Medical Features of Apple Watch Series 4 | A Doctor’s Perspective
Find out all about the medical features of the Apple Watch Series 4 and how they can help keep you healthy.
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On average the heart pumps blood 60-100 times a minute. The Apple watch monitors the heart function and it does this by using a sensor on the back, for this to work accurately, during setup you need to enter in your height, weight, gender and age. It gives you an alert if your heart rate is too high or too low.
Having a high heart rate - over 100 beats a minute can be a sign of an irregular heart rhythm, otherwise known as an arrhythmia, An example of this is Atrial Fibrillation. This is where the heart pumps quickly in a chaotic manor which can then cause small plaques or clots to break off from vessels causing serious medical conditions such as a stroke or other heart conditions. So with this regard the Apple watch certainly is useful, in fact there has been cases reported of people being correctly diagnosed via the watch for Atrial Fibrillation, prompting them to seek medical attention and potentially saving their lives.
But what about a low heart rate? This is a heart rate under 60 beats per minute, this can be normal in some situations, for example an athlete may have a lower resting heart rate. Similarly some medications or illnesses such as an under-active thyroid can also cause a low heart rate. It is important that you discuss your target heart rate with your medical doctor so that you can accurately use your Apple watch.
People who have an abnormally high or low heart rate may also have symptoms, such as fatigue, dizziness, lethargy, shortness or breath or fainting. Again if you do have these symptoms despite having a normal heart rate it is important to discuss this with your medical doctor and remember that the Apple Watch doesn’t check for all types of abnormal heart conditions.
You may have seen the ECG/ EKG function (electrocardiogram) on TV shows like Scrubs, House, Casualty or Holby City, where we put stickers onto your chest to have a look at the electrical activity of the heart. It helps us to determine any rhythm defects, whether you’ve had a recent heart attack or any structural problems related to having a murmur.
As doctors, this feature has caused us some concern. We worry that it may cause unnecessary anxiety to patients who are not able to understand their readings. However, anxiety aside, there have been reports where it has already helped save peoples lives, which is amazing.
Unfortunately the Apple watch can’t currently detect heart murmurs so, the best way we can check for a murmur still is by speaking to your doctor for an examination of your heart.
We’ve all heard of step counts, step count this, step count that, 10,000 steps. We know that by having an active lifestyle, we’ll be healthier.
However, if you’re doing 10,000 steps a day and you’re eating KFC, Burger King, Bob’s Burgers, you’re probably not on the right track to having a healthy lifestyle.
This is quite a nice feature of the Apple watch. It does rely on you having to input the correct data during setup - age, gender, height and weight. It will then calculate the amount of calories that you should be burning per day. It uses your heart rate and step count to let you know if you’re on the right track.
The Apple Watch has a gyroscope and an accelerator and when a hard fall is detected an alert is sent to your watch. You can then press on the screen to say you’re ok, or if you remain immobile and don’t disable the alert after 60 seconds it will call the emergency services. This is particularly useful for certain groups of people, such as epileptics or the elderly.
You’re probably thinking, Dr Nora, we don’t need an app to tell us to breathe and you’re right, thanks to our amazing human body we are natural breathers. But did you know that at rest you may only use up to roughly 70% of your total lung capacity? So by the app reminding you to take a deep breath you’re opening up lung spaces to deliver more oxygen.
The standing feature reminds us to get up and go for a walk, it is also modifiable for wheelchair users. The idea is to get us moving once an hour for 12 different hours in the day. We know that if we sit for prolonged periods of time we feel sluggish, low energy and it can even lead to blood clots in the legs, so by having this useful reminder it certainly helps our general health.
As you can see the Apple watch has a number of medical features, if you have any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to drop me a line.
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