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Apple Watch Can Accurately Detect Irregular Heartbeats, Huge Stanford Study Finds

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A new study reveals that Apple Watch is more than just wrist candy: it's surprisingly accurate in detecting irregularities in the heart rhythms of users.

These findings suggest that there's great potential in the use of wearable devices to help people keep track of atrial fibrillations, which is an abnormal heart rhythm that's known as one of the leading causes of stroke and heart disease.

Apple Watch Shows Impressive Accuracy In Spotting Atrial Fibrillations

Stanford University School of Medicine and Apple Inc. present their findings at the American College of Cardiology's 68th Annual Scientific Session and Expo on Saturday, March 16.

The massive study, which included more than 400,000 participants, alerted 0.5 percent of the participants with irregular pulse notifications, according to a press release from Stanford.

Irregularities detected by the Apple Watch were compared with proper electrocardiography (ECG) patch recordings, proving to be accurate 71 percent of the time. Notifications, which the watch only sends the user upon five atrial fibrillation rhythms, matched with the ECG recordings 84 percent of the time, according to Stat News.

Wearable Tech Offers Incredible Potential In Preventive Health Care

A good chunk of researchers are hopeful that using the Apple Watch to help spot atrial fibrillations is only the beginning.

"The study's findings have the potential to help patients and clinicians understand how devices like the Apple Watch can play a role in detecting conditions such as atrial fibrillation, a deadly and often undiagnosed disease," explains Mintu Turakhia, MD, one of the study's principal investigators and an associate professor of cardiovascular medicine in Stanford. "The virtual design of this study also provides a strong foundation upon which future research can be conducted to explore the health implications of wearable technology."

Stanford School of Medicine dean Lloyd Minor, MD adds that the team's findings display the potential of digital technology in helping prevent diseases before they strike.

Skeptics Remain Cautious Over Study Results

While the study represents the potential of wearable devices, medical experts also say that data received through the Apple Watch should be taken with a good amount of caution. As University of Pennsylvania's Rajat Deo points out to Stat News, Apple Watch does not offer medical-grade technology, so its data should not be taken on its own.

Cleveland Clinic chairman of cardiology Steven Nissen brings up another point, saying that there could be an expensive effect to Apple Watch's capabilities.

"How much money is it going to cost the health care system to follow up on thousands of patients who have an incidental atrial fibrillation?" Nissen asks.

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