Smartwatches have been increasing in their ability to monitor various aspects of our health, including blood pressure, for many years. When it comes to the heart, the technology contained within the devices we wear on our wrists is powerful in terms of recording and analyzing how healthy we are.
Many of the big-name brands of smartwatch have included heart monitoring as a core function for some time now. There was some distrust in the accuracy of the monitoring at first. However, brands such as Apple, Garmin, and Fitbit have proven that their watches can detect heart rates, blood oxygen levels, and conduct ECGs to an accurate standard.
What Is a Heart Monitor Sensor?
Many smartwatches come with the required sensors to carry out health monitoring as standard. The sensors are found on the underside of the watch face. They always sit against the skin of your wrist. Most watches will come with instructions on where you need to position the watch on your wrist to ensure you receive the most accurate data. The sensors emit light that penetrates the skin and allows your watch to detect the blood flow. This can then be used to analyze how fast your heart is beating.
Some smartwatches have advanced features such as ECG functionality. The sensors for this do not sit under the watch face. Instead, they are accessible so that a finger can be placed on them. When a finger is placed on the sensor, the technology measures electrical signals. This indicates whether your heart has irregular or regular heart rate rhythms.
How Do Blood Pressure Monitors Work?
Blood pressure sensors work in a different way to heart rate monitoring. To accurately measure blood pressure, it is necessary to briefly stop the circulation of blood. This allows for the force required by the heart to pump blood around the body to be recorded at the time of pumping (the systolic pressure) and in between pumps (the diastolic pressure). For this to be achieved, a wrist strap that can inflate, similar to the cuff of an automatic blood pressure monitor, is required.
Which Devices Utilise Blood Pressure and Heart Monitor Sensors?
Many of the well-known smartwatch brands come complete with heart rate monitoring sensors. When it comes to Apple, any Apple Watch can measure your heart rate. However, if you want ECG functionality, you can achieve this by opting for Apple Watch Series 4 or later. A new generation of smartwatches in the market also start having the ability to measure and estimate blood pressure using optical sensors, to some degree of accuracy. They are not meant to be used as a medical device or to replace one.
Garmin also has a long history of including heart rate monitoring in its devices. Since the release of Forerunner 225, heart rate monitoring has become standard in many versions. Furthermore, the tech to analyze the results has improved. Garmin has yet to introduce ECG functionality to any of its watches, and it is necessary to check the model to be sure that it can read your heart rate. As of now, Garmin does not track or measure blood pressure.
Fitbit took a slightly different route. They didn’t make heart rate monitoring standard in its watches but released updated or enhanced versions with HR in the title to indicate that it could read your heart rate. It is always worth checking the model to ensure heart rate monitoring is included. At the moment, Fitbit does not track or measure blood pressure, however, In recent news, Fitbit is conducting a blood pressure study for it’s Fitbit Sense.
When it comes to blood pressure, beware of watches that could make inaccurate claims. It really depends on the quality of sensors and the related technology to get it right.
In the past and still today, smartwatches can accurately record blood pressure results. Most require the use of third-party apps. These allow you to manually enter your blood pressure results that you have obtained from a blood pressure monitor. Others will allow you to download an app that will link to a smart blood pressure monitor and receive the readings via Bluetooth.
A new generation of smartwatches have sprung this year. These new devices use pulse oximetry which is a light sensor that can estimate your blood pressure. The accuracy of these devices is not yet proven and differs quite widely between different watch models and different sensor quality. However, as this technology evloves and matures there will be more and more uses for it and accuracy will be improved.
The Omron HeartGuide
When it comes to a watch that can read your blood pressure, there is currently only one on the market that has been approved to deliver accurate readings. The Omron HeartGuide. This smartwatch that has been designed for people who need to take their blood pressure regularly throughout the day and don’t want to have to carry a blood pressure monitor with them. The Samsun Galaxy Watch 3 is potentially the next in line to be approved by the FCA and we are yet to see other smartwatches in this category.
Which Smartwatch Should I Choose?
When it comes to measuring blood pressure, there is no choice. The Omron HeartGuide is the only watch available that have been approved by the FDA to measure blood pressure.
However, when it comes to heart rate sensors, there is a range of options to choose from. Apple is an obvious choice. Their watches come with a range of functionality to monitor your heart, including heart rate and ECGs. However, other than changing watch straps, there is little variety available.
Garmin and Fitbit both have a whole range of different watches to suit different styles. Many of these watches come with the ability to monitor heart rate. If you want to be able to carry out an ECG, then there is no need to look at the range of Garmin watches, and if you want the flexibility to download a wide range of apps, then Fitbit won’t offer you the watch that you want.
When looking for a smartwatch with your heart in mind, it is beneficial to understand what type of analysis you want. If you enjoy sports or working out and want your watch to help you be more effective, Garmin or Fitbit will probably have the edge as fitness is their focus. If all-round health is what you’re after, then Apple incorporates your heart monitoring into a whole suite of health apps.
Should I Buy a Smartwatch That Has a Blood Pressure Sensor?
Currently, the Omron HeartGuide is only really designed for people who prioritize taking their blood pressure readings above other smartwatch functionality. The watch is chunky to be able to house the inflatable strap, and other than track activity and sleep, it doesn’t do much else.
For anyone who wants to monitor their blood pressure but is content with taking readings with a blood pressure monitor, opting for an Apple, Garmin or Fitbit is likely to bring much more flexibility and enjoyment to your wrist.
Last Updated on June 10, 2021
Emma is an experienced multifaceted writer and is our Copy and Visual Editor, Social Media Manager and regular Content Contributor. When not working, Emma enjoys life with her little girl, partner and Jack Russell Terrier in the lovely countryside of the South West UK.