It's not just for crushing candy, sending GIFs or syncing calendars...your smartphone could monitor your heart – and save your life.
A new generation of apps available on smartphones and activity trackers is making it easier than ever to screen for and monitor atrial fibrillation. AFib is a type of arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) that could increase your risk of stroke.
The Danger Of AFib
An estimated 2.7 to 6.1 million Americans have AFib, and many go undiagnosed. An irregular heartbeat makes you five times more likely to have a stroke – because a disorganized heart rhythm encourages blood clots to form, which can break off, blocking blood and oxygen from flowing to the brain. AFib also contributes to heart failure and other serious heart conditions.
If you've ever had an erratic heartbeat, or if you have a family member with AFib or another arrhythmia, don't brush it off – talk to your doctor. Your doctor may recommend an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG), an in-office test that measures electrical activity in the heart, or a Holter monitor, a take-home EKG you wear for up to two days. Both of these tests are standard ways of diagnosing atrial fibrillation.
But now, new technology using wearable devices most people already own can provide a detailed picture of the heart's rhythm. With these apps and devices, AFib diagnosis can be more discrete and comprehensive than ever before.
A Heart-Smart Phone App
The FibriCheck® app can help diagnose AFib with a simple touch. This app, medically certified in the European Union to detect AFib, is only available with a prescription and sends data directly to your doctor. If you're interested in FibriCheck®, consult with your doctor.
A recent study showed that FibriCheck® could accurately detect irregular heart rhythms. Here's how it works:
You hold your left index finger over the camera lens of your phone.
The app uses the phone's camera and flash to detect color variations in your bloodstream.
A darker color indicates that your fingertip is filled with more blood.
FibriCheck® analyzes this information to determine the blood-pumping pattern and your heart's rhythm.
Activity Tracker Heart Apps
Put your jewelry to work. Apps linked to wearable devices like smart watches, activity trackers and wristbands can now monitor not just your heart rate and blood pressure, but your heart rhythm, too. Current and future options include:
This FDA-approved medical device is an Apple Watch accessory. The band replaces the one on your Apple Watch and syncs with Kardia App, which senses when something is amiss with your heartbeat. The app then lets you know to record an EKG, which you do by pressing your thumb against a spot on the band. Kardia App records an EKG report you can share with your doctor.
This medical device disguised as a watch can detect irregular heartbeats and monitor blood pressure. When it senses an irregular heartbeat, it alerts you to record an EKG, which you do by pressing your fingers on the watch. Your doctor receives the report. CardiacSense is in the process of receiving FDA approval.
The Apple Watch Series 4 also provides an on-the-spot EKG. The watch detects abnormal heart rhythms with a sensor that gathers data by flashing light on the wrist to measure blood flow. Then, a software algorithm determines your heart rate and alerts you to record an EKG if there’s a problem. To record the EKG, you press your finger to the Digital Crown of the watch where electrodes are embedded. These electrodes work together with the app to identify AFib.
"In the current era with the Apple Watches, and other methods that we can monitor heart rhythms, it's a perfect time in history to be able to find out whether one has any abnormal rhythms," Franciscan Physician Network Cardiologist Atul Chugh recently told WCBK radio. "If they do identify that they do have an abnormal rhythm, whether they be at the gym when they have or taking a blood pressure, which often can tell you whether someone has an irregular rhythm, it is important that that patient contact a physician and say, 'Well, this is what I'm experiencing. I'd like you to look a little bit further into this.'"
When To See A Doctor
While these apps and trackers make monitoring your heartbeat at home easier, AFib is a serious condition that requires a doctor’s evaluation. If you've experienced any AFib symptoms, have a family member with AFib or suspect you may have the condition, a specialist in heart rhythm management can determine if you need atrial fibrillation treatment.
Don't Skip A Beat
Restore the rhythm of our heart. Franciscan Health’s dedicated team of cardiac and AFib specialists provides a full spectrum of comprehensive cardiac care. Download your free AFib guide.