Doctors in an American hospital emergency department have used a 42- year old man’s Fitbit activity tracker and smartphone to identify exactly when his heart problem started. The man, who had epilepsy, had a seizure after forgetting to take his normal medication, but he also had a previously undiagnosed irregular pulse.
Fitness tracker shows heart rhythm changes
Doctors noticed the patient was wearing a wrist activity tracker – a Fitbit Charge HR – which was synched to a smartphone App to continuously record his pulse rate. This fitness tracking record showed the man’s abnormal heart rhythm started three hours before admission, around the time his seizure started, and allowed them to diagnose a new-onset atrial fibrillation.
After his heart rhythm was successfully restored to normal with electric shock treatment (electrocardioversion under sedation) he was allowed to go home after arranging a cardiology outpatient follow up appointment.
Not all wrist activity trackers measure pulse rate, but this is one of the most useful features for monitoring – and even diagnosing – a heart problem. The Fitbit Charge HR assesses pulse rate via a pulsed light-emitting diode and a light-sensing photodiode that measures light reflected from blood in the underlying tiny blood vessels (capillaries).This detect alterations in blood flow volume, and a computer algorithm uses this to calculate your pulse rate.
If your blood pressure is raised, self-monitoring is key to maintaining good control.
Click here for advice on choosing a blood pressure monitor to use at home.
Image credits: aslysun/shutterstock; Dr A Sacchetti, MD