Image source: Fitbit

Fitbit wants in on wrist blood pressure tracking

A new Fitbit study hints that blood pressure tracking could come soon to its Sense smartwatch. The company is opening up a month-long study on the subject and is looking for participants.

It seems blood pressure monitoring is all the rage in 2021. Last year we saw the wide implementation of blood oxygen tracking. Blood pressure monitoring from the wrist is next on the list.

Just yesterday we wrote about Aktiia. The Swiss-based startup has already released their solution. The bracelet quietly sits on your wrist capturing blood pressure readings multiple times per day via an optical heart rate sensor. But Aktiia is very much an outlier and has little in terms of real competition.

Fitbit wants to change that.


Fitbit blood pressure study

The company is looking for participants in a month long study on something called Pulse Arrival Time (PAT). This measures the time it takes a pulse of blood to reach your wrist after your heart beats. Fitbit believes and previous research has shown that the metric can be used to estimate blood pressure.

“If high blood pressure was easier to measure, people could manage it earlier, which might help avoid preventable deaths from heart disease and stroke,” said Shelten Yuen, Principal Scientist at Fitbit.

“It’s a hard scientific challenge, and a lot of work remains to be done to understand the best way to do this, but we have a history of advancing technology to make previously inaccessible health metrics available to Fitbit users from their wrist, so it’s a challenge we’re very passionate about solving.”

The work is being conducted by Fitbit Labs. This piggy-backs on previous internal research with showed a correlation between PAT and blood pressure. However, this was a small 3 week study. Having said that, there are scientific papers with large samples which show there is a correlation.


How to sign up

Fitbit now wants to do some more internal research, this time with a broader population sample. To this end it is inviting those in the US with a Sense watch to participate in the month long study. The only other criteria is that participants are at least 20 years old.

If those two conditions are met users should see a notification in their app later this month to ask if they wish to join. The more people across all demographics sign up, the better.

It is not clear yet whether Fitbit’s blood pressure measurements are on-demand or automatic. We are guessing these are spot checks.

Blood pressure monitoring is important. Most of us know this. But let’s face it – strapping on a traditional blood pressure cuff is a bit of a hassle. How many of really do it on a regular basis? Having a device on your wrist that can readily take such readings will make this much easier.

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