Over 2,000 participants in Apple’s study have irregular heart rhythm

Stanford Medicine reported that 0.5% or some 2,000 of the 419,093 participants in the Apple Heart Study received irregular heart rhythm notifications.

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The project was launched last November in conjunction with the release of Apple’s fourth generation smartwatch and watchOS4. The study was created to assess the effectiveness of Apple Watch in spotting signs of atrial fibrillation (AFib).

Participants received access to a newly launched Heart Study app which uses algorithms to isolate heart rhythms from other noise. If an irregular heart rhythm was spotted, the participant received a free consultation with a doctor and an electrocardiogram (ECG) patch for further monitoring.

“We are proud to work with Stanford Medicine as they conduct this important research and look forward to learning more about the impact of Apple Watch alongside the medical community,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s COO.

“We hope consumers will continue to gain useful and actionable information about their heart health through Apple Watch.”

The study results were presented this week at the American College of Cardiology’s 68th Annual Scientific Session and Expo. They showed that around 0.5% of the study participants received irregular heart rhythm notification. This equates to more than 2,000 individuals.

Some people who have AFib don’t have any symptoms, so the condition often goes undiagnosed. Others may experience symptoms such as dizziness, weakness and fatigue. It is the first of these two groups which is particularly at risk.

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, around 2% of Americans under 65 have AFib, while about 9% of people 65 and older have AFib. So while the Apple Heart Study results are impressive, statistics would suggest the watch did not spot all instances of the condition. Furthermore, only 84% of the irregular pulse notifications in the study were later confirmed to  have been AFib episodes.

Having said that, even if the device is not 100% accurate it will end up saving lives. Apple says more than half of participants in the study sought medical advice following their irregular rhythm notification.

“As physicians, we are always trying to find ways to offer patients health information that is meaningful to them for individualized care,” said Sumbul Desai, MD, Apple’s vice president of Health.

“Seeing medical research reflect what we’re hearing from consumers is positive and we’re excited to see Apple Watch helping even more consumers in the future while collaborating with the medical community to further research.”

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