Can a Smartwatch Save Your Life?

Most watches wait to send an alarm until about five abnormal beats occur in an hour, rather than after each rhythm change. However, this does not mean that the anomaly is dangerous.

“As a cardiologist, I love home equipment,” said Dr. Gary Rogal, Medical Director of Cardiovascular Services at RWJBarnabas Health in West Orange, New Jersey, whose team looked after my mother. But he made it clear that he only likes them for patients who he thinks there is some clue to look for, such as those with an existing heart condition or a family history of heart disease. “I would never subscribe to the concept that everyone should be monitored. You will see things and it will drive you crazy, but you will probably be fine. “

The American Heart Association agrees that smartwatch monitors can be beneficial, even lifesaving, for some, but Dr. Mariell Jessup, the group’s chief science and medical officer, said, “We don’t have enough data yet to recommend it to everyone.”

Even electrocardiograms done in a doctor’s office are not routinely recommended for everyone. The US Preventive Services Task Force, a group of experts advising on screening tests, says there isn’t enough evidence to show routine EKGs are effective and is concerned about the cost and potential dangers of further testing .

And doctors fear that more and more people are wearing these devices that could detect meaningless arrhythmias, leading to a deluge of unnecessary check-ups and too many treatments.

“That’s what keeps me up at night,” said Dr. Joseph Ross, professor of medicine and public health at Yale who is on a team of researchers conducting a randomized clinical trial comparing a group who wears the Apple Watch to a control group who wears a smartwatch without an EKG App. “When someone with an occasional abnormal rhythm that would never have caused a stroke undergoes a major work-up or is given a blood thinning, the risk of dangerous bleeding or other harm outweighs the benefits of possible stroke prevention.”

Dr. Steven Lubitz, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, worries that customers believe the watches offer protection for general heart health and, for example, assume that they are not looking for signs of heart attacks .

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