April 2023

Should You Use Wearable Tech for Better Heart Health?

Wearable gadgets, such as an Apple Watch or Fitbit, have long been able to track your physical activity. But the new generation of tech is more intelligent about tracking your heart health, too.

About 38 million Americans who have or are at risk for heart disease use wearable devices. That number is growing rapidly. If you are wondering whether a smartwatch, band, or ring could help manage your heart health, here are some things to know.

Measuring heart rate

Some wearable devices can measure:

  • Resting heart rate (RHR): The number of times your heart beats when you are at rest. A high or very low RHR may signal heart health risks.

  • Heart rate variability (HRV): Variation in the amount of time between heartbeats. Some variability is normal as your body continually adjusts to changing demands. Low HRV has been linked to increased heart risks in those who’ve had a recent heart attack and in people with heart failure.

  • Active heart rate: How fast your heart beats during physical activity. Staying within your target range helps you exercise at a safe, effective intensity for you.

Finding signs of AFib

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a condition in which the heart beats irregularly and sometimes much too fast. Untreated AFib may lead to a stroke or heart failure. Treatment can help prevent these complications. But people don’t always experience symptoms, so they may not know they have AFib until a serious problem arises.

Some wearable devices can detect and record your heart’s rhythm to look for signs of possible AFib. A large study of one device, published in the journal Circulation, found that it correctly identified AFib episodes 98% of the time.

Wearing your heart on your wrist

If you plan to use a wearable device to track your health, choose one that has been FDA cleared. Look into options from Apple, Biobeat, Fitbit, and Omron, for instance.

Then, if you have or are at risk for heart disease, ask your healthcare provider:

  • What different RHR and HRV numbers mean for you

  • The right target range for your heart rate during exercise

  • What to do if you get a notification from your device about an irregular heart rhythm

The answers can help you make wise use of your smartwatch or smart band.

 

 

Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, MSN, BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2023
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