In honor of World Heart Day, the World Heart Federation is encouraging individuals worldwide to prioritise heart health. One powerful tool in achieving this is the Apple Watch, known for its ability to alert users to potential signs of atrial fibrillation (AFib), a serious heart condition. The Apple Watch Series 9, along with previous models, monitors heart rates in the background, flagging unusually high or low rates. This feature can serve as a vital early warning for underlying heart issues, prompting users to seek further evaluation.
If a user's heart rate exceeds 120 beats per minute or falls below 40 beats per minute during a period of apparent inactivity for 10 minutes, a notification is triggered. Users also have the option to customise these thresholds or disable notifications altogether. All heart rate notifications, along with timestamped data, can be easily accessed through the Health app on an iPhone.
Another remarkable feature of the Apple Watch is its ability to periodically check for irregular heart rhythms. This function can help detect potential AFib, a condition where the upper chambers of the heart lose sync with the lower chambers. Some individuals may not experience noticeable symptoms, while others might encounter rapid heartbeat, palpitations, fatigue, or breathlessness.
The irregular rhythm notification feature utilises the optical heart sensor on the Apple Watch to analyse the pulse wave at the wrist. By observing variations in beat-to-beat intervals during rest, the algorithm can identify irregular rhythms suggestive of AFib. If such patterns persist, users receive a notification, and the data is logged into the Health app.
For users experiencing symptoms like rapid or irregular heartbeats, the ECG app is an invaluable tool. This app uses the watch's built-in electrical heart sensor to record a single-lead ECG. Results can indicate normal heart rhythm, AFib, AFib with a high heart rate, or provide an inconclusive or poor recording. Users are prompted to input any accompanying symptoms, such as dizziness or fatigue. The recorded data, along with waveform, results, and symptom details, can be exported as a PDF for easy sharing with healthcare professionals.
The Apple Watch also introduces the Cardio Fitness feature, which estimates VO2 Max—an indicator of the body's ability to absorb oxygen during exercise. This metric is recognized by heart health experts as a powerful predictor of overall well-being. Users can even opt to receive notifications if their classification drops to "low," signaling potential risks for serious long-term health issues. Fortunately, improvements can be made through regular and rigorous exercise, with progress easily tracked.
One groundbreaking addition is the AFib History, providing users with an estimate of how often their heart exhibits signs of AFib. This information is crucial, as research indicates it can be linked to symptom severity, quality of life, and risk of complications. Moreover, AFib History enables users to track lifestyle factors like sleep, exercise, and weight, offering valuable insights into the condition's progression.
Inputs from IANS