillation if you exhibit symptoms or are over the age of 65. Anyone experiencing symptoms that might be arrhythmia would benefit from using a wearable as a data logger.  More information is provided by devices like the Apple Watch Series 4 or later, the Withings Scanwatch, and the KardiaMobile. You can provide your doctor with an ECG recording taken during an episode of symptoms to aid in their diagnosis and treatment.
Wearables can also aid in the detection of atrial fibrillation at an early stage. Ideally, this would be bolstered by integrated care that emphasizes addressing multiple causes of the disease simultaneously.

Cons

More information isn’t always better. If your doctor detects irregular heartbeats during a routine appointment and an electrocardiogram (ECG) confirms that you have atrial fibrillation, it’s likely that you have the condition frequently. Afib can be treated, and the risks are comparable whether or not you experience any symptoms. However, wearables can track a person’s heart rate in real time and for much longer than traditional methods. We are not yet certain we should act on the increasing number of cases of atrial fibrillation that have been discovered.

While wearables have been shown to improve AFib detection, it is unclear if this will also reduce the risk of stroke. The typical consumer of wearables tends to be younger and less vulnerable. The significance of atrial fibrillation episodes in young people with no known risk factors is still unclear to medical professionals. There needs to be more evidence, preferably from high-quality, unbiased, randomized studies.

A definition of atrial fibrillation

The most typical arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation (arrhythmia). Eighty percent or more of people may exhibit no signs or symptoms at all. The risk of stroke due to atrial fibrillation increases dramatically with age. Anticoagulant medication is typically prescribed to patients with atrial fibrillation who are at high risk of a stroke due to their age or other risk factors, such as hypertension or diabetes.


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Anna Daniels

Anna is an avid blogger with an educational background in medicine and mental health. She is a generalist with many other interests including nutrition, women's health, astronomy and photography. In her free time from work and writing, Anna enjoys nature walks, reading, and listening to jazz and classical music.

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