ECG monitoring has long been a reliable way to identify potential heart issues. And recent advances in smartphone technology have largely allowed smartwatches to utilize emerging ECG monitoring capabilities in a smaller device. For those looking for a smart device to track fitness and perhaps, more importantly, heart health, today’s smartwatches are capable of providing ECG results in seconds.
Before this development, you would have to go to a clinical setting such as a hospital to have this test. A large electronic device, connected to wires attached to your bare skin, would create a report. A trained doctor or nurse would then interpret the results to see if there was anything of concern.
Now, many smartwatches have built-in ECG tests. All the user has to do is wear the smartwatch on their wrist or place it close to their heart. An algorithm within an app analyses the results and gives a complete and accurate diagnosis in a matter of minutes.
In this article, we’ll look at exactly how these tiny devices can give accurate ECG readings and even diagnose a range of heart issues.
How does smartwatch ECG monitoring work?
A typical ECG, which stands for electrocardiogram, measures the tiny electrical pulses given out by the heart muscles. As your heart muscles work, they go through something called depolarisations. This produces different types of negative electrical charges. These charges pulsate through the body and can be detected through the skin.
The charge is so small, in the range of microvolts, only sensitive electrodes attached directly to the skin can detect it.
Smartwatches work slightly differently using something called photoplethysmography, or PPG for short. If you’ve ever looked under a smartwatch, many models have a tiny light sensor that flashes. These beams can pick up the slightest fluctuations happening directly under your skin. This includes how much blood moves through the arteries and veins in your wrist.
This measured pulsation creates a PPG image of blood flow and volume. It also calculates heart rate measurements to help identify non-conforming ‘peaks’ or ‘intervals’ between each heartbeat. These differences are called atrial fibrillation or AF.
When users apply a smartwatch or compatible algorithm to this AF, they can generate a heart performance report.
Is a smartwatch ECG monitoring accurate?
ECG capability is relatively new to smartwatches. It’s understandable then that many people are skeptical about their accuracy. Before it rolled out its ECG to the Apple Watch, Apple conducted many studies. Hundreds of participants ensured the feature worked and that it was accurate.
One of the studies found it was 100% accurate at detecting the sinus rhythm of the heart. And it was 98.4% effective at correctly determining atrial fibrillation. The ECG monitoring app launched at the same time, which has the algorithm to detect issues with the heart, with 95.5% effectiveness.
Kardia Mobile by AliveCor achieved such great results in trial testing that it received full approval from the FDA to be classified as a medical device. The Kardia Band is compatible with the earlier Apple Watches both for men and women or with the iECG launched by Apple in later models.
What is the most accurate ECG smartwatch?
Whether you are simply looking for a trusted brand or want a more tailor-made design, like smartwatches designed for outdoor use, there are less than a dozen smartwatches on the market that possess a tried and tested ECG monitoring capability. The most accurate ECG smartwatch at the moment is considered to be either the ScanWatch, which offers basic functionality, or the Apple Watch Series 7. The latter has undergone extensive testing for the technology that creates the reading from the wrist and the algorithm that works alongside it via the app iECG.
This app can also allow data sharing with a medical professional. It also has a high level of effectiveness when discerning heartbeats, allowing the user to get an inferred ECG reading.
The ECG produced from an Apple Watch can signal if you may have a heart-related abnormality such as tachycardia or bradycardia.
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How can a ECG smartwatch help seniors?
Smartwatches are widely considered something only the tech-savvy can own and operate. That means these cool gadgets often tend to hold less appeal for the senior population. However, thanks to the many features and ease of use, senior smartwatches provide various benefits, including ECG monitoring.
As we grow older, our bodies start to suffer from the fatigue of aging. Everything from eyesight to bone mass density can begin to deteriorate. Coronary heart disease affects roughly one in five people over 65. An average of 800,000 adults in America suffer from heart attacks each year. This figure is largely attributed to the over 50s age group.
While many seniors watch what they eat and undertake regular exercise, only ECG monitoring will tell them what is really going on inside their chest. This knowledge can empower smartwatch users to spot conditions ahead of time and take preventative steps.
What’s more, there are many other features for seniors in a smartwatch. Fall detection alerts authorities if it detects a quick fall to the floor and some smartwatches like the Reemo can even contact concierge support to get to the scene quicker than an ambulance if you or a loved one falls.
How is ECG recorded and how can you send results to your doctor?
Apple and Samsung smartwatches are often a popular choice for those looking to monitor their heart health. But how do you use them to record an ECG?
With the Apple Watch, it’s never been easier to take an ECG and share the results with your health care professional. Just follow the steps below, and you can share any recordings with your doctor:
- Open the app called ‘Health’ (it is a pink heart on a white background) on your Apple Watch
- Scroll down the menu and select ‘Heart’, then select ‘Electrocardiograms’
- If you have taken an ECG recently, the result chart will be there
- Click ‘Export a PDF for Your Doctor’
- Click ‘Share’ to send the PDF via email to your doctor
If you are using a Samsung for your ECG, follow these instructions:
- Open the app called ‘Samsung Health Monitor’ (it is a white pulse symbol on a purple background)
- Click ECG, then click ‘View history’ which will display current ECG reports
- Touch the small image thumbnail of the report you want to send
- Click ‘Share this report’ to send the file via email directly to your doctor
Thanks for reading! If this has piqued your interest in your heart health, check out our top 10 heart rate monitors.
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