Apple launches app to identify irregular heart rhythms on the Apple Watch

If you want to know if you have an irregular heartbeat, Apple has just launched an app for that.

The Apple Heart Study app will be used for a research study using the Apple Watch heart rate sensor to collect data on irregular heart rhythms. The study was announced back in September when Apple launched the fourth generation of its smartwatch along with watchOS4.

Normally, your heart contracts and relaxes to a regular beat. Those with atrial fibrillation (AFib) have a quivering or irregular heartbeat, a condition that affects more than 2.7 million Americans. Signs include dizziness, weakness and fatigue. But some people don’t experience any symptoms, so AFib often goes undiagnosed. These are the people most at risk as they are unaware they have the condition.

Anyone can have an irregular heartbeat and the causes are numerous, but it’s more common in people who are ages 60 and older. While AFib is not always problematic, it can be. With the right treatment and some lifestyle changes, those suffering from irregular heartbeat can stay active and energetic.

The study is being conducted in collaboration with Stanford Medicine. The app will use Apple Watch sensors which measure heart rate through green LED lights that flash hundreds of times per second and photodiodes that determine how much blood is flowing through a wearer’s wrist. Sophisticated algorithms will sift through this data and isolate heart rhythms from other noise.

If an irregular heart rhythm is detected, the participant will be notified on their Apple Watch and iPhone, and provided with a free consultation with a study doctor and an electrocardiogram (ECG) patch for further monitoring. The user will wear the patch for a few days, so that researchers can get compare Apple Watch heart rate to ECG data.

“Every week we receive incredible customer letters about how Apple Watch has affected their lives, including learning that they have AFib. These stories inspire us and we’re determined to do more to help people understand their health,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s COO.

“Working alongside the medical community, not only can we inform people of certain health conditions, we also hope to advance discoveries in heart science.”

If the Apple Watch proves effective as a tool for screening heart patients, it would propel it to a “must have”, rather than “nice to have”device for many.  The free Apple Heart Study app is available in the US App Store to customers who are over the age of 21 and have an Apple Watch Series 1 or later.

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