Like many ED physicians I’ve had patients coming up to me asking about the use of smart watches to monitor their heart rate. As the cardiologist Dr Weiss pertinently explains below, most of these younger and fitter patients are not of the demographics in whom screening should be taking place for atrial fibrillation. Even when the heart arrhythmia atrial fibrillation is detected in patients who might need to take blood thinning medications, there is a discussion to be had as to the risks of bleeding especially in falls versus the benefit of preventing stroked from blood clots being released from an irregularly beating heart. The anxiety caused in constantly monitoring your heart rate whether altered or not, or even worse a false positive, could in extreme cases with other factors be a cause in itself for atrial fibrillation. The bottom line as ever is intelligent use in conjunction with a health professional who can look at the greater picture.
I’ve just bought a new apple watch…the series 3 without the ECG monitoring. Far more useful for me is checking my levels of activity objectively which, if sufficient, will protect my heart anyway. However that doesn’t mean I won’t upgrade to an ECG option if my situation changes, I develop worrying symptoms or my independent and qualified family doctor thinks I need to be screened. As ever it’s considering each person individually and reassessing them periodically – the cornerstone of medicine.
Apple is touting its new health software with an aggressive public relations strategy that worries many cardiologists, who feel the company is exaggerating the significance of the Apple Watch readings of a heart condition called atrial fibrillation.