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ECG, Irregular Heart Rate Detection Now Available On Apple Watch: How To Use Them

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EKG readings and irregular heart rate detection are now available on the Apple Watch. Both features are part of the long-anticipated watchOS 5.1.2 update.  ( Pixabay )

The Apple Watch just got a lot more useful. Now that Apple has officially rolled out the much-anticipated watchOS 5.1.2 update, features such as electrocardiogram reading and irregular heartbeat notification are now available.

Apple unveiled the fourth-generation Apple Watch this past September. Besides its updated aesthetics, perhaps the most notable new hardware feature is its ability to take an EKG reading directly on the watch, no peripherals needed. Apple didn't activate the feature outright, however. Perhaps it needed more testing, as new features usually do, especially those involving hardware. But now it's finally here.

How To Take An EKG On Your Apple Watch

To be able to take an EKG, users must first update their Apple Watch to the latest software, which is, as mentioned, watchOS 5.1.2. After installing the update, users must open the EKG app and rest their index finger lightly on the crown for 30 seconds. At this point, the Apple Watch acts as a single-lead EKG that reads the user's heart rhythm and sends that off to the Health app on their paired iPhone. From there, users can export it into a PDF, which can then be sent to a doctor for further observation.

Of course, the Apple Watch's EKG features aren't going to replace sophisticated and professional-grade electrocardiograms anytime soon, but it's still an incredible feature to have on one's wrist. Plus, it's something other smartwatches don't have at all.

Heart Rate Monitor On Apple Watch

As for the heart rate notification feature, Apple says the watch keeps track of the user's rhythm every two hours or so, but that depends on whether they're stationary or not. If the watch gets five consecutive readings that are abnormal, it will alert the user and suggest they consult a doctor about it. Those who've already been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation should turn the feature off, Apple says.

Again, Apple clarifies that these features are not diagnostic tools. In other words, they can't actually determine — at least not officially — if there's something wrong with the person's heart health. Moreover, they're also probably not the sort of features people will use on a regular basis, according to Apple.

The EKG feature, for one, should only really be used if the user feels something off, and then the resulting report should only be shared with the user's doctor. Needless to say they shouldn't act on the findings willy-nilly. This is an important point to make, especially since a number of people often dangerously self-medicate.

Long story short, the Apple Watch isn't a doctor. Both features mentioned above are incredible feats of innovation, but they're not particularly guaranteed to be 100 percent accurate.

In any case, both features are limited to the United States for now as part of the watchOS 5.1.2 update.

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