Major US study finds Apple Watch can detect heart issues

 Major US study finds Apple Watch can detect heart issues
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Researchers with the Stanford University School of Medicine found in a study sponsored by Apple and released Saturday that the company's smartwatches can detect irregular heart rhythms.

Of the approximately 400,000 participants using Apple Watches in the eight-month study, 0.5 percent, or about 2,000 people, were sent irregular heart rhythm notifications.

“The results of the Apple Heart Study highlight the potential role that innovative digital technology can play in creating more predictive and preventive health care,” Lloyd Minor, dean of the Stanford School of Medicine, said in a statement.

The irregular rhythm notification occasionally monitors heart rhythm in the background and sends users a message if it finds their heart rhythm is not regular. Irregular heartbeat can be a sign of atrial fibrillation (AFib).

In the study, those who got the notification also received a telehealth consultation with a doctor and an electrocardiogram (ECG) patch to further monitor their heart. Of the participants who agreed to wear the ECG, about 34 percent were found to have atrial fibrillation, researchers said.

One of the study's leaders noted to Bloomberg that AFib can come and go, so participants whose ECGs did not show signs of the condition might also have it.

“Atrial fibrillation is just the beginning, as this study opens the door to further research into wearable technologies and how they might be used to prevent disease before it strikes — a key goal of precision health,” Minor said. 

Apple's Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams said the company looks forward to "learning more about the impact of Apple Watch alongside the medical community."