If you own an Apple Watch, now your watch can help you catch heart issues early. Recently, Apple released the watchOS 5.1.2 update to all Apple Watches. On the Apple Watch Series 4, this update installed an additional app, the ECG app. The ECG app takes an electrocardiogram of your heart that can detect skipped heartbeats or irregular rhythms. It will even check your heart rhythm occasionally in the background and notify you if the rhythm appears to be atrial fibrillation or AFib.

Apple Watch ECG App Screen

How does the ECG app work?

Series 4 watches contain electrodes on the back of the watch and in the Digital Crown. Launch the ECG app, and simply hold your finger to the Digital Crown. When you touch the Digital Crown, you create a circuit the ECG app can use to measure the electrical signals running across your heart. The watch reads the rhythm of your heart in 30 seconds and will classify your heart rhythm as either AFib, sinus rhythm (normal), or inconclusive. Your phone will store this data securely and allow you to share it with your doctor if you like.

Irregular rhythm notifications

Older Apple Watches won’t have the ECG capability. However, they do include an optical heart sensor that regularly checks your heart rate. This latest update will also make use of that sensor to check for irregular heart rhythms that appear to be AFib. If detected on five rhythm checks across a minimum of 65 minutes, a notification alerts the user of possible AFib. The watch then suggests that the user contact a physician.

One of a kind

This new capability puts the Apple Watch in a class by itself. No other wearable device even offers ECG functionality. According to Apple’s press release, “Apple Watch demonstrated 98.3 percent sensitivity in classifying AFib and 99.6 percent specificity in classifying sinus rhythm in classifiable recordings. In the study, 87.8 percent of recordings could be classified by the ECG app.” If you haven’t updated your watch already, update today and spend a little time setting up the ECG app. It could save your life.

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