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Can a smart watch detect heart problems?

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Frankfurt am Main (dpa/tmn) – It may sound tempting for people with heart disease: a wristwatch that warns when something is wrong with the heart.

So-called wearable devices now have many functions that can be used to record the state of the cardiovascular system, for example by measuring heart rate or a simple ECG.

However, according to the German Heart Foundation, the devices have their limits, especially when it comes to detecting serious illnesses. Therefore, a specialist is always needed to classify the data and, if necessary, initiate additional examinations.

What smart wristwatches can do and where their limits are: a brief overview:

– Pulse measurement: Wearables create a pulse analysis using infrared light. This provides information about the heart rate and thus can help detect and document cardiac arrhythmias.

The reliability of smartwatches when measuring heart rate is greater than 90 percent and therefore corresponds to the measurement accuracy of a measurement with a chest strap, according to cardiologist Thomas Meinertz of the Scientific Advisory Board of the German Heart Foundation.

However: To ensure that the measurement results are not falsified, the sensor and the wrist must be clean. Also, the watch should sit close to the skin.

– Electrocardiogram (ECG): To create a 1-lead ECG, the watch measures the electrical impulse of your heartbeat. This is usually done by pressing a sensor and waiting 30 seconds.

1-channel ECG is slightly more meaningful than pure pulse measurement when it comes to cardiac arrhythmias. But you shouldn’t rely on that alone, warns Meinertz.

Cause: Circulatory disorders in the heart muscle, for example, cannot be recorded using a 1-channel ECG. “Neither the Apple Watch nor other smart watches are suitable for detecting a heart attack or malignant cardiac arrhythmias,” says Meinertz.

In general, if you have severe chest pain that indicates a heart attack, you should not use the smartwatch. Valuable time is lost in an emergency. The best thing to do in such a situation is to dial the 112 emergency number directly and rely on the judgment of the medical professionals.


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