Apple Watch Series 4 heart rate tracking could be a game-changer
There’s a multitude of features packed inside the new Apple Watch that cement its position as the world’s best smartwatch.
The larger display, extra internal power, improved Digital Crown and louder speakers go a long way to finally making this wearable a must-have purchase.
But it’s the new health benefits that are the most interesting, and possibly life-saving, additions to this device.
The Apple Watch has featured a heart monitor since the very first version launched back in 2015 but the US technology firm is taking things to a whole new level.
With the latest heart tracking technology monitoring every beat, the Series 4 can watch and warn of any irregularities including atrial fibrillation – a condition that affects millions across the globe.
This optical sensor can also detect if a heart rate is below a specified threshold for 10 minutes or more with an alert then appearing on the display.
These are clearly hugely important additions but there’s something that surpasses even this and it could be a total game-changer.
Apple revealed at its keynote last month that its new wearable will soon be able to take an instant electrocardiogram (ECG) with users simply placing their finger on the Digital Crown for an instant check on the health of their heart.
The Digital Crown has a built-in titanium electrode that works with the electrodes in the back crystal to perform this hugely technical function.
The Apple Watch can monitor you heart with alerts displayed on the screen
So why is this such a big deal?
Having had a personal experience of an irregular heart rhythm I know just how hard it is to get an ECG and catch the problem as soon it happens.
My issues began around a year ago when my heart suddenly began skipping a beat.
It’s a terrifying thing to come up against and ended with me heading to the A&E waiting room for a check-up.
Sadly, by the time I’d been rigged to a machine, my heart had begun beating normally again.
Despite the brilliant staff reassuring me that all heart complaints should be taken seriously, I felt a fool for wasting their precious time knowing how overstretched our UK healthcare system is.
In the days that followed my troubles continued and next up was a trip to the doctor who suggested another ECG.
With a software update the Apple Watch will soon be able to perform an ECG
I once again found myself flat on my back, wires stuck to my chest and plumbed into a bleeping machine.
Again, the results came back all clear.
Finally, I was referred to a cardiologist who recommended a 24-hour monitor which would surely catch the missing beat.
This portable machine had to be strapped and then unstrapped to my body via two visits to a cardiology ward.
The time and cost to the NHS was not something I felt hugely comfortable with especially as, once again, the results proved inconclusive.
As my doctor explained, many heart conditions are incredibly tough to diagnose as a physician needs to see an ECG at the exact time when the heart begins beating erratically.
As with my own condition, I could go days without a murmur then experience 24-hours of sporadic palpitations.
Apple Watch Series 4
After months of attempting to find out was wrong, I finally managed to catch my troubles using something called a Kardia.
This clever £100 device clips to your smartphone and allows an instant ECG to be recorded and saved.
With a PDF in my pocket, I was finally told my heart was healthy but I had a benign condition that sometimes causes the beat to skip.
The months of agonising over what was wrong ended with a fairly simple solution.
The ECG is performed via the Digital Crown
Apple is still to reveal when the ECG app will be pushed out to its new smartwatch but it has already been granted clearance by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US.
If it works as well as Apple is predicting, this unique feature could not only reduce the anxiety for patients but help lower costs and precious time for our medical services.
It took numerous trips to hospital and the doctor to discover my issue was nothing of concern and those valuable resources could have been used elsewhere by me simply grabbing an ECG myself.
Currently, that’s still not easy but it’s something all of us could be able to do soon via the wearable on our wrist.