Apple Watch’s heart monitoring feature now live

The latest update for Apple Watches includes the ECG app, which checks for irregular heart rhythms


By EMS1 Staff

CUPERTINO, Calif. — The Apple Watch’s latest update includes an ECG app that monitors heart rate and checks for irregular rhythms.

Digital Trends reported that the electrocardiogram app, which is now available for Apple Watch Series 4 users, includes a pair of electrodes built into the back of the watch to check for irregular heart rhythms.

The Apple Watch’s latest update includes an ECG app that monitors heart rate and checks for irregular rhythms. (Photo/Apple)
The Apple Watch’s latest update includes an ECG app that monitors heart rate and checks for irregular rhythms. (Photo/Apple)

According to TechCrunch, the app passively monitors the wearer’s heart in the background, and another feature requires the user to complete the circuit by placing a fingertip on the edge of the watch’s digital crown.

If the app detects a skipped or rapid heartbeat, a notification will be sent to the user’s watch screen.

When a notification is received, the user is supposed to open the ECG app and rest their arm on a flat surface while holding a finger to the digital crown. At that point, a real-time graph of the user’s heart rhythm will be displayed until the app finishes its measurements. 

The feature is not meant to replace a doctor, but to simply monitor for complications. The signup process warns users that the app cannot detect a heart attack, blood clots or a stroke.

ABC News reported that Richmond, Virginia, resident Ed Dentel was testing the app after updating his watch when he was alerted that he might be experiencing atrial fibrillation.

“The application on the launch sounded off right away with atrial fibrillation — not something I’ve ever heard of, but since I’m in pretty decent health and never had a problem before, I didn’t give it much thought. I figured something was glitchy, so I set everything down turned in for the night,” he said.

Dentel said he put his watch back on the next morning and received the same alert.

"Right away: AFib. So I shut everything down and turned it back on and tried it again. Same result, same result, same result," he said.

Dentel added that he gave the watch to his wife to see if she received the same alert, and it came back normal.

"I put it on my left wrist, on top, AFib. I put it on my left wrist, on the bottom, AFib. I switch to my right wrist. Same thing. So, I started to get a little bit alarmed."

Dentel went to the doctor and was given an EKG, and the diagnosis was confirmed.

"I was dealing with a case of atrial fibrillation that I never knew I had and probably wouldn't have known anytime soon," he said.

Still, doctors said they’re taking a wait-and-see approach with the app.

"It is potentially helpful in these small instances," Dr. Michael Cho, a cardiologist at Crystaln Run Healthcare, said. "The incidence is higher as you get older -- if you had Apple Watches on 80-year-olds, you'd have a high incidence of AFib. If you have mostly 20-, 30- or 40-year-olds, you're not going to see that much."

 

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