Fitness Trackers For High Blood Pressure

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

Fitbit AF

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.


See my Expert Health Review on the Fitbit Charge HR Activity Tracker here.

Image credits: aslysun/shutterstock; Dr A Sacchetti, MD

About DrSarahBrewer

Dr Sarah Brewer MSc (Nutr Med), MA (Cantab), MB, BChir, RNutr, MBANT, CNHC qualified from Cambridge University with degrees in Natural Sciences, Medicine and Surgery. After working in general practice, she gained a master's degree in nutritional medicine from the University of Surrey. Sarah is a registered Medical Doctor, a registered Nutritionist and a registered Nutritional Therapist. She is an award winning author of over 60 popular self-help books and a columnist for Prima magazine.

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4 thoughts on “Fitness Trackers For High Blood Pressure

  • Marcelo

    Hi Dr. Sarah,
    I have a friend that was able to diagnose a problem in his heart because he notice some spikes in his heart beat using an Apple Watch.
    It’s really nice to see that it’s helping people diagnose problems like that in an early stage and be treated before something more serious happen.

    • DrSarahBrewer Post author

      That’s amazing. Technology is helping to improve health in many ways – though using a screen at night is not good for sleep as the blue light suppresses melatonin secretion.

      • Veritas

        The new iPhone iOS can be set to turn off blue light at night, and on again in the morning. You can also get apps for Macs and PCs to do the same thing. Google f.lux for details. I go to the extent – have for many years – of using photosafe (darkroom) bulbs in bedroom, bathroom lights.

      • DrSarahBrewer Post author

        Interesting – I will check that out. Thanks for the heads up – so many of us check our phones last thing at night and first trhing in teh morning. I’m as guilty as anyone when I’m on Twitter! @DrSarahBHealthy