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Can Your New Fitbit Detect AFib?

  • Posted on: Dec 17 2022
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Can a wearable fitness tracker actually detect cardiovascular conditions like arrhythmias?

Holidays, like Christmas, have been anything but normal for the past few years. The typical flurry of parties and gatherings has been severely limited, if not canceled altogether. For most of us, losing the ability to get together with family and friends has been one of the hardest parts of the COVID years, and it seems especially difficult during the holidays. 

One thing that the pandemic does not seem to have put much of a dent in, however, is our ability to exchange gifts. We may be doing the bulk of our shopping online these days, but we’re still searching for the perfect Christmas presents for our loved ones, and, for many, that has been some sort of wearable fitness tracker, like the Apple Watch or Fitbit. Whether that is due to a new interest in fitness as a result of extra “at home” time on our hands or the actual need for increased exercise stemming from the fact that an awful lot of that time was spent on the couch watching Netflix, these devices have become extremely popular.

We all know that interest in fitness devices, like New Year’s resolutions, has a tendency to peak at the beginning of the year and quickly fade as time passes. This is unfortunate, in general, and may even be more so when it comes to something like the Fitbit, which has been shown to have the ability to not only track our steps and monitor heart rate while taking those steps but to also detect undiagnosed atrial fibrillation. 

What Is Atrial Fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is a form of a heart condition in which the heart rate or rhythm is off. This can mean that it beats too fast, not fast enough or that the rhythm is irregular. While not generally life-threatening, arrhythmias can lead to extremely serious conditions, such as cardiac arrest or stroke. 

Irregular heartbeat is associated with atrial fibrillation and can frequently be the cause of a stroke. Other types of arrhythmia include: 

  • Tachycardia – with this type of arrhythmia, the heart may beat more than 100 beats per minute
  • Bradycardia – a form of slower than normal heart rate, less than 60 beats per minute
  • Fibrillation or flutter – besides the irregular heartbeat found with AFib, ventricular fibrillation is considered the most serious type of arrhythmia, with in excess of 200,000 deaths a year believed to be associated with it    
  • Premature contraction – often characterized as the heart “skipping a beat” this is actually an early or extra heartbeat 

One of the dangers with conditions of the heart is that they are not always detected before significant damage has been done. This makes the recent studies done by Apple and Fitbit documenting the reliability of the heart monitoring functions of their devices very encouraging. “Detection of Atrial Fibrillation in a Large Population using Wearable Devices: the Fitbit Heart Study,” was presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions (AHA) 2021. Their findings suggest that their device may be able to predict atrial fibrillation 98% of the time. 

It would, of course, be foolish to trust the health of your heart to a Fitbit or any other sort of personal device. But it couldn’t hurt to discuss the possible benefits with your cardiologist or healthcare professional at your next appointment. 

At Cardiovascular Wellness, our mission is to provide outstanding, timely, and personalized care to all of our patients. We are committed to improving your quality of life by designing a comprehensive plan of heart care, individualized to your needs. Information on locations and office hours for Cardiovascular Wellness can be found by clicking here.

Posted in: Heart Disease

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